CLEARWATER — Nancy Kachurik doesn’t know when her husband will retire from the police department. But when he does, she knows he’ll leave a legacy.
A grin spreads across Kachurik’s face and her eyes dance as she talks about her husband. He’s mentored countless officers and dedicated his life to an honorable profession over the past 30 years.
But as her husband’s career developed, she couldn’t help but wonder. What had she done to leave an impact?
Kachurik worried about the wives, mothers and girlfriends (and the occasional husband or boyfriend) who were entering uncharted territory because she remembers becoming a police wife — and it was scary back then.
"It’s a really tough life," Kachurik said. "You learn to cope over the years and you really do learn how to navigate this life and how to do it."
So Kachurik decided to approach Chief Dan Slaughter with the idea to become a formal resource for all new families and recruits of the police department. To be someone families can ask about what benefits package to choose, a list of good primary care doctors and to be someone to lean on when the times get scary.
Slaughter immediately said yes. That was two years ago.
"She approached me and had the vision to create an outside support network for families of our employees to help them absorb and deal with a challenging profession," Slaughter said. "It’s something I felt like we needed so it was a perfect fit."
Since then, Kachurik has helped more than 40 officers and families enter the force. The morning of their swearing in ceremony, she greets each family with a gift basket and cupcakes — all out of personal funds — and talks with them for a little over an hour. She tells them it won’t be easy but reminds them that their blue family will always be there — especially herself. She also reads a letter from the wife of a fallen Tarpon Springs officer and encourages the families to lean on one another.
Slaughter said Clearwater is in some ways a big city but small enough to have a good connection with employees. And that connection is even more important as the department is undergoing a changing of the guard. More and more millennials who are focused on both life and career are entering the force, replacing senior officers, which is causing the department to shift its needs, he said.
"It’s a wonderful resource to be able to provide our employees and a great way to attract new ones," Slaughter said. "Employment is all about give and take. It’s about giving you an atmosphere that makes you feel good and happy."
When Teresa McKinnon and her family made the move from Salt Lake City they didn’t know anyone in Florida, let alone Clearwater.
In Utah, there was a similar program so McKinnon asked human resources if Clearwater did and heard about Kachurik and reached out to her.
One of McKinnon’s biggest concerns? Not having an emergency contact for her two girls.
Kachurik offered to be listed — and McKinnon took her up on it.
"It’s huge that there is someone trustworthy willing to do that," McKinnon said. "There are a lot of things you simply don’t know when you come to a new place and it’s just nice to feel like you have friends when you arrive as opposed to no one."
It’s not the first time Kachurik has gone above and beyond. She’s planned baby showers for expecting mothers new to the force, picked families up from the airport and answers calls at anytime of night.
"A blue family is an amazing family to be apart of and I want our new families to feel welcome but I want them to know we’ve got their back and that we’re here for them no matter what — night or day they contact us," Kachurik said.
Maggie Jewett used to be an officer and is married to one — two of her sons are also officers.
One of Jewett’s sons was a part of Kachurik’s very first classes. She was immediately struck by what the wife was doing and asked how she could help, especially as a former officer and current police wife and mom.
"It’s great to have someone to just lean on," Jewett said. "It’s a resource we have that wives and moms can come to confidentially and they don’t have to worry."
Kachurik emphasized that it’s a tough life to live, now more than ever.
She said as an officer’s wife, not only do you figure out how to do birthdays a week late or holidays as a "single parent" but families also have to worry about how dangerous being a police officer is.
Though Kachurik says no matter how many years you’ve been a police wife, the potential threat of violence doesn’t get easier to stomach. She can provide comfort.
She urges families to stay off social media, especially during a tragedy and reminds them that at CPD, their loved ones get the best training possible and somebody will always have their back. And she encourages them to call her, to talk it over.
"Until you’ve played that scenario over in your head of the church and chaplain knocking on your door standing there and until you’ve talked it over with someone you won’t know how to respond," Kachurik said. "And that’s one of the many things I’m here for."
Contact McKenna Oxenden at [email protected] or (410) 258-2324. Follow @mack_oxenden