*NOTE: All media members who wish to attend must RSVP in advance and only a limited number will be able to attend due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions. This event is not open to the public. To RSVP, please contact the Gloucester Police Community Impact Unit at 978-325-5470.
GLOUCESTER — Chief Edward Conley is pleased to announce a donation ceremony will be held this Monday for the newest, four-legged member of the Gloucester Police Department.
Monday, Nov. 23 from 9-10 a.m.
Outside of the Gloucester Police Community Impact Unit, 186 Main St.
- Chief Conley and members of the Gloucester Police Department
- Ace, the Gloucester Police comfort dog
- Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and other city officials
- Members of the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism
- Business owners from the Lyon Waugh Auto Group, Cape Ann Veterinary Hospital and Essex County Coop.
A donation ceremony will be held next week for the newest member of the Gloucester Police Department, who has a nose for helping out others and providing care for those in need.
At the event, which is not open to the public, city officials and members of the Gloucester Police Department will be joined by local organizations over the course of the morning who will be making donations in honor of Ace, a one-year-old English Golden Retriever, who officially joined the department on today, Friday, Nov. 20.
In his role, Ace will help with de-escalation of children in need, primarily those with ADD, ADHD, who are on the autism spectrum or have other behavioral problems; provide comfort to children who may be experiencing or have experienced trauma; and visit Alzheimer’s patients at local nursing homes and senior centers, including the Rose Baker Senior Center.
Ace had been placed with a foster family prior to joining the department, where he received his comfort dog training from the Golden Opportunities for Independence in Walpole, Mass. He and his handler, Officer Peter Sutera, will attend some additional trainings in the coming weeks to get to know one another a little better and learn more about working together. Lt. Jeremiah Nicastro and School Resource Officer Michael Scola will serve as the backup handlers for Ace.
The idea of bringing a comfort animal like Ace onboard is one the Gloucester Police Department has considered for a couple of years, but the work to make it a reality officially started just two months ago.
“Our mayor is a strong, strong advocate of mental health awareness, so when she heard about this dog and how we were going to use him, she was all in,” Lt. Nicastro said. “Ace will be a benefit and an asset to the community, and help to continue building upon our relationship with residents. Ace is going to be very happy here.”
Working with a comfort dog is a resource Officer Sutera has been interested in before he even started his career in law enforcement. Prior to joining the Gloucester Police Department, he worked at a residential, special education school, where he saw the positive impact comfort animals could have firsthand.
“You could see an absolute change in the demeanor in the kids from one day to the next when they knew the dog was coming,” Officer Sutera said. “It’s crazy the amount of support we’ve gotten through this whole process. I’m excited to start this work, this is going to be amazing.”
The $16,000 to bring Ace to the department has been funded entirely by donations. The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, which provides financial assistance for families caring for a loved one with autism and educates the public about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), helped to cover the initial cost of purchasing Ace and the Gloucester Police Department is now hosting several fundraisers to repay the organization for their kindness.
“The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism is proud to partner with the Gloucester Police Department Community Impact Unit in keeping people and families with autism safe in their community,” Nick Savarese, Executive Director of The Flutie Foundation said. “With the help of the Flutie Foundation’s initial funding, the Gloucester Police Department will increase autism awareness in the community with Ace, the new Community Resource Dog. The Flutie Foundation upholds its commitment to safety in the autism community by providing critical programming and services through collaboration with community organizations and first responders, like the Gloucester Police Department. As people and families with autism know, one frightening and common behavior of children with autism is the tendency to wander, often placing the child in dangerous situations. Together, with our valued community partnerships, we can break down the barriers to full community awareness and inclusion for those affected by autism.”
A GoFundMe page has been created where those interested may submit a donation. Any additional funding past the $10,000 goal, which officers will use to repay the Flutie Foundation and hope to raise by the summer, will be used to help support Ace and his services.
Other local businesses and organizations have made donations to Ace and the Gloucester Police Department already including:
- TLC Whole Life Natural Pet Food, which will provide a lifetime supply of food for Ace.
- Dr. Jeffrey French from the Cape Ann Veterinary Hospital, who will provide free annual visits, vaccines and monthly medications.
- Essex County Coop, who donated $300 worth of dog cages, dog beds and toys for Ace.
- EZYDOG Harness, who donated $300 worth of dog harnesses as well as blank patches to place business logos.
- Lyon-Waugh Auto Group, who is making a large donation to the program.
Local businesses can also make a donation to “adopt” Ace for a month, where he will wear a patch with their business logo on his vest for the month. This money will be donated to the Gloucester Fund, which works to promote civic, cultural, educational, athletic, or other benevolent purposes or activities in benefit of the citizens of Gloucester. Businesses who are interested may contact the Community Impact Unit at 978-325-5470.
Specially designed patches will also be available for sale in the coming weeks for community members to buy and show their support for Ace. More information about this will be shared in the near future.
Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett has pledged financial support for Ace and is working with the Gloucester Police and School Departments to introduce a program to provide additional support to children who have experienced trauma beyond the Handle With Care program.
Since it was launched in January 2020, the Community Impact Unit has worked each day to further strengthen the relationships between officers and the community, connecting with approximately 600 people in need.
The Unit, which is headed by Lt. Nicastro, such as giving backpacks with toiletries and other supplies to homeless residents in the community and hosting weekly video game nights for children in the community.
“The Community Impact Unit has provided invaluable services and resources to the entire Gloucester community since it began,” Chief Conley said. “I could not be prouder of all that they have done, and to have Ace on board to help further support and serve our residents. Thank you to everyone for their support and for those who have helped to make this idea a reality.”