MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Members of the Maplewood Police Department have been allowed to break the department’s rules and grow beards this month, all in the name of raising money for a local charity.
The fundraising effort, led by Maplewood PBA Local 44 President and MPD Officer Carlos Baez and Superior Officers Association Vice President and MPD Sgt. Alex Wright is collecting funds for the AV Hero Fund, which honors the memory of Maplewood restaurant owner Angelo Vayas, who died several years ago of glioblastoma multiforme, a form of brain cancer.
“It’s our fourth or fifth year doing it, but this is the second year we’ve been allowed to grow full facial hair,” Wright said in a phone interview with the News-Record on Nov. 21. “It’s nice to have a month out of the year when we can do that.”
The MPD’s policy doesn’t allow its male officers to have facial hair unless they have a skin condition irritated by shaving. No-Shave November is a monthlong campaign that raises awareness for cancer prevention, research and education, according to the organization’s website. The department has previously observed the month, but this is the first year officers have been allowed to grow more than a mustache.
“Most of us go 25 or 30 years without having a beard, unless you go on vacation,” Wright said. “So it’s fun to do.”
Wright said the union and department decided to go with a local charity, instead of raising funds for Movember, the national men’s health organization that started the no-shave trend. The AV Hero Fund provides assistance to community members fighting cancer, in addition to making donations to cancer research at Hackensack University Medical Center.
“Especially since we’ve established the Community Service Bureau and our membership has gotten younger, we’ve gotten more involved in the community,” Wright said. “When we sat down to figure it out this year, we said ‘How can we make this more personal?’ Now it’s going to a place people know and recognize. And I always like to know the charities I support personally.”
To donate to the MPD’s No-Shave November fundraiser, make checks payable to Maplewood PBA Local 44 with the memo “No Shave November,” and mail to P.O. Box 332, Maplewood, N.J. 07040. Donations can also be made via Venmo to @Maplewood-PBA.