Beards for Bucks

Courtesy of Keene police

Members of the Keene Police Department are among those in local law enforcement raising money through Beards for Bucks to support child advocacy centers. Shown here earlier this month, near the beginning of this year’s fundraiser, are, front row from left, Lt. Steven Tenney, Sgt. James Cemorelis, Chief Steven Russo, Detective Andrew Lippincott and Sgt. Christopher Simonds. Administrative Assistant Sherri Beckta, up top, gets into the act by sporting fake facial hair.

The Keene Police Department has nearly tripled its goal for the fifth annual Beards for Bucks fundraiser, which ends Thursday.

The fundraiser allows officers to grow their facial hair through the month of October. As their beards grow, so does awareness and donations for children who are victims of physical and sexual abuse or who witness violent crimes.

Police departments in Charlestown, Chesterfield, Marlborough, Peterborough, Walpole and Winchester are also participating.

“Year-round, you don’t see us with beards, so it’s actually a conversation starter,” Keene police Lt. Steven Tenney said. “It’s beneficial for us because we like to have beards, but we aren’t allowed to have them because of policy and grooming standards.”

All of the proceeds go to fund programs at local child advocacy centers. Money raised by participating departments in Cheshire County will benefit the Monadnock Region Child Advocacy Center in Keene, while Peterborough’s fundraising efforts will benefit the Child Advocacy Center of Hillsborough County and Charlestown is raising money for the Child Advocacy Center of Grafton and Sullivan counties.

And even those who can’t grow a beard can still participate.

Keene police Detective Jen Truman said her husband grows out his beard in her honor, which helps increase the fundraising efforts in the community.

One other woman in the department, Administrative Assistant Sherri Beckta, bought a fake beard to wear, she added.

Although the Keene Police Department set its goal at $2,000, the 18 officers participating have already raised $5,675. This total doesn’t include cash donations, Tenney said.

Sgt. Christopher Simonds and Sgt. James Cemorelis hold the top spots, with more than $1,000 raised each.

Keene’s total is substantially higher than in previous years, according to Truman, by “at least a few thousand dollars.”

“I’m a big advocate, so I’m glad that we’ve raised so much,” she said.

Child advocacy centers took over the interview process in 2007, in cases of child abuse or for children who witness violent crimes, from police detectives, social workers and other caseworkers, according to Carlos H. Agudelo, program coordinator and forensic interviewer for the Monadnock Region Child Advocacy Center. Before that, he said, the child was put through more than one interview by several different people.

“It’s more child-friendly and less traumatizing for the child and the family,” he said.

In an average year, the Monadnock Region Child Advocacy Center will conduct about 120 interviews, or about 10 per month, according to Agudelo.

The biggest issue the center faces, though, is that many New Hampshire residents aren’t aware they’re legally obligated to report child abuse, Agudelo said.

“People should be looking for the signs of child abuse ... and if [an adult] sees signs of abuse, they are mandated to report that to authorities,” he said. Those signs can include withdrawal, defiant behavior and changes in school performance, he said.

That’s why the awareness Beards for Bucks raises and the support from local law enforcement is so important, he added.

“It’s a team effort to help children in need.”

To donate to the Beards for Bucks campaign, visit beardsforbucks.org/KeenePD and search for the officer or police department of your choice. Cash donations are also accepted at participating police departments.

If you suspect child abuse, call the N.H. Division for Children, Youth and Families at 1-800-894-5533 or contact your local police.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.