When Donna Smith-Stafford lost her husband to a sudden heart attack, Woodbury lost a beloved and dedicated community leader. Bruce Stafford, a 35-year paramedic at HealthEast and Woodbury firefighter of 22 years, who retired from the fire department as chief, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 62 on November 20, 2014. Over the course of that night, Smith-Stafford was deeply moved by the kindness and professionalism of the paramedics, firefighters and police officers who responded to her call. They all knew Bruce personally from work—he had trained many of them—and she says she’ll never forget their love and support in the wake of his passing. “How do you repay that? How do you say ‘thank you’ to a community that’s done so much?” she says. “And then it came to me.”
To honor her husband and give back to the Woodbury Public Safety Department, Smith-Stafford established a legacy fund through the Woodbury Community Foundation. The Bruce Stafford Public Safety Appreciation Legacy Fund supports the city’s K-9 programs by providing sustained funding for canines, training and equipment. Since Bruce’s late father and city leader Dick Stafford founded the Woodbury Community Foundation, setting up the fund there “just made sense,” Smith-Stafford says.
The plan for the fund was set in motion after Smith-Stafford and her close friends Diane and Dick Hanson met in the spring of 2015. Smith-Stafford wanted to give back to the city in memory of Bruce; she had been longing to combine her love for animals with supporting the community she’s lived in since 1970. “It just clicked,” she says. “It was one of those things that was sort of meant to be.”
Smith-Stafford started with a cash contribution of $20,000, allowing the city to add a fourth four-legged member to the Woodbury K-9 unit: 1-year-old German shepherd Rogun. After weeks of training, the puppy will hit the road with officer Tony Ofstead this month. Police sergeant Jason Posel stressed how much the K-9s bring to Woodbury. “They’re an asset to not only assist and keep our officers safe, but our residents as well,” he says. “These dogs really do belong to the community.”
The next step was to focus on sustaining the fund for years to come. Diane Hanson’s contribution of a $10,000 endowment got the ball rolling. Smith-Stafford announced the first annual Koins for K-9s fundraiser last fall. The city of Woodbury declared the week of November 20—the week of Bruce Stafford’s passing—a time to thank public safety officials by leaving donations in boxes distributed at businesses across the city.
More than $2,000 was raised at the 89 locations. Smith-Stafford hopes the Koins for K-9s program is the piece of the legacy fund that becomes ingrained in the minds of Woodbury residents. “That’s what people will remember,” she says. “That’s what will go on, and it doesn’t have any of our names attached to it.”
For Smith-Stafford, starting the fund is simply her way of channeling her love for Bruce and appreciation for the Public Safety Department into something tangible. It’s also about honoring the Stafford legacy: In Woodbury’s early days, Dick Stafford had been instrumental in bringing the first ambulance to the city long before his son would grow up to drive one.
A Legacy Fund
Two components of a legacy fund with the Woodbury Community Foundation are:
1) Cash to be used for a specific short-term focus (2-3 years)
2) An endowment where earned income can support the purpose long-term. For more information or to donate to the Bruce Stafford Public Safety Legacy Fund, go to the website here.