By LISA WHALEY
Good food, a good cause and the chance to meet some very special four-legged heroes will hopefully be the perfect combination to draw in needed donations as the Bar-B-Q Fundraiser for Paws in Blue kicks off this Saturday.
The event, designed to help raise funds for the Jonesborough Police Department’s K-9 program, will run from 5 to 9 p.m. downtown at the International Storytelling Center.
“These dogs are invaluable,” said Ruth Verhegge, who was honored earlier this year with a Governor’s Volunteer Star Awards for her role in the creation of the Paws in Blue program, which is designed to help offset department expenses for the K-9 program. “It is really like having more officers. It really is, in many ways.”
The Jonesborough Police Department currently has four K-9 teams that are certified by the North American Police Work Dog Association. These dogs, and their handlers, are specialists in everything from man tracking and narcotics detection to suspect apprehension and handler protection. One dog is even trained in explosives detection. Each dog has its own area of expertise.
But that expertise comes with a cost. According to the department’s website, K-9 vehicles are required to have state-of-the-art equipment designed specifically for proper care and protection of the animals, including an automatic backdoor opener that allows the officer to get assistance from the K-9.
Expenses also include training and re-certification costs, as well as all food, supplements and veterinary care, according to Verhegge.
While Paws in Blue was designed to help offset those expenses, the 2020 pandemic put a halt to almost everything, she explained.
“It has been rough because we couldn’t do any fundraising last year,” she added.
Verhegge is hoping Saturday’s barbecue will be a great event to help get things rolling again — especially with the pending retirement -— and following replacement — of K-9 Loki on the horizon.
Saturday’s menu will consist of barbecue, cole slaw and beans provided by Main Street Café and Catering, as well as iced tea.
Kids meals will be provided by Chick-Fil-A on West Market Street. All desserts will be provided by local bakeries.
The event will also feature DJ Michael Hawkins, who will be providing entertainment with music beginning at 6:30 p.m. and go until 9 p.m..
There is even a special meet and greet with the K-9 officers during the event.
“This town has donated so much money so we can have the dogs, but they have never seen the dogs,” Verhegge said.
This Saturday, the town will get their chance.
Tickets for the event are $20 for adults and $12 for children (12 and under) in advance and will be $25 for adults and $12 for children at the door.
Interested in purchasing a reserved table? A table for six or less, with dinner, can be purchased in advance for $120. Advanced tickets are on sale now at Jonesborough.com/tickets or by calling the Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010.
Donations can also be made by visiting jonesboroughtn.org/government/make-a-donation or by calling (423) 753-1010.
For more information on Paws in Blue visit them on Facebook or contact Ruth Verhegge at (423) 794-0237.