By Rebecca Turman
On Feb. 4, the Avon Fraternal Order of Police and law enforcement agencies throughout the county will come together to take care of their own, with the help of a chili cook-off.
The second annual Pete Soto Chili Cook-Off will raise funds for a newly created foundation – The Lorain County Blue Foundation.
During the first chili cook-off, Avon Police K-9 Officer Chris Barton said $14,000 was raised for Avon police Officer Pete Soto.
Soto, who was injured in a motorcycle accident while responding to a domestic violence call in October 2010, is still recovering from his injuries today.
“He has recently undergone several surgeries,” Barton wrote in an e-mail last week.
“Various agencies (including) Lorain PD, Avon Lake PD and Cleveland PD stepped up to assist with any needs when Officer Soto was injured,” he said.
Soto’s accident inspired Barton, an Avon resident, to make sure his fellow officers, not only in Avon, but throughout the county, are taken care of.
During an FOP meeting, Barton, president of FOP Lodge #145, said he proposed starting up a county fund – the Lorain County Blue Foundation – specifically for police officers who are critically injured or for families of officers killed in the line of duty.
“My idea was based on the Cleveland Police Lodge, which was headed by President Steve Loomis,” Barton wrote in an e-mail last week. “He and his department have always stepped up to support officers, families and agencies during tragic times. The Cleveland Police Lodge has really set the standard for taking care of their own – including outside agencies.”
This year’s chili cook-off will serve as a startup fundraiser for Lorain County Blue.
“Obviously, we are hoping we never need to use the fund,” Barton said.
This year the Avon, Avon Lake, Amherst, Elyria, Lorain, North Ridgeville, Sheffield Village and Vermilion police departments will take part in the cook-off, along with the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office and Warthogs Motorcycle Club.
“This year we reached out to more agencies throughout the county,” Barton said. “Next year, I am hoping to add two to three more.”
Door prizes, ranging from a football signed by Colt McCoy to prizes from local businesses, will be raffled off during the event.
Avon police Officer Larry Miller has donated his time to DJ the event, according to Barton.
As of Jan. 19, Barton said 70 percent of the tickets to the cook-off were sold, adding he is “hoping for a sellout event.”
Lorain County Blue would not be possible without all of the agencies that have volunteered their time, according to Barton.
“Also, I have a lot of support at the Avon Police Department from several officers and dispatchers – Deni Stempowski, Andy Kehl, Jeannie Coe and Alyssa Drosdowski, to name a few,” he said. “They donated a lot of time and energy to make this event possible.”
Those who attend a police function can see the “brotherhood” that has formed, Barton said.
“Sometimes you will see this during a celebration, quite often during critical incidents,” he said. “I’m hoping Lorain County Blue will continue to promote the brotherhood throughout the county and also be there if it is ever needed during critical incidents.”
Contact Rebecca Turman at firstname.lastname@example.org
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