The city of Hillsdale was recently awarded several grants amounting to nearly $80,000 through the Hillsdale County Community Foundation.
According to Sharon Bisher, the president and CEO of the HCCF, the non-profit organization accepts grants a couple of times a year, and then asks local organizations what their needs are.
“We look at what the effects of these grants could have and then weigh that against the critical needs of the community. Our role is that of the funder,” Bisher said.
This year, the Hillsdale County District Court, the Hillsdale Police Department, the Hillsdale Historical Society, the Hillsdale County Juvenile Court, and the Hillsdale College G.O.A.L. Program all received grants from the HCCF.
The City of Hillsdale’s Police Department received $10,000 for the purpose of purchasing body cameras for officers and two vehicles with fully equipped video systems, according to Chief of Police Scott Hephner.
Hephner said the police department has applied for grants in the past for body cameras and video systems, but last January was the first time they have been approved.
The police department will purchase 14 body cameras and two video systems to install within vehicles.
“The philosophy behind it is maintaining the city’s trust,” Hephner said. “It’s two-fold: if the police do something wrong, it’s on video. If someone in the city does something wrong, it’s on video.”
Many states are beginning to require local police departments to purchase body cameras, according to Hephner.
“There’s been a lot of negative media attention toward law enforcement. We’ve felt the fall-out even here in Hillsdale,” Hephner said.
Through this grant, Hephner hopes that Hillsdale’s Police Department will be ahead of the game here in Michigan, where body cameras are not yet mandatory. Their purpose is simply not to lose the public’s trust, according to Hephner.
“This is not a Big Brother step,” Hephner said.
The Hillsdale County District Court also received $25,000 for the implementation of a Drug Treatment Court.
Judge Sara Lisznayi began the process of applying for this grant in Oct. 2016, and is finally beginning to see the fruit of her labor.
Mary Wolfram, director of economic development, said the District Court received the grant in large part because of Lisznayi’s personal intervention.
“She came up with the grant and its application, and the HCCF obviously helped her,” Wolfram said.
According to Bisher, the HCCF was happy to fund the implementation of the Drug Treatment Court, because it will treat long-term issues.
“Drug problems have been in our community for years, and we have struggled to find solutions,” Bisher said. “This is one way we can begin to do that.”
According to Wolfram, Hillsdale received these grants because of the people who have worked hard to earn them.
“These grants don’t just come to you,” she said. “They don’t just send you a check and you get it in the mail.”
In applying for a grant, extensive research is required, according to Wolfram. Each application requires the applicant to pull together data and really make a case as to why they would be a good recipient in order to receive a grant.
“You have to care about your job and you have to care about your community,” Wolfram said.
Hillsdale also needs these grants, according to Wolfram. She believes it will go so far as to help boost the labor participation rate, which is currently at 56 percent — an all-time low in the state of Michigan.
“Employers can’t get employees to pass drug tests here,” Wolfram said. “This Drug Treatment Court is really, really needed in Hillsdale.”