The coronavirus pandemic took its toll on all aspects of society in 2020, from school-age students to senior citizens and businesses of all shapes and sizes. Nonprofit organizations were no exception.

Despite the hurdles of the past year, the Friends of the Umpqua Valley Police K-9 Programs came very close to reaching its annual fundraising goal without holding its keystone event.

The annual K-9s in the Grapevines event, held every September at Melrose Vineyards, was canceled due to COVID-19. Outside of Hops for K-9 Cops hosted by Backside Brewery in March, the group was solely reliant on individual donations.

The outpouring of generosity was staggering.

In a last-ditch drive for donations near the end of the year, Friends co-founder Rosemarie Wess organized a letter drive, which yielded outstanding results.

The group raised more than $12,000 after expenses to help support the K-9 programs of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments in Roseburg, Winston and Reedsport.

“The public was amazing,” Wess said, who founded the group in 2011 along with Shirley Counts and Katie Steinhauer. The group formed to help resurrect the 30 years-dormant K9 program for the Roseburg Police Department.

“With our year-end event, we had to deviate just a little bit,” Wess said. “We were only a few thousand dollars shy of where we would be in a normal year.”

Annually, the group raises an average of $10,000 to $15,000 each year after expenses. Despite the obstacles during 2020, Wess still felt a strong need to continue helping the K-9 police programs as well as her group could.

“(The K-9 program) is not an inexpensive endeavor, but obviously the community supports the program, otherwise we would have had the outpouring of support from our December solicitation,” Wess said. “The needs of our K-9 teams continues.”

Wess said if all goes well as it pertains to the pandemic, the Friends of the Umpqua Valley Police K-9 Programs plans to hold K-9s in the Grapevines on Sept. 11 at Melrose Vineyards. That event will coincide with the Umpqua Kennel Club Dog Show, which is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 9-12 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

Donovan Brink can be reached at and 541-957-4219.

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Cops and Courts Reporter

Donovan Brink is the cops and courts reporter for The News-Review.

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