Volunteer sheriffs of all ages gathered Thursday night for the annual SCV Sheriff’s Foundation dinner and awards ceremony to honor the hours they have dedicated to serving the community.
Foundation President and Volunteer of the Year Ken Wiseman, who has served as a volunteer for the search and rescue team for 11 years, said it is important to honor the volunteers who support the deputies with their service throughout the year, especially as April is National Volunteer Month.
“Throughout L.A. County, all of our stations depend on the wonderful volunteers that we have in all different areas,” Wiseman said. “It’s a nice chance one a year to get everyone those recognitions.”
Volunteers can get involved in a number of different areas within the sheriff’s stations, including search and rescue, patrol and reserves.
The volunteers, of which the Santa Clarita group has 72, are required to participate in the program at least 16 hours per month, but many choose to do more.
Collectively, Santa Clarita volunteers served a total of 11,078 hours in 2016, equating to $276,950 in savings for the local department. County-wide, 3,000 people volunteered a total of 357,571 hours, saving the county $9.6 million.
Volunteer Coordinator Deputy Fanny Lapkin said these volunteers are an asset to the sheriff’s department.
“We cannot do the stuff we do without them,” Lapkin said. “They don’t do it for the glory, they do it for the satisfaction of service.”
David Chavez, a sheriff’s volunteer for 32 years, said he started the program as a hobby while he pursued his career in aerospace engineering.
“I volunteered to serve my community,” Chavez said. “This is how I do my part.”
Phyllis Berman, a 90-year-old local, has volunteered with the sheriff’s department for 25 years.
The volunteering veteran originally became involved with the program when she was a mental health professional at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital by counseling teens. Most recently, she serves the station by managing the front desk three days a week.
“I’ve long passed serving 10,000 hours,” Berman said.
The explorers program, comprised of 14 to 21-year-olds, allows young people who might be interested in careers with the sheriff’s department to get involved in law enforcement early on.
“They are spirited to support our community and some of them are considering a career in law enforcement, so it’s a good way to be exposed to what’s involved,” Wiseman said.
Explorer Lauren Lockart, who has volunteered for three and a half years, said joining the program affirmed her desire to be a deputy.
“When I age out of the program, I want to continue pursuing a law enforcement career,” she said.
Brett Turk, an explorer who just aged out of the program, served as a volunteer for four years. He said he hopes to go on to pursue a career with the Los Angeles Police Department.
“Serving as a volunteer gave me more exposure to law enforcement,” Turk said. “I’ve met so many people. It taught me that teamwork is the most important part.”
Special recognition was given to Ken Wiseman as volunteer of the year, Karen Gracey as certified volunteer of the year, Neil Fischer for DCS operator of the year, Stewart Buchanan for volunteer on patrol of the year, David Chavez for his 32 years of service, Griffin O’Neil for explorer of the year and Brett Turk as an explorer aging out.
Neil Fischer was recognized for working 7,500 total hours, Ken Wiseman for working 5,000 total hours and Karen Bartlett for working 2,500 hours.
Several volunteers were recognized for working 1,000 hours, including George Enriquez, Stephen North, Victor Osorio, Eliot Yaffe, Marco Pelaez and Fred Smith.
Those who worked 500 hours included Alan Dey, Cookie Diaz, Elliott Wolfe, Gordon Horn, Ramesh Kohli, Alison Arisohn and Robert Peters.
Jody Martin, Jill Mellady, David Gasper, Rafael Sierra, Kelly Bravo and Gustavo Ruiz all worked 250 hours.
Volunteers who worked 100 hours include Karen Gracey, Jerry Cain, Don Fleming, Jessica Lee and Steve Leach.
On Twitter as @ginaender