California Highway Patrol Seeks More Local Senior Volunteers
Last updated 10/9/2017 at 8:47am | View PDF
If you are at least 55 years old and meet a few other requirements, the California Highway Patrol wants you!
The CHP is looking to increase the numbers of people involved in its Senior Volunteer Program, which currently has more than 875 volunteers in its 90 offices across the state.
These volunteers donated a total of 188,541 hours of work in 2016, which the CHP estimates to be worth more than $5.3 million.
There are currently 20 senior volunteers working out of the Visalia Area CHP office. Their duties fall into four main categories: administration, public affairs, use of the CHP vehicles and related duties, and ride-alongs with CHP officers.
Local volunteers represent the CHP at public events where they help educate the public on legal or traffic matters. They also help transport highway patrol cars for repairs, watch for speeding cars in front of schools, conduct testing for school bus driver applicants, and help with traffic control for civic events, including the World Ag Expo and Tulare County Fair, as well as for funerals for fallen officers.
Now that a grant budget freeze has been lifted, the senior volunteers will also be asisting at traffic checkpoints and even helping conduct school bus sting operations.
Other changes are in the works this summer.
"We're going to more of leadership by committee to keep the overall efficiency of the program," said Officer Steve Beal, Senior Volunteer Program coordinator. "We're going to create positions so that all areas of service have a (volunteer) leader to contact."
Becoming a volunteer isn't free. Seniors are required to buy their uniforms and badges, which costs over $100.
Although the safety risk is minimal, volunteers do wear uniforms which put them at some risk.
So why do they do it?
"I have learned so many things just by listening and interacting with other officers," said Connie Kelly, president of the volunteers, who smiled and added, "Also because I dont have anything else to do and I like it."
She enjoys doing the tasks that make things easier for CHP officers. She is happy when she is able "to relieve some stress, even if it's just for one officer."
"I thought it would be a good thing with my personality," said Robin Hoffman, a retired school speech pathologist. "I enjoy working with the public."
Her favorite duties include working at events, such as the Senior Day in the Park, as well as car seat checks, being in parades in a patrol car, and working with kids.
Bart Hilliard enjoys telling stories about his experiences as a senior volunteer with the CHP. He talked about driving a CHP car to Sacramento to deliver and pick up supplies.
"We were going 75 and not one car passed us on the way up or back," he noted.
Hilliard said working at special events and delivering presents to children were among his favorite duties as a senior volunteer.
And why does the California Highway Patrol seek senior volunteers instead of younger volunteers?
"Seniors just have a ton of life experience," explained Officer Beal. "They bring wisdom to the table that we wouldn't see with younger folks. They also have more time and are looking for ways to serve the community."
Those of you who may be interested in becoming a senior volunteer should first be aware that there are some "non-negotiable" requirements.
You must be 55 or older, be able to work at least four hours a week, be able to work during regular business hours, have a clean driving record, have no felony convictions, complete the CHP Senior Volunteer Training Program and sign a Statement of Professional Ethics.
Applicants must also pass a background check, which includes at least two interviews. They are fingerprinted and must pass a review by the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
There are additional qualifications to become a volunteer that are labeled "negotiable."
Applicants should have strong organizational skills (to assist with clerical duties), strong public speaking skills, experience at directing traffic and a flexible schedule -- but fortunately for some applicants, these qualifications are negotiable.
For more information, contact Officer Steve Beal at (559) 734-6767 or firstname.lastname@example.org.