Partner Profile: The Police Officer Assistance Trust
The Police Officer Assistance Trust (POAT) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Miami-Dade County police officers and their families in times of need. Founded in 1989, POAT provides financial assistance to officers who are disabled in the line of duty, who suffer from chronic or terminal illness, or who are dealing with other catastrophic circumstances. Additionally, POAT supports the families of officers killed in the line of duty. The Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation has been a proud partner of POAT since 2016, providing funds to support the organization in all its initiatives.
In the late 1980s, a series of tragedies befell police officers from Miami-Dade County and their families. First, two officers were shot and killed in the line of duty. Shortly after, a Miami Police Department officer was involved in an on-duty accident and died as a result of his injuries. Another officer’s son was hit by a car and suffered severe brain damage, and yet another officer’s daughter developed a neurological disorder that left her dependent on a ventilator to live.
“When you have a family that’s gone through trauma, be it the loss of an officer or other hardship, other officers want to help. We promise families we’ll always be there for them no matter what,” said Sergeant Kenny Horgan of the Miami-Dade Police Department, Trustee and staff member at POAT. “But before POAT was formed, that wasn’t always possible. Reality would kick in, and 4-5 months down the line, we’d go back to business as usual, and those families would kind of get left behind.”
Sergeant Horgan says that’s why POAT was formed.
“We wanted to let families know that we would never forget them, never leave them behind.”
Now in its 30th year in operation, POAT has never strayed from the mission laid out in its motto: “Serving Those Who Serve.” From helping families of fallen officers make funeral arrangements, paying for the tuition of widows trying to get back on their feet, and assisting officers whose lives have been disrupted by natural disasters find food, clothing and shelter, POAT’s impact is as far-reaching as ever.
While the organization has had to adapt to the challenges presented by the pandemic, Sergeant Horgan says they have not slowed down their operations.
“We’ve put on remote events and are still planning to go forward with our Christmas gifting program,” he says, adding that every year, POAT makes sure that every child of a fallen officer gets a $200 check and their choice of a gift they’ve been eying, or a gift card totalling $200.
“We have 56 kids on our list this year, and we have parents give us suggestions for things to buy them,” says Sergeant Horgan. “Officers who may have known their fallen parent will hand deliver their gifts in person, and they look forward to that every year.”
In addition to Christmas presents, the 56 children on Sergeant Horgan’s list also get a $300 check every year on their birthdays. When they turn 18, POAT provides them with a $2,000 check to help with college tuition, and POAT also has a roster of seven different college scholarships – each named for a different fallen officer – which are awarded at the end of every year.
“We want every family we work with to know that there is a community of police officers looking out for them,” says Sergeant Horgan. “They are never forgotten.”
To learn more about POAT, please visit: http://poat.org/