OCEANSIDE — It definitely made for a unique day during one of the recent YANA (You Are Not Alone) patrols for partners Melodie Burch and Francesca Johnson.
Burch and Johnson, members of the Oceanside Senior Volunteer Police Patrol for a combined 12 years, arrived at one of their scheduled senior checks earlier this month. When they got there, they could hear, coming from inside the home, the resident’s dog barking and then cries for help.
Their natural instincts to help kicked in for the both of them, said Johnson.
They removed the screen from a kitchen window, which allowed Johnson to climb into the home. There she found a woman lying on the floor, her dog on her lap. The woman had fallen.
“You know us women, we’re caretakers and we’re going to get the job done,” Johnson said.
Calling for help on their radio, Burch and Johnson cared for the woman and her dog until emergency crews arrived.
“If she hadn’t been signed up for YANA, who knows, she could have passed away right there,” said Matt Christensen, field operation support sergeant overseeing the Senior Volunteer Police Patrol.
That’s just one of the critical services that volunteer police provide — critical services that also help to keep police officers out in the field, Christensen explained.
“The YANA checks wouldn’t exist if they didn’t volunteer,” he said.
But the volunteer police patrol is down to only 61 members. At one point, their highest numbers of volunteers reached 112. And they’re looking to get their numbers back up.
“It’s a little harder now getting people. I don’t think the volunteerism idea is as well received as it used to be,” said Leo Bates, who serves as the patrol’s administrator.
Bates got introduced to the volunteer program through a friend, asking that if he was interested, to come and join. After hearing more about the program and what they did, he said he’d give it try — that was 17 years ago.
“It grows on you,” he said, adding that at first he was apprehensive about visiting the elderly, though admitting that he was elderly himself.
But since then, he said that visiting with the people they do, they actually do more for you than you do for them.
“It’s a self-rewarding deal,” Bates said. “It’s just difficult to believe the condition some of the people are in and what their own families end up doing to them.”
Bates described the role of the volunteer patrol as the “eyes and ears” of the police department, and while they may not work too closely with the officers, the volunteers are able to keep in contact by radio to report anything out of the ordinary or call for help during their patrols.
But apart from patrolling the city’s parks, shopping centers, schools and providing vacation checks, Johnson said that being a volunteer gives her a sense of enrichment in her life.
“Plus you get to make good friends,” she said.
“It’s a unique group,” Bates said of the members, which spans all walks of life from a nuclear physicist to teachers, retired military to nurses.
Of those that do apply, there are certain requirements that need to be met — they have to be at least 50 years old, Oceanside residents, and, according to Bates, they have to be a “people person.”
For Burch, who worked as a UPS driver for 31 years, said she always believed in community service.
“The most gratifying is visiting the seniors and making sure they’re OK,” she said.
To find out how to apply, call (760) 435-4763.