Eighteen years after its inception, a South Carolina-based organization which raises money for body armor vests for law enforcement says its cause is more important than ever. The recent economic downturn means greater demands on police and sheriff’s officers, while at the same time local governments and law enforcement agencies experienced drops in revenue, said Michael Letts, founder of the non-profit In-Vest USA.
“One of the effects of the economic crisis was a deterioration of the quality of life in many communities, which brings an increase in crime,” said Letts. “That means increased demands on the men and women of law enforcement, who already operate in an environment when a routine call can turn tragic. Of course, the economic downturn also meant a nationwide dip in charitable giving. So we have doubled our fundraising efforts, which include appealing to the public for donations and partnering with businesses and organizations.”
In-Vest USA was born in 1993, when Letts’ local Kiwanis Club invited a deputy from the Richland County Sheriff’s Office to speak. During the question-and-answer session, club members were surprised to learn that bulletproof vests were not standard-issue equipment for the department.
Club members decided to find a way to provide life-saving body armor. The result was the non-profit In-Vest USA, which raises money and provides matching funds for bulletproof vests for police, sheriff’s deputies, Highway Patrol officers and other first-responders. “We could have never imagined the success our organization has experienced,” said Letts.
In-Vest USA has been contacted by agencies around the world and has supplied vest support overseas through a unique relationship with the US State Department to law enforcement officers internationally that have little to no protection as well. In-Vest has supplied thousands of vests for law enforcement officers nationwide and internationally. “Our goal is simple: for one day every law enforcement officer to serve with the protection of a body armor vest.”
In-Vest USA has received national publicity for its effort, including a feature story in the New York Times and several appearances on national TV and radio shows. The list of business partners include NFL, Carrabba’s, BellSouth, DuPont, SCANA, South Carolina Bank and Trust, CiCi’s Pizza, Wells Fargo Bank, TD Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and AT&T. Political leaders of both parties in the US Congress, the US State Department, State Governors, State Legislatures, Mayors and Local leaders all across the country have also demonstrated support for the cause.
With the economy expected to remain weak for the foreseeable future, the organization is reminding the public it accepts donations and has several national programs they can participate in to support the cause, some with no new money out of pocket, listed on our website. Grassroots support through local residents and businesses have traditionally been most supportive, noting the dangers that law enforcement officers face.
We have a vest request form and vest recycle program on our website to make it easy for officers to make requests for vests and help with out of date vest disposal.
“To send these brave public servants into the street without the life-saving protection of a bulletproof vest is indefensible,” Letts said. “Unfortunately, far too many police officers, deputies, and highway patrolmen nationally do just that: tempt fate by hitting the streets without the one piece of equipment that could mean the difference between life and death.”
To find out how you can help, visit
write InVest USA, PO Box 23489
Columbia, SC 29224-3489.