Heeding the call: Volunteers clean up around town

Police volunteer Heather Spencer noticed something she'd seen before. It was the second time the same graffiti had appeared, this time on an Atkins Memorial Bridge light post in Lithia Park. Spencer radioed Community Service Officer Kip Keeton, and within 20 minutes, Keeton was on the scene, eliminating the 'tag' with a blend of spray paints.

"People say that our town is so clean," Spencer said. "That's why."

Keeton believes the volunteers are part of what makes Ashland a better place.

"The quality of life in Ashland wouldn't be what it is without the volunteers," Keeton said. "It's a blessing. Whatever you can say about them is not enough."

A three-year volunteer veteran, Spencer takes special interest in graffiti monitoring and said graffiti rarely stays up more than two days. She volunteers for the foot patrol two hours a day, four days a week, and also pitches in for parade duty. The foot patrol covers East Main Street, from the Plaza to the Library, including the lower end of Lithia Park up to the children's playground. It provides a presence in the downtown area, and is one of the many services the volunteers perform.

Although there is no pay, the rewards may outweigh any compensation.

Volunteer Bud Roduta helps out with the vacation house check and courier service, but enjoys the foot patrol best.

"Oh I love it. Being retired, it not only keeps me busy, but I get to serve the community," Roduta said. "I like the foot patrol, meeting new people, answering questions, helping the tourists and getting to know the shop owners."

Volunteer Police Coordinator and senior volunteer Olaf Paul feels the same way.

"It's a great way to meet people and get involved," Paul said, "especially in the summer."

Paul said there are opportunities other than the foot patrol, including vacation house check, district attorney and mail couriers, bike path patrol and the radar board.

"The vacation house check is the most popular service offered and it's been going on for quite a few years," Paul said. "There are between ten to 25 houses on the list, depending on the season."

Paul explained how volunteers go to the homes and check doors, windows and perimeters to see if anything is amiss. If anything wrong is noticed, they call for uniformed officer backup to further investigate. The volunteers are supplied with numbers to call homeowner contacts with information.

Paul believes the presence of the volunteers is more important than anything seen or reported.

"Because of what we're doing, our appearance has prevented things," Paul said. "Especially with the radar board and traffic watch, the presence of our cars usually helps slow people down."

The need for more volunteers is especially necessary concerning the radar board, the large sign that tells passers-by how fast they are going.

"It is randomly put out at different parts of town, but it is usually near SOU on Siskiyou Boulevard," said Paul. "We do not have the manpower to do it on a daily basis."

Volunteer duty with the Ashland Police Department is very flexible. Volunteers get to choose hours and duties, but have to maintain a sense of discipline all the same.

"You are a representative of Ashland," Paul said, "and you must look and act accordingly."

The application process begins by meeting Paul and Frank d'Entremont, Director of Community Service Volunteers. An application and questionnaire needs to be filled out and then the department does a background check. The next step is an interview with the assistant chief of police, d'Entremont and Paul.

The Ashland Volunteers In Police Service (VIPS) are in need of volunteers for the upcoming summer season. There are currently 15 volunteers in place, but certain services may suffer if more residents don't heed the call, officials believe. For more information on services offered or how to get involved, contact Olaf Paul at 482-5211 ext. 2963.

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