Buckhannon Volunteers In Police Service (VIPS) Volunteer Vito Syski receives a Silver Presidential Service Award Thursday at the Buckhannon City Council meeting. Syski performed more than 400 hours of service during 2021 for the VIPS program and was recognized by Buckhannon Police Chief Matthew Gregory and Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner as well as Buckhannon City Council members. Syski and fellow VIPS members performed a total of 2,175.25 hours during 2021. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

Volunteers in Police Service log more than 2,175 volunteer hours to preserve public safety in 2021

BUCKHANNON – City officials on Thursday recognized and thanked members of the Buckhannon Volunteers in Police Service program for their dedication to public safety evident in the hundreds of volunteer hours of service they logged in 2021.

At Thursday’s Buckhannon City Council meeting, Steve Wykoff, coordinator of the Volunteers in Police Service, or VIPS, program said the VIPS began 2021 with 15 active members and had 70 activations during the year. VIPS are the all-volunteer wing of the Buckhannon Police Department.

“We also gained two new members and currently have 10 active members,” Wykoff said. “Our training, in addition to what we have done in the past, is always adding additional training to help us align closer with the activities and events we are participating in and also, now, with the CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agency) standards.”

According to their website, the Volunteers in Police Service program is a “partnership between the Buckhannon City Police Department and the Upshur County Office of Emergency Management, the Upshur County Citizen Corps Council and the Upshur County Community Emergency Response Team” and came into being when the Buckhannon City Police Department “recognized the opportunity to recruit local citizens to assist the police department during larger-scale events.”

VIPS members are first responders who have been trained in First Aid, CPR, basic search-and-rescue, basic firefighting, traffic and crowd management and basic disaster response. Members assist the police department with such tasks as public relations, search and rescue, disaster response, investigations, traffic management and crowd assistance during community events, according to the police department’s website.

Wykoff reported that during 2021, VIPS assisted with 136 public and private events, saying 45 of those events were public health related.

“For the first time in VIPS history, three of those events were actually emergency response events – most notably, the two fires on Main Street in Buckhannon and the flooding,” Wykoff said. “We are growing and assisting with emergencies as well.”

In 2021, VIPS members volunteered more than 2,175 hours, which allowed the sworn Buckhannon Police Department officers to attend to other activities and calls. Wykoff said based on the value of a current volunteer hour for the State of West Virginia, those hours total a donation of nearly $52,000 in labor.

VIPS members recognized at Thursday’s council meeting included:

  • Steve Wykoff, VIPS coordinator, who logged 394 hours in 2021. Wykoff was recognized as a Silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award recipient.
  • Jewel Fisher, VIPS assistant coordinator, who donated 255.50 hours in 2021. Fisher was recognized as a Silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award recipient.
  • David Rowan, assistant coordinator for VIPS, logged 287.25 volunteer hours in 2021. Rowan was recognized as a Silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award recipient.
  • Vito Syski, VIPS volunteer, received the Silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award for donating 405.25 volunteer hours in 2021.
  • Allen Nash, VIPS task supervisor, received the Silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award for logging 267.25 hours in 2021.
  • Evelyn Syski, VIPS volunteer, received the Bronze Presidential Volunteer Service Award for donating 121.25 hours in 2021.
  • Andi Cartier, VIPS volunteer, received the Bronze Presidential Volunteer Service Award for donating 158 hours in 2021.

Following the award presentation, Buckhannon City Councilman CJ Rylands thanked the VIPS for their service.

“All your efforts are appreciated,” Rylands said.

“I know we said it when we had the accreditation presentation here for CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies), but a big reason why our city police department was accredited was because of the efforts of the VIPS,” mayor Robbie Skinner said. “We thank you very much for all the service you give to our community.”

City recorder and information coordinator Randy Sanders said he produces the Miss West Virginia USA and Miss West Virginia Teen USA pageants here in Buckhannon, and the VIPS were a vital part of that event.

“Both inside and outside, from the college to the Opera House, we appreciate their work,” Sanders said. “Thank you, very much. You were very professional during the entire weekend.”

Councilman David Thomas and councilwoman Shelia Lewis-Sines thanked the VIPS, and Thomas asked what year VIPS was founded. Wykoff said the volunteer organization formed in October 2014.

“The original idea of VIPS was simply to provide administrative tasks and assist with traffic management, basically,” Wykoff said. “We talked to OEM (Office of Emergency Management), CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), City Council and we kind of adapted the CERT program to fit into a law enforcement assistance program. I can say personally, that from the inception of the VIPS program, it has changed drastically – but for the better.

“It is a dynamic program and to be assisting in the ways we are now, I do not think we even considered that,” the VIPS coordinator added.

Buckhannon Police Chief Matthew Gregory agreed.

“The VIPS program has evolved so much,” Gregory remarked.

“It is a really great program, and the members are amazing,” Wykoff said. “We are accepting new members and we have space for new members. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old. The requirements are minimal, and we only ask for a minimum of eight hours a month and attendance at a meeting once a month.”

Gregory extended a heart-felt thank you from the Buckhannon Police Department.

“I cannot say that enough and cannot say enough for your help,” Gregory said. “VIPS truly is the embodiment of community policing: for you all to step up and freely give your time and your efforts to a cause much greater than ourselves. I thank you on behalf of myself, the Buckhannon Police Department and the City of Buckhannon. I appreciate each and every one of you so much.”

Additional information about the VIPS program is available at www.buckhannonpolice.com, and anyone who would like additional info may email vips@buckhannonpolice.com or call 304-472-5723.

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