RANCHO SANTA FE — The California Highway Patrol’s Senior Volunteer Patrol and Explorer Program recently received more than they asked for from the Rancho Santa Fe Association.
Since 1999, the association has contributed $3,000 to the senior volunteers and $1,000 to the Explorers. Representatives for both groups asked the board of directors at the July 15 meeting to once again provide the same level of support.
But after hearing presentations from the two organizations, director Jack O’Brien recommended a funding increase.
“I’m very impressed,” he said. “I think we ought to up (our contribution) a little.”
His colleagues agreed. “We get a tremendous amount out of it,” director Deb Plummer said.
Senior volunteers are trained to assist the CHP by providing services such as directing traffic during special events and before and after school, issuing warnings, abating abandoned vehicles, reporting traffic problems and acting as a visual enforcement deterrence.
They can’t write tickets but they do several other jobs that take time away from law enforcement officers, Liz Avalon, associate planner, said.
“Without exception … every volunteer has been very successful in life,” CHP Lt. Paul Golonski said. “They led a life of service and when it came time to retire, they just couldn’t stop. They are an inspiration to us.
“They don’t get paid a nickel,” he said. “They are people in our community that should be admired.”
Current volunteers include a retired naval officer, a B-52 pilot and an American Airlines captain.
“We all really enjoy what we do,” said Norm Rentle, a senior volunteer leader. “It’s just a great opportunity for us to give back to the community.”
The Explorer Program provides classroom and hands-on training to youngsters who are considering a career in law enforcement or want to donate time to public service.
They help out at community events such as the recent Fourth of July parade, which required 22 officers. All but six were volunteers.
The Oceanside post, which serves Rancho Santa Fe, currently has approximately 20 participants between the ages of 15 and 20. To date, the post has produced 27 law enforcement officers who started out in the program.
“It’s a wonderful thing to actually see them go through the program,” said George Salas, who has served as the program’s lead adviser for 13 years.
“I see kids come in at 15, very immature,” he said. “But they focus and build self-esteem.”
One such student is 19-year-old Nicole Yax, who has been with the program for four years.
She said being an Explorer helped her overcome her timidity. “I was shy at first,” she said. “That shyness is totally gone now.”
Yax said the program has been meaningful in other ways as well. “During ride-alongs we know we may have saved a life” by pulling someone over for speeding, she said.
Donations help both organizations purchase equipment and uniforms, which volunteers must otherwise pay for. The Explorer Program also uses the money to fund scholarships.
The board discussed increasing funding for both groups, but Rentle offered to forgo the money.
“We really appreciate your thoughtfulness,” he said. “But we’re getting along pretty well. You should give the extra money to the Explorers.”
In the end, directors voted unanimously to allocate $4,000 to the senior patrol and $3,000 to the Explorer Program.