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Deputy helps fellow officers rebuild homes in New Orleans



Friday, September 15, 2006

Instead of spending nine days with his wife and two children, Ottawa County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Jones helped a New Orleans officer rebuild his hurricane-ravaged home.

The New Orleans officer can now move out of his Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer, Jones said.

"It's not the kind of place you want to live in for a year," Jones said.

Jones and seven other men were part of a Cops Helping Cops team that made the home of New Orleans Police Sgt. Eric Berger habitable after it was soaked in 5 feet of water by Hurricane Katrina. The team fixed the home's plumbing, installed new drywall and helped rewire the house.

Using vacation time, Jones flew to New Orleans Aug. 28 and returned Sept. 5.




When Cops Helping Cops co-founder Dave Fowler, an Osceola County undersheriff, asked Jones to go along on the organization's first outing, Fowler thought about it for a few seconds, but being in a business where he has to make snap decisions, Jones was use to it.

After the team arrived in the New Orleans, Deputy Chief James Bryson of the New Orleans Police Department invited the men to his home for dinner and then took them on a tour of New Orleans.

"There were houses on top of each other. There were houses in the road," Jones said. "There was no electricity, no water and no sewer services in the area.

"It definitely struck home of how terrible this thing was," Jones said. "It was one thing to see it on television, but it was another to see it up close and personal."

But amid the devastation, Jones saw hope.

"One in 10 homes around (Berger's) home was being worked on while we were there," Jones said.

The team Jones went with involved four officers from Michigan and four from New York. One of the men from New York was a firefighter who was the only member of his fire house who didn't die in the 9/11 attacks.

"Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction," Jones said of the many stories he heard during the work trip.

"I enjoy supporting our staff when they have a chance to help someone else," said Ottawa County Sheriff Gary Rosema.

"Jeff is very service-oriented and that's evident in his work with us," Rosema said. "He enjoys what he does here and that shows in the things he involves himself with when he's off-duty."

Although Jones' trip meant his wife, Larissa, a paramedic with Life EMS Ambulance in Grand Rapids, would have extra work with the family, she didn't mind.

"You can't say no to something like that," said Larissa Jones. "I don't think I could have lived with myself if I didn't encourage him to go."

To learn more about Cops Helping Cops, visit www.copshelpingcops.com.

Contact Tereasa Nims at tereasa.nims@hollandsentinel.com or (616) 546-4272.


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