Celebrity wait staff serve up funds for SIDNE® in Virginia

Money’s tight all over in the current economy, and it’s no different for most law enforcement agencies. So when Kimberly Taylor, an investigator with Virginia’s Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office, wanted to add SIDNE® Impaired Driving Simulator to the county’s outreach to high school students, she knew she was between a rock and a hard place when it came to getting the necessary funds. The creative solution she came up with brought the entire Gloucester community together with that single-minded goal.

“I was introduced to SIDNE® at the National DARE® Conference in Texas in 2008,” Taylor says. She thought SIDNE® would be a great method of holding student interest and getting across the dangers of driving under the influence and distracted driving in an interesting way. “The DUI programs I have participated in have been dry lectures and did not seem to engage the students or grab their attention.”

Taylor has been anxious to reach young drivers in particular. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles rates Gloucester County in the top ten of Virginia’s counties for DUI-related incidents. The county has lost a number of young people to alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Responding to these incidents left a profound mark on Taylor.

“The incidents were avoidable, yet the loss of life and the effects of the loss to the community were enormous,” she says. “The impact of these deaths has been nearly devastating, as many first responders know the victims. This is a small, close-knit community.”

She saw SIDNE® as a way to reduce the number of alcohol-related fatalities in Gloucester County—if she could obtain one.

When asked what her Number One challenge was to bringing SIDNE® on board, Taylor immediately responds, “MONEY!!!!” So she started her quest to add SIDNE® to the department’s outreach program by generating word-of-mouth buzz.

“I frequently spoke of SIDNE® and what a great program it seemed to be,” she says. “The right people heard me and offered to help with a number of ideas. When I approached the command staff about raising money for the program, they were skeptical but gave me the okay to proceed. [They] told me to be prepared for disappointment.”

And, at first, that was what Taylor got. “I looked at grants to purchase the program but purchasing equipment was prohibited by the grant guidelines.”

But before long the Gloucester community itself took up the cause. “An owner of a local restaurant, Rosemary & Wine, came up with the idea when applying for the grant failed,” Taylor says. “She offered her restaurant and suggested a ‘Celebrity Wait Staff.’” The idea was to attract customers during the fundraising period by having prominent local figures at customers’ beck and call. The restaurant owner had done fundraisers like this before, but on a much smaller scale.

Taylor seized the opportunity, along with others in the community. Gloucester County Sheriff E. S. Gentry solicited volunteers to wait tables for three nights, and volunteered for three nights himself. Other community celebs included the Assistant Superintendent of Schools, a local Catholic priest, managers from two area banks, and other business owners and community leaders, including the captain and major of the Sheriff’s Office. Area newspapers leapt at the chance to promote and cover the event. Court personnel and school board members supported the fundraiser.

“Having the school, courts, and Sheriff’s Office work together seemed to be effective,” Taylor says. “[It was] effective and was a great experience in building the cooperative relationship.

The upshot of the community effort was that the county now owns its own SIDNE®. Taylor says plans are in the works for putting SIDNE® into action. SIDNE® will have a part in the Driver Education Program at the local high school. Taylor sees it fitting into other existing programs too, such as Ident-A-Kid®, DARE®, and Child Safety Seats. There’s even a plan in place to use SIDNE® in the court system.

“The Juvenile and Domestic Relations judge has expressed an interest in using the SIDNE® program as a sentencing tool for juvenile offenders in alcohol-related matters before her court,” Taylor explains. “[She’s] excited to incorporate SIDNE®.”

Because of Taylor’s passion and the community’s creative determination, SIDNE® has become a new tool to help lower DUI-related incidents in Gloucester County.