When it comes to personal security, Rick Paxton is Leland’s own Superman. The Wilmington native and now Leland resident spent the majority of his career defending and serving. Now retired, Paxton has started his own business, a business that focuses on protecting lives on every level.

Born in Wilmington, Paxton began his traveling lifestyle with his first move at the age of seven. After high school, he enlisted in the Navy, doing four years on active duty. He then enrolled at Appalachian State University while in the Navy Reserves, serving and studying his way to a degree in Communications and Public Relations. After graduation, Paxton began working in the advertising industry in Boone and, after years of moving all over the United States, finally made his way back home to Wilmington to continue his career. But in 1999 Paxton was drawn back to protecting his country, joining the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves and serving for 11 years until his retirement this past March.

With the exception of his time in advertising, Rick spent the majority of his life ensuring the safety of others. And so it was only natural that, when he felt his true calling in December of 2006, it was to protect people. While on reserve status with the Coast Guard, Paxton founded his business, Safe Surroundings.

Safe Surroundings is focused on providing high-quality protective services, from private investigation to pre-employment screening, DNA testing to executive protection.

Paxton’s company did not start out so broad, however. In fact, it began as an oath to protect others from what he had experienced in his life.

After seeing first-hand the devastating effects of alcoholism on families, Paxton felt it was his responsibility to help others avoid similar situations.

“Safe Surroundings started as an information source,” explains Paxton. “It began as a program for parents to educate them on how to identify if their child is involved with drugs or alcohol.” The company offers drug testing and an informational manual that provides parents with clues on how to determine if their child is using or abusing drugs or alcohol, as well as how to test their children without them knowing.

As the Brunswick community grew, Safe Surroundings quickly expanded as well. In 2007 Paxton began offering drug testing for businesses, pre-employment screening, background checks and DNA testing. “And as demand for those services increased, I decided to expand again and secure my license as a private investigators firm,” says Paxton. “I received my license in 2009 and have not stopped expanding since.”

One of the unique services filling an unfortunate need is Paxton’s supervised visitation service. With this program, Paxton works with families who, through court order, are juggling custody of their children. What can be an uncomfortable experience is made as relaxed and safe as possible as Paxton works with both sides of the family, typically the mother and father, to manage visits. Visitations are held in the home or a neutral location, with Paxton coordinating transportation so that parties do not have unnecessary or uncomfortable contact. The entire visit is supervised, with Paxton reserving the right to end the visitation upon awareness of any unacceptable activity.

“This is the first program of its kind in Brunswick or New Hanover County,” says Paxton. “For me, it’s all about the safety of the child.”

Paxton’s desire to help children is made clear in another one of his services, DNA profiling.

“DNA profiling for children can be priceless,” says Paxton. “Our DNA kit allows parents to have a full DNA profile of their child, an invaluable tool should anything tragic happen.”

DNA profiling, an easy and painless process, takes a child’s DNA and documents it to paper. The information can then be handed over to authorities in the case that the child is reported missing. The DNA report can speed up the process of child rescue by clarifying any evidence found and assisting in confirming the child’s identity. Safe Surrounding’s DNA profiling is not only helpful to families and law enforcement, but it also supports an organization that works diligently to solve missing children cases.

“I decided that it was time to give back to the community,” says Paxton. “And a partnership with the CUE Center for Missing Persons in Wilmington offers a way that I can help the most people.”

For every DNA profiling kit that Paxton sells, $50 of the $150 cost is donated to the CUE Center.

“We are honored to be the chosen charity that will benefit from Safe Surroundings’ DNA profiling product,” says Monica Caison, Founder of the CUE Center in Wilmington. “We look forward to the future of partnering with his organization.”

For now, Paxton’s goal is to get corporate sponsors on board. “The kits are fairly expensive and there are a lot of families out there who need this information but can’t afford it,” says Paxton.

Cruse Construction, Inc., a residential construction company serving Brunswick County, is Paxton’s first sponsor.

“It’s a really great way, through a simple financial donation, to help provide a lifesaving service to the families of Brunswick County,” says Travis Cruse, President of Cruse Construction, Inc. “We’re very excited to be a part of what Rick is doing for our community. This has the potential to change the lives of many.”

Paxton says he would love to see the community become more involved in the safety of its children.

“A sponsorship allows kids to get a service that they would have not been able to afford otherwise, it helps the CUE Center, and it promotes the company. It’s a win-win,” Paxton says.

Paxton works with the sponsoring organization or individual to select the children that it would like to sponsor. “It can be specific to their neighbors, their church congregation, or simply a random selection,” explains Paxton. “This service is just so needed. Finding your child’s DNA information is the last thing you need to worry about when every minute is so important.”

Children are certainly close to Paxton’s heart, but he also helps to enhance the safety of men and women of all ages. Safe Surroundings hosts a Refuse to Be a Victim program, a three-hour seminar that focuses women, but not only women.

“It teaches the public how to prevent criminal confrontation,” explains Paxton. “I help them to develop their own personal safety strategy, while also providing them self-defense tools and information about the psychology of the criminal mind.”

Paxton currently hosts seminars for groups of individuals as well as organizations along the East Coast and hopes to soon reach out to larger organizations like domestic violence shelters.

Additional personal safety programs offered by Safe Surroundings include a variety of firearms training and concealed weapons training courses. Paxton’s newest service, however, is an executive/personal protection program, a VIP service that is available on a short-term or long-term basis for anyone with personal safety concerns.

Safe Surroundings’ scope of services goes on. Aside from DNA profiling and testing, personal safety programs and executive protection, Paxton also provides services for the legal system, insurance industry and corporate America. Assisting with litigation, Paxton offers witness interviews, depositions, process services and asset searches, to name a few. And his private-investigation experience helps him to offer support in insurance fraud, corporate and domestic investigations, and secret shopping. Whether it’s spousal misconduct, child custody, personal safety or professional industry services, Paxton keeps the people and businesses of Leland safe and sound.

When he’s not working, Paxton trades his pepper spray and suit for his “World’s Best Dad” hat. He loves spending time with his 10-year-old daughter. The two enjoy traveling together, in pursuit of learning more about their family history.

“Genealogy piqued my interest years ago, but now I just love all things history,” says Paxton. “Now, when we vacation, we like learning about history.”

When the pair do stay put in Brunswick County, they enjoy surf fishing and spending time at the beach. And, of course, a little bit of martial arts. Leland’s security Superman and his daughter have been studying martial arts at King Tiger in Leland for three years. Because what would good father-daughter time be without a little early instruction on how to safely and effectively protect yourself and others? Beware, Superdaughter in training.

For more information on Safe Surroundings visit www.safesurroundings.org or (910) 805-2196.