Friday, June 9, 2023

Tireless volunteer keeps tabs on trouble

Doug Graves always knows what’s going on around town. (Photo by Helen’s Photography)
Doug Graves always knows what’s going on around town. (Photo by Helen’s Photography)

Doug Graves, recipient of Flower Mound’s first Outstanding Citizenship Award last December, arrived in town in 1993, via a corporate transfer. His first– and only employer, until his retirement– was GTE, which went on to become Verizon.

Graves is a second-generation career employee of the telecommunications giant. Originally from Georgetown, Ky., the company moved his dad and the family a number of times over the years.

After leaving the parental nest to fly solo, Graves moved around the U.S. for the corporation doing tech support for its telephone switching equipment.  A phone switch is the back-room computer that, among other things, receives and routes incoming and outgoing calls and controls nifty phone tricks like that button that puts callers on “hold.”

Like parents; like children. Graves credits his dad and mom with setting the family standard for community volunteerism.

“I waded into that world on my own in 1971, when I helped out the Los Angeles Police Department after the Sylmar earthquake,” he said.

That was 45-years ago and plenty of proverbial water has gone “under the bridge of his life,” since that time.

“The severe damage to the community forced a lot of people to evacuate, and though my house was harmed, I was able to stay put, so I pitched in to help community responders,” he said. “I have always considered my donated service nothing more than giving back to my community.”

On that note, after many a full day at work, Graves served as a volunteer fireman in Kentucky and put in hours at a North Carolina donation center, after Hurricane Andrew ravaged the southeastern U.S.

He also worked for the Red Cross assessing disaster victims’ immediate needs.  As a surprise benefit, he met the lovely Pat Graves, his wife of nearly four decades, during a Red Cross project in Lexington, Ky., where she was a volunteer, too.

Does he have other interests?  You bet.  Besides being a ham radio operator and Special Olympics helper, for the past 20-years he’s been a National Weather Service (NWS) storm spotter, which is different from a storm chaser, in Denton County.

“I’m a ‘situation-aware’ individual,” he said, meaning he has a “weather eye” open most of the time. “I observe, and then report local storm movements to the NWS.  ‘Chasers’ are people who jump in a vehicle, then drive head-first into the turbulence.”

That’s more adrenaline buzz than Graves needs in life.

In 2002, as president of the Sherwood Estates II Homeowners’ Association, he became involved with the Flower Mound Police Department, as part of Mayor Lori DeLuca’s Resident Advisory Board.  He signed on with the town’s first Citizen Police Academy (CPA) and is today one of the 80-alumni serving in the very successful program.

The CPA Alumni Association supports the Police Department as additional eyes and ears at community events, such as July 4th festivities, high school football games and the annual Christmas parade.

“Our mantra is to observe and report needs we see,” he said.

To that end, the volunteers travel in special bright red, city-owned high-visibility cars that are parked in special spaces in front of the Police Department lobby on Kirkpatrick Road, when not on-duty.

As if that’s not enough, Graves is a Sergeant in Flower Mound’s Citizen Public Safety Patrol; which, to date, has donated around 10,000 hours of public service to crime prevention activities, among other projects.

Although he’s never been a policeman, he works with McGruff the Crime Dog, from time to time.

“If I could do a police job, it would be in the area of crime prevention and education,” he said.

Has he been a crime victim?

Someone once broke into his car and stole property and a drunk-driver hit him head-on.

“Fortunately, I was in a big vehicle and didn’t get hurt,” he said.

Community businesses, the CPA Alumni Association and the Police Department join forces for a yearly Christmas effort called Santa Cops.

For the past nine years, Graves has chaired that project.

In 2015, Santa’s CPA Alumni donated around 8,500 service hours doing fundraising, toy collections, purchasing and gift-wrapping for the Jolly Elf.  Before the big delivery day last month, Graves personally lent 780-hours of his time in service to the job.

“We call the CPA volunteers elves and the officers who distribute the gifts Santas,” he said, adding that the Santa Cops program accomplishes three important objectives.

“First, the Police Department collects donations in the form of money, new non-violent toys and gift cards for children, who might otherwise have no presents under the tree on Christmas morning,” said Graves. “Second, the department and town create an opportunity for individuals and groups who wish to share their resources locally. And third, Santa Cops provides officers an opportunity for positive interaction with Flower Mound families, who might otherwise only meet them in negative situations.”

It’s a win-win idea.

This past holiday, Flower Mound Santa Cops provided 3-4 wrapped gifts each, for 311 school children within 113 local families.

“We received 1,500 toys this year, and gave away about 40 bikes and safety helmets,” said Graves.  “If we have excess funds or toys, we save them or give them away during the coming year as needed. Our busy months are November and December, but we’re open for business year round.”

The Santa Cops project, with the help of Flower Mound businesses, raised $1,000 in cash in each of the last eight years.

So, beside the satisfactions of giving and jobs well done, what prize might a city’s Citizen of the Year receive?

Well, there’s the permanent wall plaque in Town Hall; a personal trophy; an engraved memorial brick at the entrance of the public library; a spotlight on the city website; a one-year membership at the Community Activity Center; and a VIP pass to the Independence Fest.

That’s a well-deserved armload of honors about the size of a beauty queen’s long stemmed rose bouquet.

Graves thought for a minute about what piece of advice would help make the world a better place.

“Treat others like you would like to be treated,” he said.

About Santa Cops:

 In-person donations may be dropped of at the police department or the Town Hall.  Donation instructions are online at [email protected].

To arrange larger donations, contact the Department’s Crime Prevention Officer, Justin Buck at 972-874-3357, or email him at: [email protected].

Contact any police officer to make a family referral, or email: [email protected] or FAX a referral to 972-874-3316.

Contact Noelle Hood at [email protected]

Noelle Hood
Noelle Hood
Noelle is our Resident Green Thumb and a Texas Agri-Life Master Gardener.

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