Team Jordan raised more than $20,000 at their annual fundraiser Nov. 29.
The suicide prevention coalition was formed followed the death of Jordan Jenkins, 26, in 2014. Jenkins, the son of Culpeper Town Police Department Chief Chris Jenkins, committed suicide. The coalition was formed as a way to shine a light on the subject and to bring a positive out of an emotional and trying situation.
“There are so many stigmas with suicide, adults don’t want to talk about it,” Chief Jenkins said. “That’s one thing (coalitions) all bring. We bring a very unpopular topic out into the topic. Raising the money is great, but more important is the awareness about the situation.”
The money raised will help support prevention programs for Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services, said prevention specialist Alan Rasmussen. One of those programs include the Survivors for Life Support group that meets the third Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at the RRCS facility on Bradford Road.
Those survivor groups are growing, Jenkins said, which shows both how much of an issue the subject of suicide is and how much more willing people are to talk following a loss.
On last Wednesday, more than 140 people congregated at Pepper’s Grill for the fundraiser, with Norma McGuckin winning the $5,000 raffle.
Jenkins said after they pay their bills, that the group will have cleared more than $20,000 to donated to SAFE, Girls on the Run, the Culpeper County Library and other organizations.
“All those dollars stay local, to make a difference the community” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said that suicide is more prevalent than people may realize, citing the Center for Disease Control’s report that it’s the third leading cause of death for children 10-14 and 10th overall.
Jenkins said that people will ask if there are brochures, but he said the money is better served going to programs that help serve with prevention efforts.
He said the message is getting out because the group is getting more messages on social media and through the community, as people know where to go to get help.
“Everybody has a story,” Jenkins said. “Even though some are very similar, they’re all different. Suicide doesn’t affect one ethnic group or one economic group. It’s across the board. A lot of suicides are preventable.”
Jenkins admitted he is in a unique position, serving as the head of a law enforcement agency and having lost a son to suicide. He stresses that it can happen to anyone, but that conversely anyone can help. All you have to do is open the lines of communication.
“In any suicide there’s a law enforcement presence, to lose a child it’s hard to explain,” Jenkins said. “It brings it all to reality, how quickly your life can change. We’re no different than anyone else experiencing the same thing. I’m easy to find, so people share their stories with me. To see young people dying at such an early age, it’s heart breaking.
“We’ve seen a lot of that in Culpeper. Everybody can do a little something. There’s not a magic thing that government can do to make suicides go away. If everyone works together to improve on these things that are devastating families, we have a better chance.”
Through his experience with Team Jordan, Jenkins has learned that the police department has to make it easier to navigate services. He said the CPD equips officers with all the tools to allow them to help people find that help, which makes it less likely they have to respond to a similar call in the future.
He said the compassion in Culpeper is also a tool the community has to use.
“We live in a great community of caring people, when you give them an avenue to support causes, they come,” Jenkins said. “For Team Jordan, people have answered the bell. To be able to raise that amount of money with a grassroots efforts, it’s incredible. The community has been so supportive of Team Jordan and all the coalitions. Without them we wouldn’t be successful.”
He cited some of the raffle and silent auction items this year – which helped double the turnout. They had a basketball signed by University of Virginia head coach Tony Bennett – which went for more than $300.
He said that he realizes it can be tough for governments to fund everything, so it makes it important for Team Jordan and other coalitions to step in and help fill that gap. He also said that it’s not just about money, but raising awareness of the situation.
“That’s the types of conversations we have to start having as adults,” Jenkins said. “There’s too many stigmas attached to these things. We have to start doing things that make sense.”