Ashley Felice fulfilled a dream of becoming a police officer while serving with the Army.
“As a little kid, I actually wanted to be a homicide detective,” she said. “And I still have a passion to be a police officer.”
Now, married to a Colorado Springs Police detective and the mother of five kids ranging in age from 3 to 13, Felice is living her dream another way. As events coordinator for SHIELD616, she helps outfit first responders to make them safer in active-shooter situations.
Felice was born in Iowa and raised in Kansas City, Mo. She graduated from high school in Platte County, a Kansas City suburb, and after attending Maple Woods Community College for two years, she joined the Army, where she spent the next eight years and served as a military police officer.
In 2007, she was transferred to Fort Carson and fell in love with this region.
A 2019 Rising Stars nominee, Felice artfully juggles home, family and work and also finds the time to volunteer.
The 32-year-old talked with the Business Journal about her passions for fitness, service to others and, of course, her family.
Tell us what SHIELD616 does.
We were founded in 2015 by Jake Skifstad, who was a Colorado Springs Police Department officer. What he realized is that the first responders that go onto an active-shooter scene aren’t necessarily SWAT — they’re the patrol officers, and patrol officers aren’t given that gear that a SWAT team would have. After his last active-shooter scenario, which was Planned Parenthood [in 2015], he realized that he had to do something, so he and his wife started SHIELD616. We raise funds within the community to help get the active-shooter equipment donated to the officers. It’s all over the nation; we’re in 18 different states right now.
What’s also really neat about the organization is that we try to bridge that gap between the community and law enforcement. Nowadays, unfortunately, the police have a bad reputation, and so we definitely want to try to bridge that gap. So when we do a presentation, we invite the donors and sponsors to come and be part of that presentation and meet their officer. We have them exchange information and continue to pray and connect with the officer throughout the years. You can fund $1 or you can fund a whole kit. It all adds up.
Where did the name SHIELD616 come from?
It comes from Ephesians 6:16 — “… Take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
So when did you join the organization, and what do you do there?
I actually joined in January of this year. Jake and my husband knew each other, and so I started volunteering with SHIELD616 at his first event back in 2016. It was a 5K at Memorial Park, and they raised about $20,000 to $25,000.
My title is event coordinator. My main objective is to plan the presentations and plan events. A lot of the times we have outside sources calling us saying that they want to throw an event or fundraiser event. I collaborate with them on that fundraising event. But because we are so small, you know — we have four full- to part-time employees — we also take other jobs, and so it can be finances, [and] I do a lot of the social media. I’ve helped redesign a new website alongside a professional company. We are such a great team, and we all just work together, and we all are so passionate about this mission.
How are you able to help first responders?
We do body armor; we do the helmets; we do medical kits. Police is our main goal, but we also assist with getting protection for firefighters. … If somebody reaches out and there’s mental health issues, we get them in contact. We want to build these relationships with these first responders. We know what they’re doing is hard. The mental health [aspect] is also why we brought on some community members to reach out to them and to show that they are appreciated. …
Typically a family member or church is going to reach out to us and say, ‘We want to get involved, we want to start fundraising.’ We have a volunteer packet that we send out to them, and really it’s on a volunteer basis after that. They’ve definitely seen the need in their community and they’re, you know, passionate about it. A lot of times it’s going to be a family member that’s going to reach out and say that they want to get this for their spouse, son, daughter.
What do you like best about your job?
I’m very passionate about helping people. My favorite part of the job is just helping people and knowing that, with the donor, we’ve helped potentially save somebody’s life.
What did you do after you got out of the military?
I joined the military in December 2005 and was officially out in December 2013. After the military, I focused on family a little bit, and I was able to do a lot of volunteer work within the community. I coached a lot of kids’ sports — I did football, soccer and volleyball for quite a few years. And then with my passion for fitness, I volunteered at a local CrossFit gym [as an instructor] and did that for about three years, and then I got a job at the Space Foundation. I started out as an events assistant and moved up [to events coordinator]. I was offered a job at SHIELD616 in January and because of my passion for law enforcement, I took the leap of faith and started my career with 616.
Do you have a vision about where you’d like your career to go from here?
I would really like to see SHIELD616 be a national name to be an advocate for our police officers and making sure that they are protected and for people to realize that they’re humans. They’re just doing their job as police officers. If you ask any police officer, they wanted to be on the police department because they wanted to help people.
Your Rising Stars nominator described you as passionate and driven. So what are you passionate about and where does the driven part come from?
I don’t want to do a job that I’m not passionate about. I loved the Space Foundation, and I loved what they’re about, but moving into SHIELD616, with my background in law enforcement and my husband’s job, I’m very, very passionate about it. I’m just passionate about helping other people. When I see somebody in need, I want to help them regardless of if it’s somebody on the street, my neighbor, a stranger. I just want to help.
And I would say that my family drives me. My husband is a huge part of my life, part of my desire to go further in my success. So are my children.
How do you balance your work life with raising your kids?
There’s never a dull moment! Something that really was kind of the cherry on top for this job is that we do get to work out of home. We all have families. You have to make it a priority and you have to make it known within your organization that my family does come first. If that is something that is a priority in your life, make that known at the very beginning. And I did, and this organization has been fantastic. We can take a break during the day; we can go to our kids’ school and have lunch with them. You just have to make it a priority. They’re only going to be little for so long.
Do you think it’s important for young people who are early on in their career to be involved in the community?
Oh, definitely. It gives you insight. I mean, you get to meet new people, it’s networking, it’s helping your community. Of course, volunteer for something that you’re passionate about, but jump out of your comfort zone — volunteer in other areas that you maybe don’t have a great skill set in and just expand your boundaries.
You know, when it comes to kids, I think it’s also really important to volunteer where kids can volunteer as well. With a lot of this SHIELD616 volunteer work that I did before I came on staff, I took the kids; one of them was Santa on Patrol. That was done with the Monument police department. … I took the kids up there and for two years we handed out presents to individuals that might not have gotten a gift. I think it’s very important to instill that in your kids at an early age — that it’s not just about getting, it’s about giving back.