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Mt. Pleasant's Gerro getting money from Big Ben

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 5:12 p.m.
Mt. Pleasant Police Officer George Grippo and Gerro will be receiving a grant from the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation to be used in the K-9 department. Marilyn Forbes | For the Daily Courier

Pittsburgh Steeler Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thousands of fans and he just got one more — a four-legged one.

The Mt. Pleasant Police Department's K-9 officer, Gerro and handler Officer George Grippo have been awarded a grant from the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation.

The foundation is part of the Giving Back Fund and is granted to police departments who have an established K-9 unit or to a community that is trying to being one it its municipality.

“There are a number of things that we look at and consider when someone applies,“ Jessica Duffaut, foundation relationship manager for the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation said. “We look to make sure that the money will be put to good use and we also look at sustainability.”

Since its inception in 2007, the foundation has distributed more than $950,000 to 102 police and fire departments.

This year, the foundation will be awarding a total of $66,382 to eight different departments in the Pittsburgh area.

“We wait until the end of the season,” Duffaut said of the distribution, adding that other parts of the country are also included in the foundation's distribution, based on the Steelers' schedule. “We look at the schedule to see where the Steelers' away games are going to be played and then we send release out in those cities to try to make more people aware of the opportunity.”

Grippo applied in July for the grant.

“I heard about this last year through the sheriff's office but it was already too late to apply. I missed the deadline,” Grippo said. “I filled out the paperwork and then she called me about two weeks to tell me I was approved. I wasn't allowed to leave the cat out of the bag until she issued a press release but I was really excited that we had been approved.”

Grippo has been in the process of trying to raise funding to purchase a newer SUV for him and Gerro and partial proceeds from the money that he is receiving from the foundation will go toward purchasing cage that will be specially fit for the vehicle.

“I'm going to use what is left over then for some equipment,” Grippo said.

Grippo has until the end of next February to use the grant then is required to give a report on his usage and end results.

Grippo is close to his goal on the fundraising for the car and hopes to have the new modified vehicle up and running soon.

“We're very fortunate to be in the position that we are able to help these K-9 units. The work that is performed by the dogs and their handlers as well as the bond that is formed is incredible. We're just thrilled to do our small part,” Roethlisberger said.

“I think it's kinda cool to be getting a grant from Ben Roethlisberger,” Grippo said. Grippo is thankful for the consideration. “I want to thank the foundation and everyone else for their support. I am grateful for everything that we get to help keep this program going.”

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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