Area drug task force receiving K-9 grant

STEUBENVILLE – The Jefferson County Drug Task Force is one of nine police and fire departments in the Pittsburgh area to be awarded a K-9 grant from the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation at the Giving Back Fund.

Roethlisberger’s foundation has been providing grants for police and fire K-9 units. The Roethlisberger Foundation provided a grant to the Pittsburgh Police Department to help with another dog after K-9 Officer Rocco was killed in the line of duty. Rocco was stabbed with a knife.

The $6,500 grant to the Jefferson County Drug Task Force will allow for the purchase of a safety vest for K-9 Gunner, a Belgian Malinos, and pay for training to get Gunner certified as a dual purpose dog. Once certified, not only will Gunner will be able to alert on illegal drugs, but he’ll also be able to track and apprehend fleeing suspects, said drug task force K-9 Officer Chris Vinci.

“On behalf of the Jefferson County Drug Task Force, I would like to thank the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation for selecting our department as a grant recipient,” Vinci said. “We are very grateful and honored to be chosen as one of the departments able to benefit from such a great foundation. The support given by the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation is critical to maintaining our K-9 to proudly serve the citizens of Jefferson County at no cost to the taxpayers.”

The foundation awarded $77,000 in grants to the nine Pittsburgh area police and fire departments this week, and also distributed grants to police and fire departments in the cities and surrounding communities of each regular season away game for the Steelers in the 2013-14 season. The Jefferson County Drug Task Force, which qualified as a Pittsburgh area police department because of its proximity to the city, was awarded $6,500 from the foundation.

“We’re very fortunate to be in the position that we are able to help these K-9 units. The work that is performed by the dogs and their handlers as well as the bond that is formed is incredible. We’re just thrilled to do our small part,” said Roethlisberger in press release issued by his foundation.

Vinci gave special credit to Beth Rupert-Warren, United Way of Jefferson County executive director, for sponsoring the task force on this grant.

“Without their sponsorship and support, none of this would be possible,” he said.

Other departments receiving funding from the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation in the Pittsburgh area this year include Martins Ferry Police, Washington Police, Edinboro Borough Police, Eureka Fire Rescue EMS, Forest Hills Police, New Sewickley Township Police, North Fayette Township Police and the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.

Since 2007, the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation has made 135 grants totaling more than $1.2 million to 129 police and fire departments and five community youth organizations, including Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The 129 canine grants have funded the purchase of more than 67 dogs, the training of more than 29 dogs and 50 handlers, safety equipment such as vests for more than 54 dogs and training equipment for more than 33 dogs as well as food, vet services and housing for many more.