COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - All 15 members of Richland County Sheriff's Department K-9 team are outfitted with ballistic vests in large part thanks to one Midlands man.
George Sensor says in 2016 he caught the tail end of a WIS interview with Richland County Sheriff's Lieutenant Kevin Hoover about the Guardians of the Night 5K Run.
"He called me the next day and asked me about what we needed, and he says, 'Hey, can we meet?'" Lt. Hoover said.
While the annual 5K run helps to raise money for the K-9 unit, Lt. Hoover says George didn't want the unit to have to wait for the funds to buy new K-9 bulletproof vests.
"I heard about Fargo, and I thought if we just started this sooner, maybe that could've saved his life," said George. "That's really why I do it- if it's just to save one dog."
Fargo was the Richland Co. K-9 killed in the line of duty in 2011 after being shot three times by an armed robbery suspect. Fargo didn't have a vest on then because deputies say the way they used to be made was not effective and could often be a hindrance to the dogs. While the unit can purchase custom-made vests now, Lt. Hoover says they are not cheap.
"So if you think about the vest that our dogs wear, each one is custom-made for the dog so each one of the vests costs $2,300," Hoover said
To date, George has purchased nine vests.
"If you do that math, that's pretty substantial by any stretch of the imagination," Hoover said.
But Lt. Hoover says as he's gotten to know George he's realized his efforts to help others have stretched way beyond the sheriff's department. As an owner of 14 Midlands McDonald's restaurants, George has been a long-time philanthropist supporting the Kershaw County Humane Society, Historic Camden, and the Community Medical Clinic of Kershaw County just to name a few.
He and his wife also own horses that have raced annually in the Carolina and Colonial Cups.
"When he does what he does for us, and then I saw what else he did- if that's not a Community Builder, I don't know what is," Lt. Hoover said.
That's why we staged an interview with George at the Richland County K-9 unit and had Matt Mungo surprise him with the news that he's our latest WIS Community Builder in partnership with Mungo Homes.
Shocked, George didn't hesitate to say that his $1,000 donation from the Michael J. Mungo foundation would be a down payment for a vest for new RCSD K-9 Eros who just joined the force three weeks ago. His handler Deputy Emily Lammond lost her former dog Tosca to a medical condition back in August.
"That was just amazing to hear," said Deputy Lammond about the news that her new partner Eros would soon have a vest. "We all wear vests, and we all go into these dangerous situations whether it be a domestic or a shooting…and these dogs are going there with us, and I think they should be protected just as much as we are."
Deputy Lammond and the rest of the K-9 handlers say they are all grateful that because of George, they will be.