COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Soon all of the Richland County Sheriff's Department's K9 officers will have their own bulletproof vests, and that is in large part thanks to a Columbia businessman who has a heart for the dogs and the department.
The walls of Chris Schroeder's restaurant Zack's Sandwich Shack off of Bush River Road display his love for animals and the Richland County K9s.
"This is where we do a lot of fundraisers for the K9 units," said Schroeder as he gave us a tour of Zack's. "We have all the K9s up here."
Zack's is named for Schroeder's late German Shepherd.
"He was a great dog," said Schroeder pointing to a picture of Zack. "He was a 12-year-old Shepherd. We lost him due to degenerative myelopathy."
Now Schroeder's six-month old shepherd, Jacks, hangs out with him in the office of his business Schroeder's Towing.
"I've had shepherds since I was a kid," said Schroeder. "I know no other dog."
Which makes it no surprise that Schroeder looks after the 16 Richland County Sheriff's Department K9s like they're his own. Schroeder has served
on the board for the Richland County Sheriff's Foundation for three years now and has worked diligently to help secure bulletproof vests for all the K9s.
"One of the reasons we're able to buy the good stuff is because of people like Chris. We don't buy one that fits ten different dogs, we buy one that fits this dog," said K9 handler Lt. Ken Hoover as he pointed to the dog next to him.
"Each vest for the dogs cost almost $3,000," said Sheriff Leon Lott. "For a human, it's $450. It's a huge difference because each vest has to be fitted for that particular dog. We lose dogs during the year due to retirement, or they get injured, and we have to replace them so this is a big expense that we haven't been able to budget for. Through Chris and others who raise the money, the beauty of it is we're saving taxpayers a bunch of money by doing this."
Because of Schroeder's efforts, his fellow board member Carmen Hudson nominated him as a WIS Community Builder in partnership with Mungo Homes.
"He's just an incredible person, he does so much for everybody else that I thought of him, and I thought he'd be perfect," said Hudson. "It's just something he does, and of course with it having to do with animals. He's a big animal lover."
"That's why we're successful because we do have partnerships like the one we have with Chris," added Sheriff Lott.
Schroeder also uses his towing business to lead the initiative Scrapping for the Law. He'll pick up old cars to sell them for metal, and it's a tax write-off for the donor. He's done it for the last several years.
"We come pick it up, we take it, we crush them and then all proceeds go to the foundation," said Schroeder.
Schroeder thought WIS was doing a Public Service Announcement on Scrapping for the Law when Matt Mungo from Mungo Homes surprised him with the news that he's our latest Community Builder.
"I'm here because of not only your work with the Scrapping for the Law campaign, but all your help with first responders and law enforcement in the community," said Mungo, as he handed Schroeder is hard hat. "You have been nominated and chosen as our Community Builder, and you will get a $1,000 check to the charity of your choice."
Schroeder said he was shocked and grateful, and like he's done for the past several years, he didn't hesitate to say where his donation would go.
"I think a good charity is the Richland County Sheriff's Foundation," he said.