OAKLAND -- The Oakland Police Department hosted an appreciation dinner to honor its hundreds of civilian volunteers, including 88-year-old retired aircraft mechanic and pilot Charles Johnson who has donated his time since 1992.

Johnson was one of more than 70 volunteers attending a dinner Monday night at Faz Restaurant in downtown Oakland.

Chief of Police Howard Jordan commended all department volunteers who work alongside police officers and civilian employees doing a variety of things, including clerical duties, animal shelter work and safety patrols.

Jordan said "during these economically challenging times when (department) staffing has been reduced, now more than ever volunteers are needed. Volunteers are the ambassadors in our community by helping to build trust and communication. They are part of our family, and we appreciate their time and dedication to the organization."

Johnson writes letters to burglary victims that include a sentiment from Chief Howard Jordan as well as information about residential safety inspections and how to form a Neighborhood Watch group.

He was presented a special plaque by Jordan recognizing his commitment and dedication. Johnson told the audience volunteering is "my way of giving back to the community that I love so much."

Others acknowledged were Walter Chinn, founder of the Asian Youth Services Committee, and Rich Fong, a committee adviser. Also mentioned were Allene Warren of the Oakland Bike Patrol, which patrols parks and other recreation facilities; Dawna Dowdell, who organized and fed participants in the recently concluded 48 hour Urban Shield event; and Judy Miller, who has donated more than 1,000 teddy bears for officers to give to children who have been traumatized.

Board members of Crime Stoppers of Oakland, which provides reward money to help solve crimes, the 150 people who donated more than 20,000 hours last year alone at the Oakland Animal Shelter and alumni of the department's Citizen Police Academy who volunteer for a variety of events, were also commended.

Those wanting to become volunteers can call 510-238-3091 or contact Ana Martinez at AMartinez@oaklandnet.com or Lea Rubio at LRubio@oaklandnet.com.