BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon Volunteers in Police Service contributed nearly $70,000-worth of volunteer hours protecting public safety in their communities, the VIPS coordinator told Buckhannon City Council at its most recent meeting in December.
Steve Wykoff, who himself logged 519 volunteer hours over the past year, Dec. 1, 2018 through Nov. 30, 2019, said the VIPS had logged more than 3,130 hours.
“Based on the hour value of $22.29, that puts the amount of time volunteered to almost $70,000, so [VIPS] is definitely a boon to [police chief] Matt [Gregory] and the other law enforcement agencies out there. We can assist them in covering events, such as parades and with things like crowd management and that allows [the police department] to concentrate on more immediate situations.”
Wykoff and Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory announced the names of VIPS members who had attained recognition through the President’s Volunteer Service Award at council’s Dec. 19 meeting.
“We appreciate each one of you, Steve,” mayor David McCauley told Wykoff. “We talk about volunteerism, and no organization better embodies it than the VIPS.”
Gregory explained the award has three levels – bronze (100-249 hours of service), silver (250-499 hours of service) and gold (over 599 hours of service).
“This is a national program that volunteer organizations take part in,” he said. “It is for national presidential recognition for the tireless hours and the many contributions that volunteers and volunteer organizations give back to their community.”
All active members of VIPS attained at least bronze-level recognition, the police chief added.
“I’m very happy to say that all of our active members received at least a bronze-level award,” he said. “Many received silver, and I have one that received gold. We saw all three levels. Many, many hours have been put in the program.”
The following individuals achieved bronze-level recognition: Andi Cartier (121.75 hours), Evelyn Syski (174.75 hours), Vito Syski (204.5 hours), Paul Coleman (144.25 hours), Linda Coleman (117.5 hours), Scott Coleman (190.5 hours) and Jewel Fisher (110.5 hours).
Anita Coleman (325.75 hours) and David Rowan (422.25 hours) were honored at the silver level, and Wykoff earned gold-level recognition (519 hours). Each award recipient received a certificate of appreciation from the City of Buckhannon and Presidential Volunteer Service Award packet that included a pin and a letter signed by President Donald Trump.
Wykoff said Oct. 23, 2019 marked the five-year anniversary of VIPS’ formation.
“We started out with just five founding members, and of those five founding members, three of them are still with us, including myself, David Rowan and Jewel Fisher, who could not be here this evening unfortunately,” he said.
VIPS currently has 12 active members and serves as the volunteer wing of the BPD, aiding police with traffic and crowd management for events, emergency traffic control, missing persons searches, perimeter security during incidents, public relations in the community and schools and other administrative tasks, according to its 2019 annual report.
“We’ve grow exponentially over the course of those five years,” Wykoff said. “We are taking requests from private organizations within reason to assist them with [events] in an effort to increase our public relations, not only for VIPS but for the police department itself.”
To keep the BPD’s procedures in sync with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA, VIPS volunteers’ training has increased, Wykoff said. Prior to the city police department working to earn CALEA accreditation, VIPS only had to complete the Buckhannon Citizens Police Academy and CERT (community emergency response team) training.
“Now, there is a slew of training that we go through,” he said. “So not only do we go through CERT and the police academy now, we’re all required to have First Aid and CPR ethics courses to align with CALEA. We take traffic incident management courses, and also there are a bunch of NIMS (National Incident Management System) courses that we take to prepare our volunteers for anything that could potentially affect them.”
Wykoff said the additional training proved helpful during one particular incident in 2019 involving deactivated explosive device that was found in one of the city’s parks.
“By having that training, everybody was on the same page and knew exactly what to do,” he said. “It’s excellent to have that training, and we certainly appreciate the opportunity from city council to create the organization and stick with it.”
“I think we thank you,” McCauley replied.
Individuals interested in volunteering with VIPS must be: over age 18; able to pass a background check, able to volunteer at least eight hours a month; attend one meeting per month; and willing to help better the Buckhannon-Upshur community.
Looking for more information? Email email@example.com or visit the VIPS Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BuckhannonVIPS.