Wausau Metro Strong aims to bring positive changes to community

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- After one of the Wausau community's most difficult days, people have stepped up to create real change, for the better. That change includes a group called Wausau Metro Strong.

"I had a number of people reach out, email me, call me and say-Jeff, what can we do? We want to help. What can we do?" former Wausau Police Chief Jeff Hardel said.

At the time of the March 22nd shootings, now retired Wausau Police Chief Jeff Hardel, found himself at the forefront of some major shifts in the community, many he says were for the good.

Hardel began collaborating with members of the business community, non-profits, schools, and individuals to co-found, Wausau Metro Strong.

Executive Director of the United Way of Marathon County, Jeff Sargent said, "There was a sense that being together was helping. It was good for people to be together and to share and to grieve with one another."

So far the group has covered topics like, recognizing signs of domestic violence, looking at the setup and emergency preparedness of certain businesses, and looking for triggers from certain employees.

"How to become aware of certain signs of stress, or an issue with somebody that might be in trouble and how to respond to that employee," Sargent explained.

In less than a year, former Chief Hardel says the impact is already being seen.

"There's been a number of times that people within this group have called law enforcement in their jurisdiction and said, hey I'm not sure how to handle this. I don't-help me, help me decide is this is something that police should be investigating or how we should address this. That partnership is really key to prevention."

Hardel, says the group started with about 20 to 25 members right after the shootings, and is now at more than 40.

"Anything that impacts a community would fall under our mission, because it's a safe community for all," Hardel said.