The associate lodge of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police has named a Whitehall resident as its Member of the Year for 2013.
Janice Ritchey is perhaps best known locally as director of Get Behind the Badge, a nonprofit organization Angie McDowell founded after her husband, Whitehall officer Terry McDowell, was killed in the line of duty in 2001.
But Ritchey's efforts to support law enforcement extend beyond Get Behind the Badge, leading to the recognition by the associate lodge of the Ohio FOP.
"It was an honor to be recognized," said Ritchey, 73, who has lived in Whitehall since 1965 and retired three years ago from Central Parking.
Ritchey was a member of the first graduating class of the Whitehall Citizens' Police Academy in 1996, among the first such police academies in central Ohio.
Upon graduation, she and several other graduates, including late Whitehall councilman and fire inspector James "Herk" Soteriades, founded the Whitehall Citizens' Police Academy Alumni Association, an organization that today continues to support Whitehall police.
"I joined the citizens academy because I wanted to see how police do their jobs," Ritchey said.
Two years later, in 1998, Ritchey joined the Capital City Lodge No. 5, the associate lodge of Capital City Lodge No. 9, the FOP lodge for central Ohio police officers.
Ritchey is the current secretary of the associate lodge and has served multiple terms as secretary and second vice president.
The associate lodge organizes and arranges special events and support activities for police officers throughout central Ohio, including family events such as an Easter egg hunt.
"We also take food for all the officers working the Ohio State and Michigan football game (each November)," Ritchey said.
Ritchey also is the volunteer director of Get Behind the Badge, an organization that provides financial and material support to the families of police officers and firefighters critically injured or killed in the line of duty.
Officer Terry McDowell was shot and killed in the line of duty Aug. 24, 2001. His partner, Eric Brill, was shot in the face and lost sight in one eye. The man who shot both officers committed suicide.
Ritchey joined the board of Get Behind the Badge three years ago and helps arrange the organization's numerous fundraisers, including the Badge Bash each August
Events such as a football game and a golf outing held in conjunction with the annual event raised about $40,000 last year.
"I enjoy all the people I meet (and) continuing to support our police," Ritchey said.