By Barb Pert Templeton
BWHL caught up with the former sheriff to discuss the plan
Tim Donnellon, the former Sheriff of St. Clair County, may have retired from the department but that doesn’t mean the importance of supporting law enforcement isn’t still on his mind.
In fact, The Community Foundation of St. Clair County recently announced the creation of a new endowment fund by Donnellon that will assist the local law enforcement community both now and in the future.
After spending 33 years in various law enforcement roles across the county, including serving as the St. Clair County Sheriff for a dozen years, Donnellon retired in 2020 to accept a new job with the state of Michigan’s Gaming Control Board. It was after his retirement that he decided to establish the Sheriff Donnellon Law Enforcement Fund utilizing past campaign donations.
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When recently contacted about the new scholarship and grants program Donnellon said after he faced a tough primary and general election in 2008, he began hosting an annual fundraiser to build his campaign fund. Although he ran unopposed for his next few terms the fundraising events continued and while they gave him a chance to meet people across the county, he also felt it was important to get out there and be visible to his constituents.
“Over a dozen years I built up a campaign fund and there are tax restrictions about what you can do with the funds so you have to be very careful about what you do with them,” Donnellon explained.
After talking out options for liquidating the funds with his accountant they decided establishing a scholarship fund for law enforcement students was a good idea.
“Folks don’t realize that you can’t just take that money and use it yourself and I want them to look back and say I supported the sheriff and now I’m happy with what he’s doing with the money,” Donnellon said.
Noting that the Community Foundation always does great things with the funds they manage Donnellon said supporting those seeking careers in law enforcement is extremely important today.
“There’s no greater time then now to get young men and women into this profession and these scholarships will be great for those that have that interest in criminal justice,” Donnellon said.
He’d also like to see non-traditional students awarded the funding as well. For example, if there’s a 30-year-old married father of two who wants to go to the police academy for 17 weeks he’s going to need some financial help to commit to the program.
A New Kind of Fund
Community Foundation of St. Clair Vice President Jackie Hanton said the fund launched by Donnellon is the first one of its kind for the agency. What makes it unique is the fact that it not only includes scholarships for students in college or at the police academy, it may also fund special programs created by local law enforcement agencies.
“This one does have a broader reach for funding,” Hanton said.
Harold Burns, who worked as treasurer during Sheriff Donnellon’s campaign and is a former board member of the Community Foundation, said Donnellon was dedicated to serving the people and law enforcement community across St. Clair County throughout his career.
“Many community members over the years supported Tim and his efforts as former Sheriff of St. Clair County and through that support, he was able to create the new law enforcement fund at the Community Foundation,” Burns said in a press release. “Tim has always put the community first and, even after retiring, is still front and center looking for ways to support the law enforcement community and the residents of St. Clair County.”
The Sheriff Donnellon Law Enforcement Fund is an endowed fund at the Community Foundation meaning the principal amount of the fund is restricted and is intended to last forever. The fund will provide long-term annual support for local law enforcement through grants and scholarships.
Hanton said the funds have to be invested for a year before they will generate the first awarded grant or scholarship. She guesstimated that the dollar amount is likely to be between $2,500 and $3,000 and the first one will be awarded in 2023.
“I couldn’t be more excited to see folks take advantage of this funding in the future,” Donnellon said.
To support or learn about other funds such as the Sheriff Donnellon Law Enforcement Fund, visit stclairfoundation.org/funds.