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Fundraising effort under way to help Henry 1



A $12,500 donation to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Helicopter unit Henry 1 marks the start of a fundraising effort to keep the tactical team in full service.

Henry 1 in action. (PD FILE)

The Healdsburg-based John Jordan Foundation made the donation in late August, the first major contribution to the group, called Friends of Henry 1.

Primarily run by volunteers with the sheriff’s search and rescue team, the Friends of Henry 1 incorporated in February, earning nonprofit status. The group aims to offset the high cost of running the helicopter unit.

“We’re looking at augmenting the current budget, not replacing the budget, (by) bringing the paramedic program back, replacing equipment, increasing flight hours,” said Tim Admire, board treasurer and search-and-rescue volunteer, who works for Exchange Bank.

The million-dollar helicopter program is running with reduced flight hours in the midst of pressure for county agencies to tighten costs.

John Jordan Foundation president Lisa Wittke Schaffner said that, as “a sheriff’s kid” whose father was a reserve deputy, she brought an impassioned pitch to the foundation to support the helicopter.

“I just believe the helicopter is very, very important to the safety of this county,” Wittke Schaffner said. “We have areas of this county police can’t reach in a half an hour.”

The proposed budget for the helicopter program is $1.5 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. Currently, part-time paramedics join the team.

Under pressure to slash the department budget last year, Sheriff Steve Freitas proposed cutting the helicopter program, although the funding was eventually restored. The threat led a group of search-and-rescue volunteers to circulate petitions in support of the helicopter.

They brought 1,500 signatures last summer to a board of supervisors hearing, Admire said.

Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown and other board members encouraged the group to start raising money.

“It was time to see if there could be another way to raise some funds to help support Henry 1,” Brown said.

Donations not only bolster the program’s budget, they also show there’s community support, Brown said.

Friends of Henry 1 has raised just under $15,000 since February, including the John Jordan Foundation contribution as well as $1,000 from a woman who was rescued by the helicopter team, Admire said.

The nonprofit’s long-term goal is to raise $6.1 million and replace the current airship with a Bell 429 helicopter.

The board will start applying for large public grants to reach that goal, Admire said.

But so far the seven-month-old organization has started small.

“There’s nothing like money to raise money. It really does incentivize people to get involved,” said Brown.

Search-and-rescue volunteers handed out fliers and stickers at Santa Rosa’s Wednesday Night Market and are planning a fundraising and auction event for 2013.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ed Hoener, who heads the Sheriff’s Office helicopter unit, is the board president.

The other members include search-and-rescue volunteers Teresa Taveres, Dan Johnston, Valerie Silva and Sue Hayes, as well as E.B. “Pete” Downs. Downs is a former vice president with Jackson Family Wines.

The group runs a website at www.friendsofhenry1.org.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220, julie.johnson @pressdemocrat.com or on Twitter @jjpressdem.

13 Responses to “Fundraising effort under way to help Henry 1”

  1. Snarky says:

    Miss Peach:

    Care to discuss the latest news… that the City of Santa Rosa was just held financially liable (GUILTY) in the death of an UN-armed victim shot by City police five years ago?

    Thats $500,000 immediately lost to pay off the victim’s family and that does not even include the “thousands of legal hours” spent by the City in its attempt to evade being held accountable.

    Even though that was a city issue, there is no doubt that some of that lost money could have been used to support the aircraft in question.

    The FEDERAL jury in San Francisco held that there was “no significant law enforcement reason” for the death. The cops shot without need. They had rubber bullets, a police dog, tazers, clubs, and outnumbered the victim 6 to 1. Yet, they used guns on him.

    Perhaps its time to re-evaluate the entire program of how law enforcement personnel are allowed to do their jobs?

    Perhaps its time, immediately, to cancel the helicopter program as just another example of cop lust rather than actual need.

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  2. Snarky says:

    Dick Tracy :

    Whats wrong with contracting for the California Highway Patrol Helicopter to cover the OCCASIONAL need for a helicopter in Sonoma County?

    Why not discuss that CHP helicopter rescue just recently in or adjacent to Sonoma County ?

    Oh, and why not discuss the other airborne government services available to Sonoma County as well?

    As for the silly “bomb squad,” there were no actual bombs in Sonoma County last year. Not one. And when there actually might be one, such as every ten years, there are ample bomb disposal resources within the Bay Area to handle that event. The silly “bomb squad” is a farce and totally unnecessary except to keep extra “public safety” pay going to a few greedy cops.

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  3. Dick Tracy says:

    Snarky, when you find yourself clinging to the rocks at the foot of Bodega Head with a bomb chained to you, you will be glad to see both Henry 1 and the bomb squad.

    Just saying.

    BTW: I’d be very surprised if the members of the bomb squad didn’t perform other duties in the absence of any bomb.

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  4. Miss Peach says:


    “Someone please explain where all the money goes!”

    It’s in the County budget. It’s online.

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  5. Steveguy says:

    Close the libraries, close the parks, close Henry 1, as they have HUGE pensions to pay themselves !

    Abolish everything except for pensions ?

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  6. Snarky says:

    Dick Tracy:

    We need “Henry 1″ about as much as we need the Sonoma County “Bomb Squad.”

    It doesn’t take a helicopter to transport someone out of Annadel park when they fall and chip their teeth or break their arm.

    Speaking of the silly “bomb squad,” how many actual bombs were found in Sonoma County last year? LOL You know. Actual bombs…

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  7. Dick Tracy says:

    Everybody loves Henry 1, including me. I can’t help noticing that Henry 1 therefore is first onto the tentative chopping block when funding is an issue.

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  8. Jim says:

    “Fund raising”? I thought “funds” were “raised” via the absurdly high taxes and ridiculous fees that the county residents pay.

    Someone please explain where all the money goes!

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  9. R.B. Fish says:

    So the BOS is willing to pay taxpayer funds to support illegal aliens not to include the lost of jobs for citizens rather paying for essential life saving search and rescue services. Absolutely pathetic.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  10. Dan J Drummond says:

    They could have a bake sale with propeller cupcakes; and hey, bring back those cool propeller beanies! Flash mob anyone? Keep smiling …

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  11. Snarky says:

    How many “public safety” county employees are involved in the helicopter program?

    How many public employees are involved who are not covered under the “public safety” public pension system?

    Why was the CHP helicopter that operates in the region not mentioned? It recently performed a rescue in or adjacent to Sonoma County.

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper to contract with the CHP for coverage of Sonoma County with their helicopter?

    How many hours a week was the helicopter in use prior to the budget cuts?

    How many hours of use per week is contemplated for the near future?



    TOO many un-answered questions in this article. Too many to consider a donation as a wise use of our money.

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  12. GAJ says:

    What’s next, fundraising for Patrol Cars?

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  13. J.R. Wirth says:

    Drones are the future, everyone knows that. Especially armed drones. If you shoot someone with a drone it doesn’t really count as homicide. It’s like getting attacked by an angry bird, except one that’s being flown by remote control.

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