BILLINGS — Providing extra protection to those who serve our community—that's the mission of Colorado-based nonprofit Shield616.
The nonprofit visited the Billings Scheels in September to donate 10 rifle protection vests and returned Tuesday to donate another 30.
The vest donations were made possible by Scheels, the Buchanan Family Foundation, the Billings-based Brosovich Family Foundation, and others.
The founder and president of Shield616, Jake Skifstead, told MTN News on Tuesday he founded the company six years ago after seeing the need for these vests firsthand.
“Our men and women are out there to serve and protect us, so this is just an opportunity for me, for you, for the community to protect those who serve and protect,” Skifstead said.
Skifstead is a retired Colorado law enforcement officer who responded to many active threats during his time of service. He said the nonprofit is able to gift these vests to officers at no charge thanks to donations.
During the presentation, Skifstead explained he tried to make a vest at home after realizing his standard-issued vest only protected him from handgun shots. After responding to an active shooter call at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs in 2007, Skifstead said it was clear he needed to start this nonprofit.
“Down in Laramie, Wyoming, our vest that we donated saved a deputy's life. He was actually shot, and it stopped the bullet, and he was able to go home to his family that night," Skifstead said. “It’s amazing not only to have these partnerships but to also be able to save a life. It doesn’t get any better than that."
Skifstead said these vests are a need for all law enforcement agencies across the country, but cost up to $2,400.
“Our mentality with Sheild616 is to give them the best gear available," Skifstead said. "We don’t look at the price point. We want them to have the best because they are the best.”
And Billings officers are grateful for the nonprofit's generosity.
“We’ve got our standard-issued vests that the department purchases for us and provides. Pretty standard to law-enforcement vests you see around the country," said Billings police Sgt. Jeff Stovall on Tuesday. "These are definitely just an upgrade with the rifle-rated plates and a lighter material so they're comfier."
Stovall received one of the vests in September and returned on Tuesday to watch the presentation.
“It goes to show that this nation still supports law enforcement," Stovall said. "Regardless of what’s going on, any of the stuff you hear, the negativity towards law enforcement, this kind of refutes that."
And Stovall said these vests are a need.
“It’s a huge need. It’s a huge need all across the country," Stovall said. "What they’re doing is an amazing thing.”
And Skifstead said they have the money for a few more vests and will be returning to Billings in the future to make more donations.
"We still have about 120 more vests to donate," Skifstead said. "If anyone out there is interested in getting behind this, we still have a lot of opportunities for funding. They can reach us at our website or call, text, email, whatever."
To learn more about Shield616, please click here.
“Thirty more Billings police officers are going to be better served and better protected,” Skifstead said. "You could be a part of the next wave of protecting those who protect us."