Public Information Officer
When crime victims and their families needed financial help last year, volunteer advocates with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office filed more than $100,000 in compensation claims to help pay for everything from medical expenses and mental health counseling to wage and property losses and funeral expenses. And when families in crisis due to a death or other emergency needed spiritual support, it was Sheriff’s Office volunteer Chaplains who answered the call -- 78 times last year. And with more than a 1,000 agency firearms that needed to be disassembled, inspected, cleaned, adjusted and test-fired, certified volunteer armorers with the Sheriff’s Office stepped in to get the job done. Said Sheriff Ben Johnson of the weapons inspections performed by his volunteers and the resulting cost-savings to the taxpayers: “It takes a tremendous amount of time. And if it wasn’t for our volunteers, it would take a tremendous amount of money.”
Sheriff Johnson’s comments came Wednesday night in Daytona Beach Shores, where the Sheriff’s Office hosted a gala banquet to pay thanks and tribute to its 251 volunteers. Citizen volunteers help out the Sheriff’s Office in a variety of areas, including civilian patrols, court services, training, evidence, records and civil. They also work in area courthouses and enter and maintain computer data and scan records. All combined, Sheriff’s Office volunteers donated 60,257 hours of labor in the past year, worth anestimated $1.3 million in free service to the community. “I can’t say enough about the fine men and women in this room,” Sheriff Johnson said to a packed banquet room totaling nearly 300 attendees. “You step up to the plate each and every day to help us out.”
And no one did it better last year than one of the Sheriff’s Office’s citizen patrol volunteers, Jennie Mero, who was honored Wednesday night as the agency’s top volunteer for 2011. A member of the Citizen Observer Program since 2003, Mero is on a COP district leadership team and also is a COP trainer. And when the COP administrative assistant was on medical leave for several months, Mero volunteered to take on the daily administration of the program in addition to her own duties. This included working many extra hours along with the completion of monthly reports, which required compiling all the information on patrols, traffic control details, special details and hours volunteered from the Sheriff’s Office’s five districts. Additionally, Mero answered phones, processed mail and assisted with the start-up and completion of the spring COP training class. While an exceptionally heavy workload, it was indicative of the dedication and commitment of the entire volunteer corps. “I can’t say enough about the fine men and women in this room,” Sheriff Johnson told the group.
In addition to the volunteer of the year, dozens of other volunteers also were singled out Wednesday for awards, mostly based on their number of years or hours of service. Meanwhile, four volunteers -- Raymond Bruder, Donna Heyburn, Walter Klucovsky and William Snyder -- were recognized as recipients of the President’s Call to Service Award. The award is designed to honor Americans who, through 4,000 or more hours of volunteerism, set an example that inspires others to volunteer service. More than 50 Sheriff’s Office volunteers have received the award in the past. Also, four previous volunteers of the year who were in attendance, including one -- Doug Howe -- going back to 1997, were recognized Wednesday. The evening also included a special remembrance for six former Sheriff’s Office volunteers who passed away since last year’s banquet.
Wednesday marked the Sheriff’s Office’s 16th annual volunteer appreciation banquet. And with a captive audience on hand, Sheriff Johnson also did a little politicking as he railed against a movement in Tallahassee to allow early release for some convicted criminals. With Florida’s crime rate in decline, largely due to tough laws and strict sentences, Sheriff Johnson told the audience that this isn’t the time to let up and release prisoners early. “It’s something we all need to fight to make sure it does not happen,” Sheriff Johnson said.
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151