By Juanice Gray
What happens if a member of law enforcement falls on hard times? If they are killed or injured in the line of duty, there are programs in place to assist, but what do they do if they have an illness, accident or have a critically ill child? They miss work, get behind on bills, have travel and lodging expenses and no additional compensation.
A group of women from Natchitoches stepped up to the challenge of assisting law enforcement officers, deputies and troopers in their time of need. Ladies for Law Enforcement, a service organization, was founded by Lesha Etheredge with support from Danielle Conde, Haley Taitano, Brittani Murphy Linebaugh and Julie Sers, who make up the Board of Directors.
This Natchitoches based group has plans of expanding nationally, and are working their way through the process of filing for 501c3 (nonprofit) status with their next immediate goal of becoming an official foundation.
Etheredge said the idea to assist law enforcement during times of personal tragedy stemmed from a very private place. Her husband, Det. Carey Etheredge’s, child was very sick when he was young and spent an extended time in a children’s hospital in New Orleans. “Carey was back and forth, out time and money and it created a financial hardship. But of course, he had to be there for his child,” Lesha said. “At that time he and the family could have used some assistance, a meal paid for or gas money. Any little bit would have helped.”
Etheredge got the idea to start the organization early this year and opened for memberships the first of July. Membership is open to anyone 18 and over. “There does not need to be any affiliation with law enforcement other than the desire to help others,” she said. Memberships are $50 annually and the group has approximately 20 members. “There are no requirements,” Etheredge said. “The level of participation is completely up to the individual. If you want to write a check and be done, that is wonderful. If you want to volunteer with fundraisers or help with promotions that is wonderful too.”
Membership includes one half-price ticket to the New Year’s Eve Law Enforcement Ball, the organization’s main fundraiser. The ball has traditionally been sponsored by the NPSO Honor Guard. With this transition, the Ladies of Law Enforcement will utilize the funds for their purpose and will continue to support the honor guard in all its activities. “This works well for everyone involved,” Etheredge said. “We still want to support them and it will free them up to do their jobs.”
The future path of the organization will be decided after the ball. “We are holding all our funds till after the ball then when we see where we are at, we can plan fundraisers for 2018. We hope to raise enough funds to meet the minimum standards to establish a foundation,” Etheredge said. “We know we want to provide multiple ways to assist an officer in need. We know they won’t be expecting large sums of money because we are just getting started. We just want to help and this is the process we have to go through to do that in the best way possible. We also want to have the public see members of law enforcement as people, out of the uniform, with families, children, husbands and wives and parents. That is important to us too,” she said.
Etheredge emphasized that although the organization has “Ladies” in the name, membership is not limited to women. “We have a couple men involved too. There are female law enforcement officers. There are some men out there who are just doing well enough financially, they want to contribute.”
Etheredge said as a wife of a law enforcement officer, when a member joins it is the ultimate show of support for what he does every day – puts himself in danger for people he doesn’t even know.
For more information or to join, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ladiesforlawenforcement.com.
Donations of any amount are welcome.