The call to community service strengthens Paradise Valley volunteerism

Ellen Andeen has been a Paradise Valley Police Department volunteer since 2015. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

As a young girl whose father was frequently away on business, the feeling of safety provided by the Paradise Valley Police Department left a mark on Ellen Andeen.

Recounting memories such as the neighborhood officer flashing its lights to say hello to her grandfather who played solitaire every evening, or needing their assistance in a family-emergency the Paradise Valley Police Department was always there for the Andeens.

Decades later, Ms. Andeen is striving to fulfill the desire to pay-back the police officers for the comfort they provided to her family when it was most needed.

“My dad was gone a lot and during that time the police officers really kind of embraced our community and took care of us,” Ms. Andeen explained in an Aug. 2 interview.

“It was the whole aspect of community policing. They knew what was in place and out of place, and I’m very grateful for having especially one officer around quite a bit in my early years when my dad was gone.”

The longtime resident is now a volunteer at the police station, providing help wherever she can.

“I always said I would pay it back if I could, and one day I saw a family friend out driving around in a patrol car that said Citizens on Patrol,” Ms. Andeen said. “I said ‘hey how can I get involved?’”

The Paradise Valley Police Department is at 6433 E. Lincoln Drive. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

The Paradise Valley Police Department recruits a staff of 30 volunteers, who serve a minimum of about eight hours a month or 96 hours per year. Without the help of volunteers, the police station could not operate the way it does, Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert says.

“We really appreciate the volunteers and what they do, we couldn’t do it without them,” Chief Wingert said Aug. 2. “Just a huge amount of hours they contribute — 4,000-ish a year — their value for us, for Paradise Valley is enormous.”

The volunteers do a wide variety of tasks — everything from vacation watches, to conducting traffic, patrolling school zones and administration work.

While they do use patrol cars and the computer system limitedly, they are not sworn in officers or carry weapons, Ms. Andeen says.

“Since I’ve been on the volunteer team, I started out just patrolling and doing whatever they needed,” Ms. Andeen says. She now works with the administrative staff, helping out with paperwork and coordinating the annual town car show and safety fair.

“We try to help out there as much as we can, so it’s not just all driving around in cars and doing vacation watches, there’s also opportunity to do stuff within the police station,” she explained.

Most recently, Ms. Andeen was called out to patrol traffic after a tree was strew into the roadway during a summer monsoon storm.

“When we have those kinds of issues it’s great to have them,” Chief Wingert noted. “They have a quicker response than the officers do because the officers don’t live in Paradise Valley.”

In-charge of the volunteer team is Paradise Valley Police Officer Steven McGhee, who says the department is seeking five new recruits.

“We’re looking to recruit locally to provide better services for our community,” Officer McGhee explained on Aug. 2. “This isn’t a job for everybody, but for those who do end up doing volunteer work with the police department, I think it is a rewarding volunteer opportunity.”

Residents who are interested in volunteering are asked to ride-along with an officer during a shift, where areas of interest can be identified. A background check and training period will follow.

Ultimately, Ms. Andeen says the experience with the police department whom she so appreciated as a child, has been extremely rewarding.

“Being there for people — sometimes you meet them when they’re having the worst day of their life, so just being there and making a difference,” Ms. Andeen recalled of the rewarding experience.

“It just really broadens your community, and you get to know your community even better.”

The community aspect that Ms. Andeen recalls, is still alive today Officer McGhee says.

“What’s unique is it’s a close town, we know our citizens,” he said. “It’s a different feel, you don’t have this feeling in different places — even the volunteer program is unique.”

Residents who are interested in volunteering are urged to contact Community Resource Officer Kevin Albert at KAlbert@ParadiseValleyAZ.gov or 480-348-3597.

News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be reached by e-mail at mfittro@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro

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