Westerville police have been growing beards this winter for two fundraising campaigns, "Whiskers for WARM (Westerville Area Resource Ministry)" and "Whiskers for Warriors."
Westerville Division of Police Chief Charles "Cappy" Chandler said more than 40 members of the police department, including himself, are participating in a campaign that allows them to grow facial hair at a cost of $50 a month with all proceeds going to charities.
He said this is the first time the department has been authorized to grow beards.
"We also have a conservative fingernail polish (policy)," Chandler said. "We relaxed that for those who wanted to decorate their nails. I relaxed both of those policies."
"This is a great program with great participation at the WPD," said Christa Dickey, the city's community affairs director.
Chandler said the department had talked about participating in the program a couple of times.
A nationwide initiative called No-Shave November invites participants to stop shaving to evoke conversation and raise cancer awareness, according to no-shave.org.
That campaign encourages participants to put down their razor for 30 days and donate the monthly hair-maintenance expenses to the cause.
Chandler said Westerville's program is continuing all winter, but everyone must be clean shaven by March 1.
"Coming in as new chief, I thought it was something we could do for charity," he said.
During the months of November and December, the department raised $4,000, with the Westerville Area Resource Ministry receiving $2,000 and Westerville Caring & Sharing receiving the other $2,000.
"Knowing both charities benefit local people, we felt that was a good place for funds to go in November and December," Chandler said.
During January and February, all the proceeds will go to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation that "honors military and first responders who continue to make the supreme sacrifice of life and limb for country," according to the nonprofit's website, tunnel2towers.org.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation honors the sacrifice of Siller, a firefighter who died to save others on Sept. 11, 2001, according to the website.
"Tunnel became endeared to the WPD in 2018 when it stepped in to pay off the mortgage of (Westerville police officer) Eric Joering's house after he was killed in the line of duty," Dickey said.
"We know from personal experience with the in-the-line-of-duty deaths of Eric Joering and Tony Morelli, they helped those families," Chandler said. "We felt we wanted to give back to them for what they did for the Joering and Morelli families."
He said a few officers have already picked up their razors after the first round of the campaign.
"The significant others didn't appreciate the beard as much," he said.
If he notices a colleague's beard getting too straggly, Chandler said, he tells that person.
"We're still trying to keep (facial hair) manicured and maintained," he said.
So far $2,800 has been raised for Tunnel to Towers and there's more contributions coming in, Chandler said.
He said the department has received positive feedback from the public, who inquired about the beards.
"A lot of people liked it and said we looked more approachable," he said. "We did get positive comments about it."
Chandler said he would like to make it an annual initiative.