Denny Offstein likes to recall how his father brought his family to the United States seeking the American dream.
So when Offstein decided that the Butler City Police needed two new officers with a love for sniffing out crime and chew toys dipped in peanut butter, it was clear he had inherited the same amount of motivation.
Now, after a year of fundraising and exchanges with city officials, Offstein’s dream is a reality.
Gunner and Blade, specially trained police dogs and the newest members of the force, were blessed by Catholic, Jewish and Protestant leaders last Wednesday in a ceremony thanking Offstein, as well as other donors for their help in raising nearly $100,000 to obtain the canines.
Blade joined the Butler police last week. Gunner has been on the job since November.
“[Denny] really was the person who got this whole project going, and he stayed with it,” said Cantor Michal Gray-Schaffer of Congregation B’nai Abraham in Butler, who said a prayer rather than actually blessing the dogs. “The community saw that it was a good project and helped come up with the rest of the money.”
Gray-Shaffer, formerly a musical soloist at Tree of Life Congregation and Rodef Shalom Congregation, represented the Jewish demographic during the ceremony.
A Butler auto dealer, Offstein approached Mayor Maggie Stock last April with the idea that the city purchase one or two K-9 officers. With money being the only issue, he contributed his own donation to kick off the fundraising effort.
Offstein started the effort with a $10,000 interest-free loan; he also lobbied the Butler County Commission for support.
But after a year of spaghetti dinners, car washes, and T-shirt sales, the generous gift was eventually not even needed. Eventually collecting more than triple the original goal — many of the contributions ranging from $5 donations to five figure checks — Offstein and the Butler community made history.
“I’ve done lots of fundraising in my years,” Stock said, “but nothing has ever been like this.”
(Jesse Irwin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)