Glendale police are growing beards to raise money for a longtime employee who suffered a stroke last summer.
The fundraiser began as an effort to get the remaining $8,000 needed to install a wheelchair lift in the home of Jorge Acevedo, who has served the department since 2001. He joined as a volunteer after an unsolved shooting in 1999 left him wheelchair-bound.
For years, his parents have had to carry him over the steps of his house -- a hardship that's become more and more difficult as they have gotten older.
As of Wednesday, the department had exceeded their goal by more than $5,000. The extra money will go toward Acevedo's medical expenses, and the beard-growing rule will continue until the end of the month: every Glendale officer who donates $50 to the cause gets permission to take a break from shaving.
"It was actually the idea of one our lieutenants," said Glendale Police Sgt. Robert William. "The chief said, 'Usually we won't do that, but it's for a good cause,' and so he allowed it. And so everyone's excited to finally grow some beards."
The department had previously raised thousands of dollars for the wheelchair lift, and wanted to something different for the final push, William said.
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It's not a common occurrence. Uniformed personnel were last allowed to grow beards in 1956, in celebration of the city's 50th anniversary, according a Glendale police news release.
But Acevedo has never been a common member of the police department. His path to becoming a police officer was tragically cut short in December of 1999 when he was shot multiple times while delivering Christmas presents to his sister.
The injuries left him in a coma for months. Nonetheless, he went on to join law enforcement as a volunteer helping with clerical work, and later became an employee. His duties included taking photos, manning the front desk and doing community outreach.
But last summer, Acevedo's ability to serve suffered another hurdle when a stroke left him unable to talk, and rendered him mostly immobile.
He is still recovering and hasn't been able to resume his job. But he has been attending therapy and "desperately wants to return to work," the news release said.