WEST BEVERLY — Pancakes and school uniforms will once again prove they can stop bullets on Sunday.
Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) will host a second annual pancake breakfast benefiting the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation’s “Get Behind the Vest” initiative from 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at St. John Fisher Parish.
The parish school at 10200 S. Washtenaw Ave. in West Beverly will also raise money for the effort by allowing students to dress in casual clothes rather than the required uniform for a day in exchange for a small donation.
Other area schools participating in this way include Mount Greenwood Elementary, St. Christina, Queen of Martyrs, St. Cajetan and George F. Cassell Fine Arts School. The Keller Regional Gifted Center will have a healthy snack day to support the effort.
Similar events were held last year and raised more than $30,000 to replace outdated bulletproof vests. Admission to the pancake breakfast is $5 per person or $25 per family.
“In this community, we protect those who protect us. This event is about showing appreciation for the Chicago Police Department and raising funds to provide lifesaving bulletproof vests," O'Shea said.
Last year it was estimated that some 8,000 expired vests were in use by Chicago police officers, said John Gordon, the foundation's manager of the Get Behind the Vest project.
Through its efforts, about 6,100 vests were bought and distributed. Now the foundation would like to finish the job as well as set aside funding to replace the roughly 500 vests that expire each year, Gordon said.
"We are very happy for the distribution, but we would like to see our distribution even higher," he said.
The average life span of a bulletproof vest is 5-10 years, and officers are responsible for replacing their own vests at an average cost of about $500 each, according to the foundation.
But the stipend is often quickly consumed by buying day-to-day necessities, and critics said the police department's uniform program is both uneconomical and unregulated, according to a report by the Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
None of that matters to residents of the 19th Ward. Many have friends and family who rely on these vests, and more than 1,000 people supported the pancake breakfast last year in Mount Greenwood, O'Shea said.
All of the proceeds from the event go to buy the vests — a sum that gets a significant boost from The Original Pancake House in Beverly. The neighborhood restaurant donates all of the pancake batter, condiments and cooking supplies for the fundraiser.
“For over 50 years we have had the good fortune to be part of the community and several times have been the beneficiary of the dedicated team of officers that have come to our aid. This is a chance to give back to them and say, 'Thank you for all you do,'" said Julie Harrigan, director of operations for the pancake house.
A family mass honoring police officers will also be part of the fundraiser this year. The 10 a.m. service on Sunday at St. John Fisher will be celebrated by the Rev. Dan Brandt, chaplain for the Chicago Police Department. Several police officers and their families will also play an active role in the liturgy.
For more information on the pancake breakfast, call the alderman's office at 773-238-8766. For more information on the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation’s Get Behind the Vest initiative, visit www.getbehindthevest.org.
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