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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation Establishes Fund To Help Find Missing Persons

OLEAN, N.Y., October 18, 2016 — Cattaraugus County Law Enforcement has established a new fund at the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation to provide and maintain monitoring equipment that helps law enforcement search for missing citizens at risk of wandering due to autism, Alzheimer’s disease or other related conditions.

The Project Lifesaver Fund is part of Project Lifesaver International, an organization that provides bracelets that emit a personalized tracking signal to monitor citizens who may be more prone to wandering due to a condition.

For Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office Detective Melanie Easton, the decision to bring Project Lifesaver to Cattaraugus County was a personal one.

Five years ago Ms. Easton’s uncle, who suffered from dementia, went missing. She and her aunt were able to help law enforcement trace his location. Together they were able to find his truck, parked on a dead-end road in Pennsylvania, two hours south of Olean.

A search ensued, and police were able to find him. But when they tried to move his body, he entered cardiac arrest and died soon after.

“When this project came in front of the sheriff, that’s why my name came to mind,” she said. “So that’s a big part of how I ended up in charge (of the project).”

Since the project came to Cattaraugus County in 2015, the sheriff’s office has trained three people to use the transmitter and search for missing persons.

Currently there are 20 monitoring bracelets available to be worn by children on the autism spectrum. Another two bracelets are available for those affected by any other condition that may make them more prone to wandering, like Down syndrome or Alzheimer’s disease.

“It costs $25 a year to maintain (a bracelet),” Ms. Easton said. “The sheriff’s office doesn’t think that anyone should have to worry about paying that, which is why we’re seeking donations.”

To put that in perspective, a generous $300 donation from the family of an Alzheimer’s disease patient participating in the project will pay for an entire year of the program. The family decided to pay it forward and help fund the project because they feel so much safer with the support of the program.

As donations come in, the sheriff’s office will have the means to buy more bracelets and serve more Cattaraugus County citizens.

“The national average for someone to be missing is nine hours, and that’s if they want to be found,” Easton said. “With Project Lifesaver, the average time is 30 minutes, which is 95 percent better.”

“We are happy to be a part of helping make this project possible,” said CRCF Executive Director Karen Niemic Buchheit. “Ensuring peoples’ safety and giving their families peace of mind is the type of cause that’s important to our foundation.”

Donations can be made to the Cattaraugus County Law Enforcement Project Lifesaver Fund at CRCF, 301 North Union St., Suite 203, or online at

Established in 1994, the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation is growing good by connecting donors to the causes they care about most in the region. Grants from the foundation support many areas, including education, scholarships, health care, the arts, community development, human service, and youth development. To learn more, call (716) 301-CRCF (2723), email, or visit online at CRCF is also on Facebook ( and Twitter (@CattFoundation).

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