Organization provides free outdoor services for injured first responders

The Hurt and Fallen Foundation rounds-up volunteers, many being fellow first responders, to provide lawn care for injured first responders.

Jessica and Dan Pennington, of Aledo, have deep ties in the first responder community and two years ago decided to combine that passion with their skills of landscaping to create The Hurt and Fallen Foundation nonprofit organization.

The Hurt and Fallen Foundation is dedicated to aid all first responders in Parker and Tarrant counties in the care, maintenance and upkeep of their property after they are injured, or following their death, at no charge to the family.

“We started our actual landscaping business in 2015 and then in 2016 was when we really started seeing an uptick on the attacks on law enforcement across the country,” Jessica said. “My dad is a retired police officer — he retired last year after 38 years — and my brother and uncle are police officers in Dallas, and Dan is a retired firefighter and EMT, so we both have that first responder compassion more than a lot of people would.”

Jessica Pennington said the idea for the nonprofit came to them when Fort Worth Police Officer Matt Pearce was shot six times on March 15, 2016.

“We were at a point in our lives where we were living in a little two-bedroom apartment with two kids and we had just started this [landscaping] business, and we were both just burdened about how we could help. What can you do when you don’t have anything more to give? When Matt Pearce, the Fort Worth officer, was shot, Dan came to me and said he was going to reach out to the Fort Worth Police Department to see if anybody was mowing his yard because that was something we could do,” Jessica Pennington said. “He found the right channels and spoke with Matt’s wife, who said they were already receiving fines from their [Homeowners Association] for not having their yard mowed even though they knew the situation.”

Jessica Pennington said that same day, another Fort Worth police officer was involved in a serious off-duty car wreck.

“He ended up having several surgeries, so the department actually reached out to us because they were in an HOA too,” Jessica Pennington said. “Through that, the word just kind of spread and we weren’t formed, we didn’t have a name, it was just something where we had nothing to give but we had a lawn mower and the ability to mow yards.”

That’s when Dan Pennington started looking into the process to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and The Hurt and Fallen Foundation was born in 2017.

“I started off as just a volunteer fireman in high school — I went to Aledo High School. I would respond during school if there was a call during the day, so that was mainly what I was doing and then from there I decided that was the career I wanted to go into,” Dan Pennington said. “So I went to EMT school and the fire academy and then stayed on an EMS path and worked for several ambulance companies in the Fort Worth area. Then I went into dispatch the last few years of my career, and that’s where it ended.”

Jessica said their organization now has a seven-member board as well as volunteers that come help with the work.

“The attorney we were working with said we needed to get a board together, so now we have a board of seven — including the two of us — and everyone on the board outside of our treasurer is affiliated with a fire department, a police department or EMS,” Jessica Pennington said. “Matt Pearce is actually on our board now, so it’s really awesome. This is all just for that immediate need, because one thing we tell people is that life goes on.”

Dan Pennington said eventually he would like to see their nonprofit expand to include other counties as well as additional work.

“Through the process we’ve started seeing that families need other things — we’ve built a wheelchair ramp and there are sometime air conditioning or roofing needs — so that’s where we’re wanting to take it. Eventually I want it to be anything that the typical spouse would take care of,” Dan Pennington said. “A lot of nonprofits will help financially, and so we’re kind of the hands and feet. We’ve had some great support through other nonprofits and we’re still in the baby stages of this so it’s been great to have that support from other ones that wanted to help.”

A board member with the organization and employee with MedStar in Fort Worth Macara Trusty said having EMS included in The Hurt and Fallen Foundation is a big deal.

“Interestingly enough, EMS is kind of the step child of the group when it comes to police, fire and EMS. There’s not a lot of funding, so when there are bills passed for line of duty deaths and stuff, EMS is often left out of those — mainly because there’s an assumption that EMS is part of a fire department, and that’s not true,” Trusty said. “So when Dan made sure that he wanted to include EMS, that was huge because we’re not often included. There’s about 62,000 EMS providers in the state of Texas, so to finally start to be included in stuff like this is a big deal.”

Jessica Pennington said being able to form the nonprofit has been humbling.

“It’s humbling because it literally was birthed in our tiny little apartment, sitting on our bed, so to see if go from that to having a name and a 501(c)3 and having a board, it’s humbling to see when God calls you to do something and you trust Him and obey Him, you see Him fulfill his side of it,” Jessica Pennington said. “I grew up with my dad being a police officer and I still remember the day I had the realization that he could be shot and killed. He would put on his bulletproof vest and I remember the day he had that conversation with me — I was only 9 or 10-years old — and a picture fell out of his bulletproof vest and I picked it up and it was a picture of me and my brother. I asked him why he had it and he said it was so if something happened to him, they would know he had kids, and I just remember that hitting me and as dangerous as it was in the 1980s and 1990s, I feel like it’s more dangerous today because I don’t feel like society respects police officers and there is more of a self-entitled mentality.”

Last year, the Penningtons held a fundraising event for The Hurt and Fallen Foundation, which was a softball tournament between first responders and are planning to hold it again this year in Weatherford.

For more information about The Hurt and Fallen Foundation, visit the organization’s Facebook page or hurtandfallenfoundation.com

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