Eleanor Moschetti, 79, and Susan Rodgers, 76, wanted to make a difference in their community of Santa Clarita.
In 2002, Moschetti and Rodgers joined the California Highway Patrol Senior Volunteer Program in its first year of existence and are members of the first Senior Volunteer graduating class.
Now, 20 years later, they are two of the remaining three members from the original graduating class still volunteering at the Santa Clarita-area office, officially named the Newhall-area Office.
“I know I’m helpful and it gives us purpose,” said Moschetti regarding why she’s volunteered for two decades at the CHP office. “I love being part of a family and the CHP is a family.”
The Santa Clarita Valley’s CHP office is looking for motivated senior citizens interested in making a difference in their community by being part of their Senior Volunteer Program.
According to the CHP website, a qualified candidate must be 55 years or older, work for a minimum of four hours per week, pass a background check, have a good driving record and complete the CHP Senior Volunteer Training Program.
Nick Chiominto, the administrator of the Senior Volunteer Program, joined three years ago because he enjoyed having a community presence and participating in the unique variety of jobs the CHP had to offer.
“[Volunteers] have an opportunity to do something they’ve never done before,” Chiominto said. “It’s an opportunity to learn something completely different that may be out of their comfort zone. Plus, they’re doing something that’s significant to the community and help the CHP out as well.”
The senior volunteers partake in a plethora of duties such as investigating out-of-state license plates, deploying radar trailers, setting up DUI checkpoints and even participating in ride-alongs with CHP officers.
According to Chiominto, the volunteers aren’t assigned tasks, rather they get to point out what they are interested in.
“You can come into the program and pick and choose what you really want to do,” Chiominto said. “They go through the academy, learn all the aspects of the program and then they can say, ‘Oh, that looks interesting. I’ll do that.’”
Officer Joshua Greengard, the public information officer with the CHP Newhall Area, said there are different avenues for senior volunteers to get involved if they do not want to partake in the “stressful” duties.
“If they want to do community outreach and promote how awesome the CHP is, there is a person for that,” Greengard said. “If they want to do paperwork or registration, there’s a spot for that. There’s a lot of different avenues that they can do and I think that’s what also makes it a better program.”
Before graduating to become a senior volunteer, applicants must attend and complete the Senior Volunteer Academy where they learn about the CHP and how to be an effective volunteer at the office.
Chiominto said completion of the academy usually takes six to eight weeks, during which they train the volunteers for one half-day a week. After finishing training, there is a graduation ceremony where they receive their badge and become a certified senior volunteer.
CHP Officer Donald Wilson, the senior volunteer coordinator, said the seniors have a tremendous impact when it comes to relieving some of the stresses of officers’ daily duties.
“If I need help or other officers are tied up, I know I’ll have another CHP car out there that’s traveling around that I can call on to come help me out at a scene,” Wilson said. “They help me lay out cone patterns and other things and then I can focus my attention on investigating the collision.”
Wilson also said the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a layoff where they lost volunteers. According to Wilson, they used to have 22 volunteers and now they are down to 12.
Prospective applicants can pick up an application at the Santa Clarita area CHP Office located on The Old Road in Valencia. After filling it out, the applicant can return it back to the office and then undergo an interview process. There is no deadline to apply.
For more information, visit the CHP website or call the SCV CHP office at 661-600-1600.