More than 2,000 Lodi residents spent some of their precious free time in 2011 picking up trash at Lodi Lake, teaching adults how to read, finding homes for animals, responding to police calls or coaching kids in sports.
City officials honored these volunteers and highlighted how much money they save the city at a council meeting earlier this month.
Volunteers put in 97,894 hours, saving the city at least $1.43 million, which is big bucks, Mayor JoAnne Mounce said — especially with the city's tight budget.
"If we didn't have our volunteers, it would be a greater cost to the citizens, and in these economically challenging times, it would limit the services we could provide," Mounce said. "Volunteering is the single most important thing a citizen can do for their community."
And it's not just the city that benefits. Sgt. Mike Oden runs the cadet program for ages 16 to 24, and said the students who participate get experience and training, which they can carry into school or a career.
"We are basically training our replacements. ... We are getting a chance to contact these kids at a young age and expose them to law enforcement and see if they like it," he said.
City spokesman Jeff Hood said volunteers provide services that the city cannot afford to provide.
"The love for their community comes through with the work that they perform. It's a service that we wouldn't want to be without. It's part of what makes Lodi the community it is," he said.
Don Roe, Lodi Police Partner
Background: Retired from Del Monte as the production manager for fruits in California and has lived in Lodi for 41 years.
Volunteer job: Roe started as a Police Partner in the fourth class in 1994.
Why did you join the Partners?
"I retired from my regular job and was just looking for something else to do. I wasn't really tied to police work, and I wasn't trying to be a wannabe. I started working for Del Monte in 1973, and I was on the road a lot, so I just felt it was time to give back. It was an opportunity to return something."
Why do you like volunteering with the Partners?
"I've enjoyed every bit of it. There's a camaraderie here. Some of our best friends in the community we have met through the Partners. We have become a close-knit group. That's the benefit for me."
What is your favorite job?
"I like being on patrol, it doesn't matter what patrol I'm on. I like making contact with the citizens, whether we are out directing traffic or towing abandoned vehicles, or checking on disabled parking vehicles. It's all interesting."
Matt Lou, Police Reserve Officer
Background: Works as an auditor with the State of California's gun patrol commission.
Volunteer job: Lou started as a cadet in the 1980s and then joined the reserve program 21 years ago. He has 400 hours of training at Delta College.
Why did you join the reserve program?
"I didn't want to make it my full-time profession, but I did want to stay involved with law enforcement. Being a reserve officer is like a hobby. Some people golf or go fishing, and so this is my hobby."
How do you help the department?
"On busy nights, calls just start stacking up. I want to take away any burden I can from the officers, because it's beneficial for the officers and the community."
Why do you like volunteering?
"I like never knowing what's going to happen next. You can be talking to an old lady about her hose being stolen and then rush to a shooting call. The kind of adrenaline that comes from that is rewarding for some people like me."
Why do you stay involved?
"The reason I continue volunteering for the Lodi Police Department is the environment they have for volunteers. You get the feeling that you are very appreciated in the department all the way from the chief to the patrol officers."
Mike Lang, Lodi Public Library
Background: Retired from Pacific Gas and Electric. Has lived in Lodi for 27 years.
Volunteer job: Lang has worked at the library for a couple of years as a literacy tutor and in the computer learning center, helping people apply for jobs online and fine-tune their resumes. He is now teaching a class on basic skills for people who have no experience on computers.
Why is the computer learning center important?
"There's a tremendous need. Everybody is being asked to do more with less. There are so many people out of jobs and looking for work and struggling, but they don't know the avenues to go through to present themselves."
Why did you start volunteering?
"I retired, and I had time on my hands. I didn't want to just sit around, and I thought the community has been so good to myself and my family. I am thankful for all the services that they have provided, so I thought maybe I can give back to the community to help people get ahead. There are a lot of caring individuals, but there are a lot of struggling individuals. It is my hope that my services provide a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of help to make their lives easier."
What do you get out of volunteering?
"You meet the neatest people you can ever imagine. In spite of how difficult their lives are, they are so optimistic and so excited and they work so hard to get back into the work force to be able to contribute again."
Dan Bristow, Lodi Police Cadet
Background: Graduating in May with a master's degree in education, administration and leadership from the University of the Pacific.
Volunteer job: Bristow joined the cadet program in 2005 at the age of 17. He now is the senior cadet and runs the program full-time. He spends anywhere from 40 to 100 hours a month on cadet duties, including organizing the annual K-9 trials to raise money for the self-funded program.
What have you learned?
"I've always known I wanted to go into law enforcement. The cadets have let me see an insider perspective before I decided to make this my career path. Watching 'COPS' on TV is not enough information to know if this is a suitable career path, but it has given me an opportunity to see what it is like in a day-to-day life of a cop."
How has the program helped you?
"I've developed my leadership skills and communications skills. I've learned how to interact with people. It gives you the opportunity to come out of your shell. Before I joined the program, I was kind of a shy kid, but it provides you a lot of mentorship and provide you the tools that you need to grow.
"Also, with my job search, I can list consistent technical employment with the police department. It's a good way to get your foot in the door, and have some practical experience."
Bill Cummins, Police Chaplain Program
Background: Moved to Lodi 25 years ago and then started Bear Creek Community Church with his wife, Dotti.
Volunteer job: Cummins has spent the last several years going to police scenes and speaking with people after tragic situations, like shootings or car accidents.
Why do people request chaplains?
"Sometimes they need someone just to pray with them, or console them and talk with them. Sometimes they need some counsel. Sometimes they may need some information on resources that may be able to assist them in what they are dealing with."
How did you get involved?
"I knew about it for a number of years. I really enjoy volunteering. I volunteer with the city as a Planning Commissioner. I thought that I could offer some help, knowing there was need. I also wanted to set an example to encourage people to volunteer. I have to practice what I preach, and I couldn't encourage people to volunteer if I didn't volunteer myself. I also wanted to help serve the police personnel who attend our church."
What do you get out of it?
"Mostly just the satisfaction of being able to help people and assist the police department. It's sense of accomplishment to know that I'm involved with the city doing something positive and constructive, and offering a skill that maybe someone else maybe doesn't have."
Natalie Mall, Storm Drain Detective
Background: Senior at Tokay High School with plans to attend University of California, Davis for civil engineering or environmental engineering.
Volunteer job: Mall is a member of Storm Drain Detectives, and measures water in Lodi Lake and the Mokelumne River once a month. The group measures for temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and other factors that determine the quality of the water. At the end of the year, they present a report on the state of Lodi's water.
Why did you want to get involved?
"I got involved with my environmental class. I stuck with it because I like helping out in the community. You get to meet all these people around Lodi who are scientists or officials who manage governmental regulations on water. I went to a council meeting and learned about the rules Lodi has to comply with. It opened my eyes to a new field."
What's the benefit for you?
"It makes me feel good. It shows that high-schoolers and teenagers can make a difference. We show adults that we do get involved and we do care about the environment and our community."