By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post
Volunteers allow Wilson County Sheriff’s deputies to do a better job of protecting the county, Capt. Gary Keith says.
Wilson County Sheriff’s Department has three different groups of volunteers offering special support services that make the officers jobs easier and allow then certified officers to stay on the street, Keith added.
First there are Senior Citizen Awareness volunteers, who check frequently on Wilson County seniors and citizens with disabilities. These volunteers work at least 16 hours a month visiting people in the county who don’t have family members nearby. Some of the people ask for the help themselves other are referred by family members.
“We don’t just go into home because we think the person should be visited,” Keith said. “Someone in the family has to request the service.”
SCAN has no funding except contributions, but the Sheriff’s Department does provide their uniforms and vehicles. The cars are high mileage police cars which are close to retirement, Keith said. The contributions allow the volunteers to provide small one room air conditioners or fans to people who are suffering ill effects from the summer heat.
The second group of volunteers are Reserve Deputies. These men and women take a week of their vacation time each year to participate in required training. Then they go on call. These volunteers also serve at least 16 hours per month, providing the department with an average of 4,000 hours of service each year. The reserves provide traffic control, Act as back-up for certified officers, transport prisoners to doctors or hospital, or go to other jurisdictions to bring prisoners back to Wilson County. For saving Wilson County about $100,000 a year all they get is their uniforms and thanks, Keith added.
In both cases Keith is picky about who he accepts into the programs. Volunteers have to agree to a records check before they even start training.
With regards to the SCAN volunteers he said, “I’m not going to put someone in your mama’s home I wouldn’t want in my mother’s.”
The SCAN volunteers also go visiting in pairs, both to protect them and to make the clients more comfortable.
The third team of volunteers also work as part of a team, but in this case the partners are four legged. Wilson County’s search and rescue team is made up of 10 specially trained dogs and their owners.
The dogs are trained to find missing people, both in a wilderness setting and in an urban one.
Lt. Witherspoon, who also works with the volunteers has trained with the canine teams.“If we have a child lost in the woods these dogs would find the child,” he said. “I’ve been on trainings with them, and you can’t hide anywhere in the woods from them.”
The dogs trained for urban searches help locate victims of the tornadoes in Murfreesboro recently, according to Melissa Riley who leads the canine volunteer unit.
“Our dogs searched six homes that were too unstable for people to search,” she said. “They help us rule out those areas as needing searched for trapped victims.”
She added that some of the house were at a 45 degree angle and completely off their foundations.
Riley said the team has a very strong commitment to helping search for and rescue people.
It takes about 12 to 18 months of training to get a dog ready to go out and save lives,” she said. And the owners and dogs work 6-12 hours each week end to get ready.
But these dogs have to go out and save lives so it’s worth it,” she said.
And again all the Sheriff’s department provides is “uniforms,” in this case shirts that make the team clearly recognizable.
Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at email@example.com.