Local couple reaches out to veterans, law enforcement with fundraising, special services

Jim and Beverly Burke are regular volunteers at the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office Rodeo and special needs mini rodeo. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Jim and Beverly Burke are well-known fixtures in the Cullman community. Cullman County has at least a few (!) gun owners, and they keep the couple’s northwest side gunsmithing business hopping most of the time. And if you have attended the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) annual rodeo and special needs mini rodeo, you have probably seen them helping out as event volunteers. For three years, Beverly Burke has offered her hand-made “Dixie Dog Designs” jewelry to customers across the county at no set price, just telling folks to drop whatever they wish to give in her donation box for the sheriff’s special needs rodeo; she has raised and donated more than $3,500.

More recently, she used her jewelry-making skills to raise funds to help CCSO Deputy Adam Clark after he was seriously injured in a crash.

This year, COVID-19 has raised questions about whether the special needs rodeo can take place, but Burke has not missed a beat in her fundraising efforts. She has begun offering her designs, still for donations, to raise funds for the treatment of military veterans suffering from PTSD.

The Tribune caught up with Burke tending her Dixie Dog table at the recent Cullman Veterans of Foreign Wars rummage sale, to find out more.

Burke said, “I am raising money for the local Cullman County veterans to go to Annapolis, Maryland for a special procedure called the Stellate Ganglion Block to treat PTSD. My late father was Army 24 years and my husband was Navy for 10, so I really love our veterans. A lot of our law enforcement in Cullman County are former military, and this is a way I can help them, too, in memory of them for their service, but to help the local veterans that desperately need this treatment.”

An average of 22 veterans, many suffering from PTSD, die each day in the United States as a result of suicide.

According to local veteran, Col. Ken Brown, “It’s far too many; we’ve got to do something. A lot of these veterans have PTSD. There’s a new procedure that’s been perfected to deal with it. It is a shot in the neck that relaxes the nerves, the stellate ganglion nerves, that, in layman’s terms, ‘reboots’ the nervous system. There’s been a three-year study on it, and it’s been 90% effective. The shots last five years or more, and the results are almost instantaneous. PTSD is a debilitating disease, not only to the veterans who have it, but also to their families who go through it. A lot of veterans can’t handle PTSD and commit suicide.”

“The stellate ganglion is like a routing center for the nervous system and controls the impulse for ‘fight or flight’,” said a statement from Kristine Rae Olmsted, a research epidemiologist with RTI International, an independent nonprofit research institute. “Anesthetizing the ganglion blocks nerve impulses temporarily. We still don’t know how SGB works to improve PTSD symptoms, but now we know that it does.”

Burke continued, “The VA will not cover it. If you’re active duty, it will, but for veterans, it’s not paying for it. So the cost is $900 for the actual shot that goes into the neck, and then the rest of the money is for their transportation back and forth to Annapolis, Maryland. If I can help them in any way, that’s what I’m going to do.”

A special deal for law enforcement

Beverly Burke’s husband Jim Burke, a U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, runs Jim Burke Gunsmithing in a small northwest Cullman shop that is an amusement park for gunpowder gearheads, with all of its tools and equipment that can do just about anything the average hunter or shooter might need done to a firearm. Watching the crisis the law enforcement community has faced recently, he wanted to do something that would tell police that they are appreciated, so he has begun offering a 20% discount on labor for all of his services for just about anyone working in an official law enforcement capacity: police officers, sheriff’s deputies, law enforcement department staff, fish and game officers, Wallace State Police; the list goes on. 

Jim Burke told The Tribune, “I’m helping our law enforcement. First of all, I believe they’re underpaid; we don’t need to defund them! Me and my wife, we give back to our community. They help us, and we just want to give back to our community, so I’m giving them all a special discount.

“And I don’t believe what’s going on is right. If somebody did something wrong up in Minneapolis, why are we protesting our law enforcement down in Alabama? Our law enforcement hasn’t done nothing wrong; matter of fact, they have been really good to the people. They do so much. If anybody really wanted to take and do anything, go through the (CCSO) Citizens’ Academy and see what the sheriff’s department does for you. Our law enforcement is great here, and we just would like to give back to them.

“This is our way, and I believe everybody ought to help their community, ought to be part of it, ought to give to their community, not take from it. So this is just what we do, you know. We try to help people. Our law enforcement right now, in my opinion- law enforcement all over the country- but law enforcement here needs help, and we don’t mind helping them.”

Contact Jim Burke Gunsmithing at 256-736-5998.

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W.C. Mann