On April 20th, 2010, the Denton County Commissioners Court passed a resolution naming April 18th-24th as Volunteer Appreciation Week. Denton County relies on volunteers for a multitude of services. These services benefit taxpayers by saving the county thousands of dollars. Below is a listing of a few of the many departments that rely on volunteers.
• The Sherriff’s Office Operation Support Unit (OSU) volunteered 6,817 hours in 2009 – a minimal savings of $210,000 in personnel costs to the county. Beyond personnel savings, OSU Deputies helped to generate over $19,000 in warrant service fees. OSU Deputies made 622 field attempts to serve Denton County warrants. The significance of attempts is in demonstrating due diligence by the Sheriff’s Office in clearing Denton County warrants. Of these attempts, 368 warrants were cleared by arrest: 253 felony and 115 misdemeanor warrants where OSU Deputies signed the warrants; 17 felony and 5 misdemeanor warrants where OSU Deputies were essential to the arrest, but other deputies signed the warrants; and 19 felony and 17 misdemeanor warrants cleared where OSU Deputies’ direct effort induced the subject to surrender or effected the arrest by another agency through skip-tracing and apprehension requests. These Deputies have to meet the same licensing, certification, and training that any Texas Peace Officer does with the exception they are unpaid volunteers.
• CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers provide an essential service to our justice system and to the community. In cases that involve child abuse or neglect, CASA volunteers are often appointed to advocate for the best interests of the children involved. These volunteers go to the homes and visit with the children to get to know the young people. They selflessly attend the court hearings, the staff meetings, and many other time-consuming meetings to make sure that these children have a voice.
• Volunteers are involved with planning, implementing and evaluating Denton County AgriLife Extension educational outreach efforts. Volunteers are the grass-roots of extension programming and serve an invaluable service to the extension and the community. Last year 1,197 Denton County AgriLife volunteers contributed 28,081 hours of service and combined efforts to improve the quality of life for their fellow citizens. Based on the current value of time these hours translate into $568,640 of service to the community.
• AgriLife Extension has volunteer groups who extend the mission of the department to educate the public in horticulture and environmental stewardship. There are 81 Master Naturalist volunteers who in 2009 contributed over 16,000 hours of service reaching over 14,000 people (most of those were children). There are 146 Master Gardeners who contributed 10,275 hours of volunteer service and reached 9,000 people in 2009. The Denton County Master Gardeners educate the public on issues concerning landscapes and gardens, specifically working to reduce the amount pesticides and fertilizers entering our watershed and conserving the amount of water used in landscapes. Their projects include a teacher training in-service, a help desk, speakers’ bureau, Spring Garden Tour, Fall Infofest, the library lecture series and participation in informational booths at fairs and events.
• The Historical Park of Denton County volunteers performed a variety of duties that accounted for 2,130 hours.
• Judge Patty Larsen’s office utilized student interns from Creekview High School Law Academy. Approximately 100+ hours per semester. They work on various projects as time permits. Having them involved in the more interesting aspects of a JP’s office and at the same time giving them an idea of what is required to run an office.
• The Denton County Health Department as over 500 Medical Reserve Corps volunteers trained, credentialed, equipped and ready to respond to public health emergencies. Their services have helped us in the H1N1 response as well as hurricane response in other years.
• Denton County ARES, Amateur Radio Emergency Services, is a group of men and women who have been trained and licensed in Amateur Radio. They provide emergency communication for the county. Within this organization there is also a group that is known as storm spotters. They are the foot soldiers for the National Weather Service who provides the weather warnings for the Citizen’s of Denton County.
• Denton County VOAD – Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Members include Businesses, Faith Based Organizations, private individuals, Public Education, City and County authorities, and other non-profits who come together to aid the citizens of Denton County in a disaster. The mission of this group is to foster efficient, streamlined service delivery to people affected by disaster, while eliminating duplicate effort, through cooperation in the four phases of a disaster preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation.
• Denton County Community Emergency Response Team, better known as Denton County CERT. The CERT program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may affect their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills. Once trained these citizens may join the team and receive continuation training each month. DCCERT has been used to assist in searching for missing children and adults, shelter operations, public education on Emergency Preparedness, and is currently setting up a team for Rehab for firefighters in the unincorporated part of Denton County.
It is my desire that this article helps shed some light on just a few of the many volunteer organizations that add to our quality of life, make our county government more efficient, and reduce the expense of county services. These groups and individuals should be commended for their service.