The Midlothian Police Department received a $7,300 donation from the Gerdau Joint Health and Safety Committee for an unmanned aircraft systems.

The committee is made up of business vendors that operate with Gerdau and involved with safety. It took about a month for the committee to raise the $7,300 donation, said Sonja Southard, Business Development Manager at Express Employment Professionals.

This specific donation made this past Friday comes from eight companies and two individuals, Southard noted.

“This is the beginning of something that we don’t even know,” she said. “They say the sky's the limit but why not say the universe is the limit.”

Southard has been a part of the committee for three years. In January, Gerdau Joint Health and Safety Committee donated money for a drone to the Midlothian Fire Department and then shifted its focus to the police department.

She noted that the committee wanted to donate money for drone usage because they make the community safe. They do what humans can’t do, and the technology should be used.

The hope is to positively impact the community that we all work in, Southard added. She said she started talking to clients and people started giving money for the department.

“We understand that first responders put their lives on the line every day. Anything we can do to aid and help the community and keep the community safe and show appreciation, we’re going to do,” she said. “People generally want to give to the community.”

Southard said this is just the beginning of helping first responders in Midlothian and hopes the committee can make more contributions. First responders do more than what many realize and it is the least Midlothian businesses can do to help, she noted.

“It’s a very hard job to do and I don’t think they get enough recognition,” she said. “The mentality that goes with firefighting and police work, none of us will know unless we walk in their shoes and I don’t want to know.”

Crystal Smith, with Sunrise Personnel, said the company donated to make sure first responders make it home safely.

“First responders put their lives on the line every day,” she wrote about the company’s reason to donate.

UAS Team Leader Sgt. Clay Regan said he was not expecting a donation this large for the department. He anticipated a few hundred dollars, one thousand max, but not $7,300.

“It was heartwarming. It was overwhelming,” Regan said. “$7,000 was unexpected and it kinda proves why I came back to Midlothian.”

The donation will go toward buying a new UAS for the department because its current equipment is outdated.

The department is still looking for donations because the $7,300 isn’t enough to purchase the model it needs, Regan said. Plus, more money will be needed to buy additional items like high-tech cameras which can cost up to $13,000.

The drones and cameras are helpful when looking for lost children or elderly in wooded areas as well as assessing a threat in a dangerous situation.

“This is an amazing technology,” Regan said.

The current equipment is outdated and the companies are no longer making parts for them, Regan said. UAS batteries can make or break a mission, and the department’s batteries are nearly two years old, Regan said.

Newer models can allow the fire and police departments to share equipment and help one another in times of crisis.

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Samantha Douty, @SamanthaDouty

469-517-1451