TYLER — An East Texas foundation is expanding its financial assistance to families of public safety officials injured or killed in the line of duty.
Officials with the East Texas 100 Club, which covers a 20-county region including Panola County, announced Thursday at the Tyler Police Department that it will help those who work in public safety outside of law enforcement.
Mount Pleasant Police Chief Wayne Isbell, a past president of the club, said beginning this year, families of officials eligible for assistance will include law enforcement, constables, sheriff’s officers, firefighters, jailers, detention officers and prison guards.
Isbell said the Dec. 31 death of Panola County Deputy Chris Dickerson, who was killed during an early morning traffic stop, was the region’s first line-of-duty death since the organization began in 2018.
“The purpose of this organization is to provide immediate financial relief to the family when there’s a line-of-duty death of public safety officials,” he said.
That financial assistance comes from donations.
“We need your support to help support public safety. Every day, our public safety officials go out into the community not expecting to be critically injured or die in the line of duty. They expect to come home,” Isbell said. “Their family members expect them to come home. But there are always critical incidents in our community where they don’t.”
Tyler Police Chief Jimmy Toler said the fraternal partnerships among first responders and public safety officials greatly help East Texas departments.
The club can come in to help families who need resources after a tragedy, and by “working together we can do a lot more,” Toler said.
Longview Fire Chief J.P. Steelman said the club and its expansion of services provide East Texans with another way to assist those who work in public safety.
While officials might work in different departments, Steelman said they often work together in dangerous situations.
“At the end of the day, the dangers that come along with the job, regardless of which badge you wear, are pretty much all inherently the same,” he said. “Either one is a very dangerous career and profession, and you stand to lose your life at the end of the day doing what you’re expected to do.
“Certainly, we try to do what we can and maintain our training, but there’s always the unexpected that we tend to find ourselves mixing it up with.”
Because police, firefighters and others often deal with similar situations, there becomes a community feeling among the departments.
“It’s a partnership for public safety to keep our community safe,” Steelman said.
Isbell encouraged the public to visit easttexas100club.org to become a member for an annual cost of $100 or to make a donation of any amount.
The 20-county region covered by the club includes Gregg, Smith, Delta, Franklin, Wood, Henderson, Harrison, Hopkins, Marion, Morris, Panola, Rains, Red River, Rusk, Titus, Camp, Anderson, Cass, Cherokee and Upshur counties.