Local charity raises money for police dogs

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

DULUTH -- One woman's passion for our canine brethren is helping make Gwinnett a safer place to live.

Just more than a decade ago, Snellville resident Kathy Gestar found a need that had to be filled -- and she did so with the Cody Fund.

"In 1999, I went to the Gwinnett County Citizens Police Academy, and they did a K-9 demonstration," Gestar said. "I was talking to them afterward and realized that there were a lot of things that (K-9 units) wanted that weren't budgeted items."

Those things included more dogs, more training and better equipment.

And K-9s don't come cheap.

Judy Waters, the executive director for the Community Foundation of Northeast Georgia, which houses the Cody Fund, placed the average price for purchasing, training and equipping a standard protective pooch between $14,000 and $17,000.

So, in honor of her now-passed Sheltie named Cody, Gestar began her fund. To date, it has contributed three dogs -- two to the Gwinnett County Police Department, one to Snellville PD -- countless hours of training and bulletproof vests.

"Years from now, our grandchildren are going to know about this lady who cared enough about K-9s to start a fund," Waters said. "We may have more police dogs on the force than men.

"When you take into consideration a charitable organization giving that kind of gift to a municipality, that's an awesome gift," she went on. "That's a lot of tax dollars that don't have to go toward that. It really increases their force quicker."

It's a gift law enforcement is incredibly willing to accept.

"We had started the program but we were able to expand it even further with the generous gift from the Cody Fund," Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead said. "It assisted with us everything. The dog's now on the street and he's doing a great job."

Money has been donated to the Cody Fund at a steady rate over the past decade, with balances being as high as $50,000, Waters said. One elderly woman donated $16,000 in 2008, anonymously paying for Bart, Snellville's third police dog, all by herself.

Donations aren't huge, but they're "pretty good for a fund that doesn't receive the attention it needs," Waters said.

"I donate on a yearly basis in memory of my Cody, because Cody's not here anymore," Gestar said. "Friends donate, sometimes even people that I don't know. I know when Cody died I just sent out an e-mail" and friends, church groups and Boy and Girl Scout troops donated.

Maxwell High School students made the Cody Fund their chief charity in 2008.

Once donated, funds are allocated by Gestar and approved by Waters and the Community Foundation.

"It's for very specific purposes," Waters said. "We're not going out there and buying them fancy collars or anything like that."

To donate, interested parties can go to www.cfneg.org.

"It's just like you're wrapping up a sergeant on the police department and giving them to somebody," Waters said, "because those dogs are just lifesavers."