Beards for bucks

Members of the Conway Police Department are growing beards or dying their hair blue as part of a fundraiser for the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center. Pictured second to right is chief Chris Mattei and at far right is Child Advocacy Center Elizabeth Kelley-Scott. With them is the CAC's dog, Weston and Stella, who belongs to the department's office manager Lora Labbe.(DAYMOND STEER PHOTO)

CONWAY — It's going to get hairy at the Conway Police Department next month as officers participate in a fundraiser called Beards for Bucks (Razorless for a Reason) to raise money for the Child Advocacy Center of Carroll County, a non-profit that aids investigations into crimes against children. 

Police Chief Mattei and CAC Executive Director Elizabeth Kelley-Scott on Wednesday spoke to the Sun about the center and the fundraiser, which takes place during the month of October.

During the fundraiser, which takes place in October, participating officers, dispatchers and office staff will seek sponsors online to either grow beards or dye their hair blue.

As of Thursday afternoon, they had already raised about $3,707 of their $5,000 goal. They are competing within the department to see who can raise the most. 

Asked about the center, Elizabeth Kelley-Scott, executive director of the center, explained: "We aid in the investigation and prosecution of child-abuse cases. We work with all law enforcement jurisdictions throughout Carroll County, prosecutors, social workers, mental health and medical providers, as well as victim advocates.

"So, whenever a child abuse or suspected child abuse case is reported to either law enforcement or to DCF, when that child needs to be interviewed, they're interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center by a trained forensic interviewer who has specialized training in how you talk to kids," she added.

The center is based in Wolfeboro.

Police Chief Chris Mattei said the Police Department has relied on the center for years. 

"It's very difficult for a child to express themselves; it's even harder to do it to an officer that they don't know, that's not trained on how to speak to them," said Mattei.

"So the best way we have to make sure that they get the justice that they deserve is by utilizing the services the center provides. So that's why it's so important to us."

The center has done this fundraiser before, but it's the first year Conway police are participating. Kelley-Scott said the funds are badly needed as COVID-19 has cramped its fundraising efforts and blown a $45,000 hole in the center's budget, which is typically about $300,000. 

The center handles about 120 cases per year, and typically 40-50 come from Conway, Kelley-Scott said. 

Normally, male police officers are held to "military standards" that dictate they must be clean-shaven to avoid an "unkempt" appearance. But Mattei is making an exception for this fundraiser. 

"A month isn't long enough time and grow a good beard," said Mattei. "So, I'm hoping that we can get some good facial hair. I think people in the community will respond to it, because they're not used to seeing police officers, especially Conway police officers, with beards. So I'm hoping that sparks conversation."

To give money to the Beards for Bucks fundraiser, go to justgiving.com/team/conway-police-department

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