After the murder of Mooresville K-9 Officer Jordan Sheldon, the Fraternal Order of Police leaned in with support for the fallen officer’s family and colleagues.

On Tuesday, the founder of Iredell Firewire – the popular social-media site that follows Iredell County’s emergency calls – and Downtown Mooresville’s MI Screen Printing returned that support with a $15,500 donation to the Iredell County FOP lodge.

The funds were raised through sales of memorial shirts that Firewire staff designed and MI Screen Printing printed. “The goal was to sell shirts and maybe raise $1,000 to donate to (Officer Sheldon’s) family,” Firewire’s Dan Mark told members of the Iredell County chapter of FOP during its regular meeting in Statesville on Tuesday. “I didn’t know how big this was going to explode.”

MPD Officer Jordan Sheldon’s brother, Carson Ledford (left), watches as Dan Mark (Iredell Firewire) and Jason Gordon (MI Screen Printing) hand a check for $15,500 to Iredell FOP President Rodney James and other FOP board members. Photo compliments of Leigh Walther Photography

He said 1,800 shirts were eventually sold and shipped all over the country.

“Over the course of a month or two, we were researching and looking for suggestions of where to send (the funds),” Dan said. “After finding out how much FOP was involved with Officer Sheldon, we thought this is a really, really good place to send the money.

“I hope we never have to do a fundraiser like this again,” he said.

Sheldon’s brother, Carson Ledford, and fiancee Jamie Basham attended the FOP meeting. “In the months since Jordan’s death, the FOP has shown up for us in word and deed,” Ledford said, adding that the organization is one his brother cared about.

“When Jordan was involved in (an officer-related shooting) in November, the FOP was there for him immediately. We are proud and honored for the money to go to such a worthy organization which supports our officers. We can never repay Dan of Iredell Firewire for his tremendous generosity and effort in selling shirts to raise this money.”

Iredell FOP President Rodney James hugs Jamie Basham, Officer Jordan Sheldon’s fiancee/Leigh Walther Photography

Rodney James, president of Iredell’s FOP, said the organization is honored by the donation and will use it in a way that honors Sheldon’s memory. “From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you guys,” he said to Firewire and MI Screen Printing.

He then turned to Sheldon’s family. “From the first time I met (Officer Sheldon), I really did like him,” James said. “I’m sorry – that’s all I can say – and we’ll keep fighting. You can bet on that.”

What is FOP?

The world’s largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers, the FOP boasts more than 330,000 members in more than 2,200 lodges, according to its website. Iredell’s lodge is one of North Carolina’s largest, with about 400 members who are current/former law enforcement officers and 500-600 “associate members,” who pay yearly dues for membership and access to Iredell FOP’s shooting range.

Leigh Walther Photography

A non-profit organization, the FOP advocates for law enforcement officers’ safety and working conditions. It provides legal-defense costs if member-officers face wrongful terminations or frivolous lawsuits, provides relief to officers (such as food and drinks) at critical scenes and helps officers who are sick or in distress.

“First and foremost,” James said, “we are here for our brothers and sisters in blue, but if a need is not there at the time, we will help whoever we need to help.”

Iredell’s FOP has two community-outreach events, in particular, that James said are near-and-dear to his heart: an annual Thanksgiving meal for struggling community members and “Shop with a Cop” for children whose families may be enduring a rough patch.

Thanksgiving meals

Each year to fund its Thanksgiving meals, FOP members work with another nonprofit organization, “Cooking for Christ,” to cook and sell Boston butts. It’s a popular November tradition that draws dozens of repeat customers, many with giving hearts, James said. “Some people might pay for 10 Boston butts, but they don’t carry out 10,” he said. “They’ll tell us to chop the rest up and donate it to a shelter.”

Last year, FOP and Cooking for Christ sold 297 Boston butts – its largest-ever number – which covered the cost of 561 Thanksgiving meals, James said. “We also take food to every law enforcement agency in the county, and we feed EMS and some fire departments,” he added.

The annual tradition “is very special,” James said. “I take a lot of pride in it.”

‘Shop with a Cop’

In September each year, James reaches out to Iredell County school guidance counselors, asking them to identify children whose families have a need but don’t qualify for other forms of financial assistance.

Each child selected receives a coat donated by Stitch 98, a Mooresville embroidery/screen-printing business, a bicycle provided by the Iredell County Marine Corps League and a ticket from the FOP to go ‘Shop with a Cop’.

Officers from the county’s various law-enforcement agencies help the children shop for fundamentals like clothes and shoes. Last year, 60 kids were selected and were able to spend $175 each. “And if a mom comes in with a two-month-old on her hip, we’ll slide her a ticket,” said James. “We don’t turn kids away.

“It’s really nothing more for us than giving back to the community,” he added. “But we are also trying to show kids that might be teetering on the edge that – hey – law enforcement isn’t bad; they do a lot of good, too. It’s another way for us to try to reach out in the community and do the right thing. We’re proud of what we’re able to accomplish.”

Firewire’s Dan said Iredell’s FOP is the perfect beneficiary of funds raised through the memorial shirts. “I cannot think of a better organization to provide a large amount of money to, and I was very happy Officer Sheldon’s family agreed to donate the money to the Iredell County FOP,” he said. “The Iredell County FOP not only takes care of officers in times of need but also the officers’ family.”

The memorial shirts can still be purchased at MI Screen Printing, 404 N. Main St., Mooresville, or by clicking here.

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