VIDEO: Kassy Alia Shares Her Journey To Serve And Connect
Kassy Alia, our September breakfast speaker, has experienced a great tragedy. Her husband, Greg Alia, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty on September 30, 2015. At the time, Kassy was a student, working towards her Ph.D., and she was a brand new mom. Her son Sal was just 6 months old.
But instead of letting tragedy take her down a dark path filled with anger and hate, Kassy decided to push for change. In 2015, the tensions between police and citizens were at an all-time high. Kassy remembers talking with Greg a few months before his death about the negativity surrounding police officers all over the country. His response was, “No one wants a bad cop brought to justice more than a good cop, but for every negative story you hear on the news, there are thousands of positive stories happening every day that go unnoticed.” So at 3 a.m., the morning after Greg’s death, Kassy took to social media and asked people to share stories about her husband along with positive stories about law enforcement officers around the nation using the hashtag, #heroesinblue. She had no idea how quickly it would take off.
Heroes in Blue started to evolve and grow. Kassy started a Facebook page which now has over 68,000 followers worldwide. When she learned that December 14 (her wedding anniversary) was going to be named Officer Greg Alia Day, she had the idea to use that day to honor those in law enforcement. She encouraged people across Columbia to donate a couple of dollars in order to provide a meal for the officers who serve our community. Her initial goal was just to feed the 25 officers at the Forest Acres Police Department, where Greg served. Their first year, they raised enough money to feed 210 officers and delivered over $3,500 in gift cards. The next year it more than doubled. This past year, Heroes in Blue fed 569 officers, delivered 11,000 in gift cards and had over 40 volunteers.
Kassy and her team also stepped up to the plate when they heard about the death of Officer Allen Jacobs in the Upstate. Within hours, they had created a GoFundMe page to support the family he left behind and they raised over $193,000. This type of tragedy response continues to be an important part of the organization.
But Kassy knew that in order to prevent these tragedies from occurring, that she needed to do more. “I knew early on that if we really wanted to combat the divisiveness between police and community, if we wanted to bring people together and address that pain that hurt me so deeply that day, then we needed to do more than share good stories; we needed to do more than show support to police. That’s an important part of the puzzle when we’re looking at the big picture, but that’s not the whole. We need to think about what we could really do to bring people together.” Thus, the idea of Connect and Serve began.
Connect and Serve works to bring together police officers and the community they serve. The goal is to develop positive interactions between citizens and law enforcement officers in order to build trust and relationships. Kassy thought about Jarvis Hall, the man who killed her husband and asked, “What if we could have found Mr. Hall on that tragic day. Would we have seen a man in need of help? And what if we could have helped him? Would my husband still be here today?”
Kassy is truly an inspiration to us all. She has been able to use Greg’s death as a way to bring about positive change across our city, state and nation. And she urges us all to do the same. For more information about Kassy, Heroes in Blue and Connect and Serve, watch the video below and be sure to check out ServeandConnect.net to see how you can help.