APTOS -- Residents who volunteered a combined 9,000 hours of work to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office in 2012 were honored Friday afternoon in a luncheon at Cabrillo College.
Volunteers answer phones at the Sheriff's Office service centers, place notices on abandoned vehicles and perform other tasks that save time for sworn deputies.
Their work saved about $500,000 in staff time, or the equivalent of five full-time deputies, said Sheriff Phil Wowak.
"You're doing an amazing service to our community," Wowak told the group.
Many volunteers deal with residents at Sheriff's Office service centers in Aptos, Live Oak, San Lorenzo Valley and outside Watsonville. Residents can make nonemergency reports, get referrals to other county agencies and try to resolve neighbor issues, among other services.
In 2012, volunteers handled more than 4,000 walk-in customers, 150 reports and 5,000 calls at the service centers, said Volunteer Coordinator Victoria Reynolds.
Many of the volunteers are retirees. They also include a teacher, pastor, dog groomer, three retired pilots and a former U.S. Marine.
Chuck Perston, an 83-year-old retiree from Aptos, puts notices on cars and trucks that are abandoned or illegally parked.
He found out about the sheriff's volunteer program about 15 years ago when he was a driver for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Perston was commended for 10 years and 4,000 hours of service. He said he liked to contribute.
"It's a very easy-going job," Perston added.
Other volunteers drive by homes for "vacation checks" to look for any suspicious activity while residents are gone. Residents in unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County can request the checks by registering on the Sheriff's Office website.
At Friday's event, volunteer Jim Kiehl was recognized for 10 years and 5,500 hours of service. Kevin Hildreth was commended for 6,000 hours of service, Dorothy Hurley for 5,000 hours and Margie Moss and Jerry Rappoport for 3,000 hours each.
Deputies said they expect to have a separate appreciation event to recognize the Search and Rescue program -- which is a separate set of volunteers.
Chief Deputy Jim Hart told the group that he was thankful for their work.
"You represent us and you have no idea how much you do for us," Hart said.
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