Tustin Police Foundation has new logo, new director and more plans to serve city

By Greg Hardesty

The “T” in the non-profit’s new logo reflects one of the most distinctive physical symbols of Tustin: the giant dual hangars at the former Marine Corps Air Station.

Designed as a red, white and blue badge, the Tustin Police Foundation’s fresh logo represents a new era for the independent organization, which fulfills a critical role for the Tustin PD.

Founded in 2011, the TPF recently merged with TPOA Cares to become the sole fund-raising arm of the police department.

The TPF also has a new executive director, Wendi Forrest, who started on Feb. 21 and is determined to develop the foundation into an even more critical player for the police agency.

Under the new leadership, the Tustin Police Foundation recently was chosen by the Tustin Chamber of Commerce as “Non-profit of the Year” and honored at the Mayor’s Business Luncheon.

As a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, the TPF raises money that pays for equipment, training and services above and beyond what the city’s budget will allow.

One service for Tustin PD employees that is funded by the TPF is being hailed as a lifesaver.

Through a Comprehensive Wellness Program launched in 2016, the TPF, in a joint effort with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, recently provided free, voluntary heart and health screenings to the TPD’s sworn employees as well as members of its professional staff.

“Many employees who received heart scans at work in a non-invasive manner discovered they had issues serious enough to require attention from their doctors,” said Master Officer Brad Saunders, who was instrumental in founding the TPF in 2011.

One of those who was alerted to a medical concern was Sgt. Sean Quinn. It was because of the scan that it was discovered he had a serious heart ailment that required significant follow-up treatment.

“If we didn’t have the heart scans provided by the foundation, Sgt. Quinn might not be alive today,” said Saunders, who retired from full-time officer duties after 25 years in 2016 but now works at the agency on a part-time basis. Saunders also sits on the board of the Tustin Police Foundation, which has five civilian and five Tustin Police Department representatives.

TPD Chief Charlie Celano said the Comprehensive Wellness Program is just one example of the invaluable role the TPF fills.

“These and other additional resources allow us to be good fiscal stewards of the taxpayer dollar,” Celano said. “The foundation also provides an outlet for those very generous businesses and individuals to donate funds toward the law enforcement effort.

“We are blessed in this county to have many supportive residents and business owners who desire to give back.”

Additional resources provided by the TPF complement and enhance the TPD’s capabilities, said recently retired Deputy Chief Paul Garaven.

The foundation has been able to fund specialized equipment for the TPD’s Special Response Team, a K9 and a variety of other specialty items, Garaven said.

In this file photo, Tustin PD Sgt. Andrew Birozy, left, and Deputy Chief Paul Garaven greet kids as they complete laps during TPD’s Run with a Cop event.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“We look forward to the growth of the (foundation) and the partnership for many years to come,” Garaven said. “The addition of Wendi as the executive director has really bolstered the foundation’s abilities. She’s a great addition to the team.”

Among the programs funded by TPOA Cares that will continue to be funded with the help of TPF are Run With A Cop, a running club started to inspire students to embrace health and physical fitness while learning how to care for their community. Tustin Police officers meet with students after school twice a week to run and learn about fitness, the benefits of healthy eating, and the importance of hydrating and getting enough sleep. The program ends with a celebration for the whole community, including free dental care, free eye exams, free haircuts, activities and more.

In this file photo, 3-year-old Kaylani Mondragon of Tustin runs to give Tustin PD Officer Hector Frias a hug after her visit with Santa.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“The largest benefit of the merger is combining forces to better and more efficiently use our resources and manpower to make an even greater impact,” said Officer Matt Roque, founding member of TPOA Cares and creator of the Run With A Cop program, who serves as a board member for the Tustin Police Foundation.

The Tustin Police Foundation also joined with the TPD to implement Team Kids, a pilot program at a local elementary school. A Tustin Police officer mentors fourth- and fifth-grade students as they develop leadership and team-building skills. The students are empowered to make a difference in their school and community while building self-esteem.

Wendi Forrest, executive director of the Tustin Police Foundation.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Each December, the popular Santa Sleigh program delivers Santa in a sleigh through the streets of Tustin, stopping frequently to have children visit Santa for a photo and receive a candy cane.

With the Santa Cop program, the police department employees and Tustin Police Foundation provide gifts for families living in Tustin with limited resources unable to give gifts to their children during the holiday. Unwrapped gifts are accepted in the lobbies of the TPD and Tustin City Hall during November.

The Tustin Police Foundation also has joined with Coast to Coast to provide aid to the homeless. The TPD identifies individuals in need and often provides resources such as one-day bus passes, meal vouchers and clothing. Additionally, dental care has been provided with the cooperation of Dr. Ashok Mehta of Southland Arts in Tustin. That service helps the homeless regain employment opportunities.

In addition to the Comprehensive Wellness Program, the TPF recently established a Widows and Orphans Emergency and Scholarship Fund to be used in the wake of a heartbreaking event, such as the death of an officer.

The fund was set-up following the recent passing of Sgt. Del Pickney, a beloved veteran of the TPD who was instrumental in getting the wellness program established.

A few years ago, funds raised by the TPF paid for tactical Individual First Aid Kits (IFAKs) that all officers now have with them while on duty.

“On one call,” Saunders said, “an officer was able to use an IFAK to save the life of someone whose limb had been severed.”

The TPF also has paid for a seminar for spouses of officers called “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement.”

Before joining the TPF team, Forrest spent several years in marketing, finance and operations in both the non-profit and for-profit worlds, with prior positions at the Assistance League of Orange, Western Medical Center (Now OC Global) in Santa Ana, and in the home-building industry.

The Los Angeles native earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado and an MBA from Loyola Marymount.

The resident of Orange says her new job is a perfect fit. Her respect for law enforcement runs deep with her father, a retired LAPD Sergeant.

“I’ve always had a love for service,” she says.

At the TPF, she’s planning a first-ever trap shoot tournament fund-raiser in October at Prado Olympic Shooting Park in Chino, and wants to involve more of the public at the Tustin PD’s annual awards banquet.

“People should know more about the police department’s accomplishments,” Forrest said.

She’s also hoping to expand the wellness program to include TPD retirees and spouses of TPD employees.

“I’ve never been more excited to do good work for an organization,” Forrest said. “Everyone I’ve met here, from the chief down to the officers on the street, are phenomenally good people. I am honored to be a part of this organization.”