It began on August 3, 2009 when deputies James Trent and Wesley Atha were shot and injured during a standoff. That same month, the NCSO and Atha’s parents organized a fundraising campaign to purchase improved vests for the deputies to wear on the job. In March of 2010, their goal was finally met.
The fundraiser netted $89,167.23 — enough for 99 new Level III bulletproof vests — from citizens, churches and businesses throughout the county.
"We would like to thank the citizens of Newton County for your generous contributions," Sheriff Ezell Brown said. "What began as a tragic afternoon has grown into a communitywide effort to ensure that those hired to ‘serve and protect’ would be safer as they found themselves in harm’s way."
The costs of the vest will be supplemented up to $28,770.50 from the U.S. Dept of Justice as part of its annual Bulletproof Vest Partnership grant program. Each vest will cost $500-700 depending on their size, and the NCSO plans to buy a total of 166 vests after grant money comes in.
The NCSO was fitted for their vests on Thursday, and the vests have already been ordered.
The fund received its first contribution on Aug. 24. Since then, a total of 423 different individuals have donated.
"A special thank you goes out to the Dawn Atha family for taking the lead role in starting this effort," Brown said. "Individuals, families, civic and other community organizations, churches, large and small businesses and many others grabbed hold of their vision. The rest, as they say, is history."