By DONNA BETH WEILENMAN
MARTINEZ, Calif. – Two local students that are members of the Martinez Grange have a history of giving. They’ve given toys to military dogs. They’ve also made quilts for older veterans. But their biggest challenge started a year ago, when they decided to raise money so Martinez Police Department could get a second police dog.
Last September, Lenore Delfino and Seth Kozlowksi set a goal of raising $10,000 in a year, and contacted Captain Eric Ghisletta, who was acting police chief when the two announced their project.
“I thought it was very ambitious on their part and incredibly amazing,” Ghisletta said.
After all, Delfino is an Alhambra High School senior and Kozlowski is a Pleasant Hill eighth-grader, and the project would have been ambitious for a team of adults.
“When Seth and I spoke last year, I thought it was going to be very difficult to achieve his goal of raising the full amount for the purchase of the dog,” Ghisletta said.
The two not only met their initial goal of raising $10,000 a month early, they kept collecting money for the entire year. By Sept. 16, they were able to present an oversized check for $13,221.13 to the police department during a Martinez City Council meeting.
Since a previous police dog and handler team retired, Martinez Police only has Logan, a jet-black German shepherd dog who can be a friendly ambassador for the department or a no-nonsense four-legged officer.
Police dogs are expensive. They must have the right temperament and training for the job, and be capable of living with their handlers at their home. Not every candidate makes the cut.
After learning that Martinez Police was down to one dog, Delfino and Kozlowski started devising a plan. “It was a good idea to help the community,” Kozlowski said.
“We have always done community service,” Delfino said. She and Kozlowski met through 4-H, and when their families joined Grange, they continued their friendship in the new organization, both of which encourage members to participate in helpful projects.
To begin their K-9 fundraising project, the pair bought 30 jars. Delfino designed labels and Kozlowski assembled the jars. Then the pair went to Martinez businesses, asking owners if they could place the jars in their stores, offices and restaurants. They kept a couple as display models they used when making their pitches. The rest of the jars were out to collect donations. Few business owners would turn them down.
They regularly monitored the jars’ intake. Occasionally the two students would shift jar locations, making sure enough were on display so as many donors as possible could be reached. At some places, donations would trickle in. Then the same sites would get a rush of contributions.
But setting out jars wasn’t all the two students did.
“We got a P.O. box,” Kozlowski said. That allowed others to send donations in by mail. Then the two learned others were dropping donations off at the police department’s office at City Hall. Sometimes they would set up booths at downtown Martinez events, just to have a chance to collect some more donations.
They also opened a bank account, and kept records of those deposits. It took a little coordination between the two children and the police department to keep tabs on how much money had been contributed.
Periodically Ghisletta would be asked how many people were involved in the project, and would tell the inquirers, “Two kids.”
But the pair had a track record, and many downtown businesses already knew them from their past 4-H and Grange projects. Kozlowski’s grandmother, Karen Luckhurst, was one of the founders of Briones 4-H, and started bringing Kozlowski to meetings when he was a toddler. Delfino’s mother, Laura, also was involved in 4-H as a project leader, and got her daughter started in the club.
Not only did the two learn about projects and keeping records through 4-H, they also learned responsibility when they showed livestock, including pigs, at competitions. Later they would join Grange, founded after the Civil War to help farmer families, especially widows whose farming husbands had been killed in wars.
Later it became a non-partisan agricultural advocacy group that, among other accomplishments, helped establish the Cooperative Extension Service, rural free delivery and the farm credit system as well as women’s suffrage. Its name is derived from a Latin word for grain.
As the farming population declined, membership in the Grange opened to anyone. It has Junior Grange for those 5 to 14, and Grange Youth for those 14 to 35. While it encourages worthwhile projects, it doesn’t require them or the more extensive record-keeping of 4-H.
Delfino and Kozlowski soon found they would get contributions larger than their jars could hold. Individuals dropped cash into the jars. But business owners also started making heftier donations.
The Martinez Kinder’s Custom Meats and Deli at Muir Station Shopping Center became a contributor.
So did Benicia business owner and Martinez resident Gene Pedrotti, whose Ace Hardware store is known for supporting local causes and international emergencies.
“About four months ago, after reading an article about two Grange members who were raising funds to replace a K-9 unit that had retired, I decided I wanted to help out,” Pedrotti said.
“The contact was the acting police chief, Eric Ghisletta, and so I called and left a message. It took two weeks of coordination, but we finally were able to chat. I offered to close the gap so that they could get their K-9 ‘officer.’ He was delighted.”
Joining those businesses were Northern California Obedience Judges Association, Walker Auto Body, Darlene Helton, Sunflower Garden, Lemongrass Bistro, Martinez Animal Hospital, Water Wise, Muir Oaks Veterinary Hospital, the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 159, Dwayne Glemser’s Les Schwab, Luigi’s, Whiskey Lane, Main Street Sweets, Beaver Creek, Creek Monkey Tap House, the Martinez Yacht Club, Muir Family Dentistry, Family Hairlooms (CQ), Sal’s Kitchen, Char’s, Fresh Start, Pak Mail, TJ’s Café, Goodyear Tires Martinez, Good Stuff and Roxx On Main, helping the students exceed their own goals.
Now that the Martinez Police have the students’ donation, Kozlowski and Delfino said they are going to take a break. Police officials have told their young benefactors they’ll be invited to meet the new police dog once it arrives in the city.
Dog and handler training school takes about a month to complete, Ghisletta said.
The two students learned that when the new dog is chosen, which will come after a department officer is trained and certified as its handler, it already will have a protective vest.
“They had the vest – just not the dog,” Kozlowski said.
“The support the community showed toward Seth and Lenore’s fundraising drive was awe-inspiring,” Ghisletta said. “It is a great feeling to see the support this community has for our organization.”