Monday would have been four years of marriage for Kassy Alia, if her husband had not been killed in the line of duty Sept. 30.
But instead of mourning, Alia is using the day to launch her Heroes in Blue initiative, remembering Forest Acres police officer Greg Alia and honoring his brothers and sisters in uniform.
“I’m grateful I can be spending our anniversary honoring him and celebrating his memory by giving back to other police officers,” she said.
When Richland County Council and the city of Forest Acres proclaimed Dec. 14 as Greg Alia Day, his wife took it as an opportunity to show her gratitude for support offered by the Forest Acres Police Department.
Her first goal was to get enough local restaurants on board and raise enough money to feed the 15 officers on duty in Forest Acres that day. Before she knew it, she was aiming also to feed 60 Columbia officers on duty Monday. When she got 10 restaurants on board and the money kept flowing in, she thought bigger – and now aims to feed additional local agencies.
Joe Wilson, owner of Delaney’s Music Pub and Eatery in Columbia’s Five Points, said police officers often are underappreciated until the community needs them. “These guys, just like our military, put their lives on the line every single day,” Wilson said. “A simple thing like a traffic stop could turn into a life-and-death situation for them.”
Drew Hampton, owner of Groucho’s Deli on Forest Drive, said Alia used to eat at the restaurant with his fellow officers. “He is truly missed,” Hampton said. “I didn’t know him personally, but from the stories I’ve heard, I’m honored to be a part of (this event).”
Heroes in Blue also is using the opportunity to honor Columbia officer Stacy Case, killed in a crash Nov. 7 while responding to a call of gunfire in the Vista. Proceeds from T-shirts sold by the team through Monday will go to Case’s family. After that, proceeds will go toward other projects.
As Heroes in Blue grows, Alia said she wants to start local and develop a fundraising model to roll out nationally. She’s currently pursuing 501(c)(3) nonprofit status but says time will tell if that proves the best model to help families of fallen officers.
She also hopes to stay in the area for the foreseeable future, both to finish her Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina and to give her 8-month-old son Sal time to learn about his dad from his father’s family and fellow officers. “I think it’s important for Sal to ... understand his (father’s) job and the sacrifice he made and why he’s not here,” she said.
Heroes in Blue also will have a booth at Soda City Market in downtown Columbia on Saturday where folks can write cards of appreciation for police departments across the country that have lost officers in the line of duty.
Restaurants raising money for Heroes in Blue
Those involved are:
▪ Groucho’s Deli on Forest Drive
▪ Pancake House
▪ Lizard’s Thicket
▪ Village Idiot
▪ Jake’s on Devine
Craft and Draft also has a “pay it forward” for a first promo, where people can add a brew to their bill and the next first responder or military personnel to visit the establishment will get a free beer.