When two Cape Girardeau police officers were seriously injured in a drug raid last year, the community responded with prayers, acts of kindness and donations to the officers' families.
But the injuries also sent a signal to a group of concerned individuals who saw the need for an ongoing support system that would be there to help out in the event of the deaths of any police officers or firefighters in Cape Girardeau County.
As a result, the Guardians group was formed to raise money. In less than a year, the not-for-profit group has received more than $45,000. Soon, the group will start a membership drive to raise even more funding for this good cause -- one where the earnest hope is that there will never be a need to spend a dime of the funds.
What the Guardians stand ready to do in the event of a tragedy is impressive. In the event a firefighter or police officer dies in the line of duty, the family would immediately receive $3,000 to help with unexpected and urgent expenses. Then the Guardians would assume all of the family's debts, including any home mortgage. And there would be a $2,000-a-year stipend for any school-age child through high school.
This is a remarkable project, and it is one that depends on a special commitment from a large group of people. Already, more than 100 individuals have become charter members of the Guardians. Some of these charter members already have paid their entire three-year $1,000 membership fee.
New members will be sought with annual fees of $150 for individuals, $250 for families and $450 for a corporate or group membership covering up to three persons.
A 13-member board -- all charter members -- oversees the Guardians and its fund-raising efforts. There is no preset goal for raising money, but the organization would like to have a comfortable cushion to handle any future needs that might arise.
On the one hand, the Guardians hope their funds are never needed. On the other hand, they want to make sure they are prepared to do whatever is necessary to care for surviving family members of fallen officers and firefighters.
This is a big challenge. Charter members have already demonstrated their foresight and commitment to this cause. Now anyone in the community will have an opportunity to play a significant financial role in this ongoing project.
The Guardians group is a wonderful concept. A decision to become a member by paying the annual fees would be a good way to show both support and appreciation for those who risk their lives daily to make our city a better place to live.