In an age when neighborhoods feel less connected and local police are stretched thinner than ever, a group of Central Point retirees has stepped up to ensure that their most vulnerable neighbors get a knock on the door, a friendly phone call and a nudge of support when most needed.
At the helm of the Central Point Police Department "Guardian Angels" since the program began in late 2008 is Dottie Dudley, a petite grandmother who would barely reach 5-feet tall in a pair of stilettos.
For more information, to receive services or to volunteer for the city's Guardian Angels program, call 541-664-5578.
Recruits for the city's Volunteers in Policing program undergo a 12-week training, consisting of topics ranging from CPR to traffic control.
The 86-year-old Dudley leads a loyal foursome who drive a department vehicle, decked out in full uniform, and visit nearly 100 home-bound seniors and disabled adults each week.
A recent visit at the Twin Creeks retirement community found four of the five "angels" working on reports, discussing upcoming visits and checking on residents of the facility at lunchtime.
While the group is friendly and dubbed "volunteer," Central Point police Lt. Jeff Britton says the Guardian Angels form a serious component of the city's police force, accounting to date for some 2,102 volunteer hours worth $42,565 to the city.
The city's volunteer program does everything from traffic control and handicapped parking enforcement to working at special events. The "angels" are a sub-group of that effort, focusing on the community's most vulnerable.
Dudley, an Oregon native who has spent most of her life in the Rogue Valley and graduated from Phoenix High, spent a few years after the death of her first husband living in Salem, where she was recruited as a volunteer for the Salem Police Department.
After remarrying and moving back home to Southern Oregon, Dudley was one of the first citizens to raise her hand when the city initiated its Volunteers in Police Service program, part of a larger national effort (www.policevolunteers.org/about) in 2006.
Dudley, who surpassed 2,000 volunteer hours last year, said the gig meshed well with her desire to help others and be involved in her community.
"It just kind of happened, and there were a lot of things that drew me in to doing this. I just felt appreciative of the fact the community could be involved, and I wanted to be part of it," she says.
Whether visiting seniors at Twin Creeks during lunch time or checking in on sick clients in their homes, the team takes its role seriously, each member working two to four days per week on angels endeavors and other volunteer tasks.
Kirby LeBaron points out that all participants in the program are visited once a week for at least half an hour.
Teased about "Driving Miss Dottie," LeBaron says he enjoys the feeling of helping seniors stay connected to the community.
"It's just a good feeling to know we can do something to help our community and the people who live here," he says.
Rose Barnes, who joined the angels two years ago, says visits are sometimes as simple as asking about a stash of crossword-puzzle books, or they can be as involved as alerting family or emergency personnel to medical issues.
"We're like good friends who care about them. We're very careful that we respect their privacy and their confidentiality, but we're the first line of defense if something isn't right," Barnes says.
Twin Creeks resident Ethel Rust says the angels are a true positive for the community.
"I think they're great. Great personalities. If we don't show up at lunch, they come look for us," says Rust. "And we look for them, if we don't see them, too."
Guardian angel member Cindy Shindell says volunteers receive as much as those they visit.
"So many of them are lonely or have no one looking out for them, so we just try to be their friend and let them know someone cares," Shindell says. "They enjoy the visits — but we really enjoy them, too."