MADERA COUNTY – A husband and wife team from Coarsegold were awarded top COP (Citizen On Patrol) of the Year on Saturday night in the Madera Ranchos before a standing room only crowd.
Volunteers with the Madera County Sheriff’s Citizens On Patrol held a banquet at the Senior Center, where Suzetta and John Pelowski received awards for COP of the Year, recognizing them for their tireless service to their unit, the Sheriff’s Office and citizens of Madera County.
Denny Litten of Oakhurst was also honored as the unit’s top Rookie COP of the Year. Though COPs are only required to patrol eight hours a month, Litten clocked 250 hours in his first year on patrol.
Every year, Citizen On Patrol Volunteers host a catered banquet for their unit as well as for those who continue to make major contributions to their volunteer organization.
For the 35 volunteers, their family, friends and invited guests, Saturday night’s awards dinner was bitter sweet. Sheriff John Anderson, who created this fully staffed volunteer unit, complete with a fleet of cars, uniforms and radios, has been their top cop for the past 14 years. For these volunteers, it will be hard to say good-bye when he retires next year.
When Sheriff Anderson first took office, there were just two volunteers driving through neighborhoods in their personal cars.
Anderson says he was not familiar with volunteer citizens who patrol, but liked the concept. So he made it his mission to learn about the program, and what he discovered was the potential for an invaluable public service performed by the citizens themselves.
By 2000, this band of two grew into nearly forty volunteers, regarded by the Sheriff as his most valuable second set of eyes and ears. The Sheriff’s COPs Unit has received numerous state and national honors for their work, ingenuity and dedication.
After 14 years of steadfast support, Saturday night was Sheriff Anderson’s last appreciation dinner.
But his work with the COP program is far from over. On Tuesday, Apr. 22, he is set to swear in six more volunteers at the Yosemite Lakes Clubhouse at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend.
Sheriff Anderson says everything these men and women do, they do voluntarily, and they perform with incredible enthusiasm and pride.
“Our COP volunteers are some of the proudest and most dedicated public servants I have ever worked with,” he said.
During his address to the crowd, Anderson harkened back to an old saying, “If you can’t be on time, be early.” He then shared a perfect example.
“Not too long ago, our COPs were expected to be in uniform and ready for an 11 a.m. assignment. They showed up at 9 a.m. That’s dedication.”
The basic tenant of volunteers who join the community service program is to provide deputies, as well as Madera County residents and business owners, with a much needed and highly effective second set of eyes and ears.
COPs play a vital role in traffic control, Search & Rescue missions and disaster assistance. While their role is to assist law enforcement, many have been trained to work the front lines as first responders. The job requires extensive training and certification, all of which is funded by the volunteers themselves.
Among the countless duties performed by volunteers with Citizens on Patrol is the conducting of house checks for homeowners away on vacation and welfare checks for the department’s Elder Orphans Program clients.
In addition to the Top COP and Top Rookie COP awards, a number of veteran volunteers, who remain as dedicated today as they were when they first signed on, were also recognized for the hours they put in to the program this past year:
Bronze – 100 – 249 hours clocked
Silver – 250 – 499 hours clocked
Gold – 500 + hours clocked
COP Beat Hours Clocked Award
Suzetta Pelowski – Coarsegold – 859 Gold
John Pelowski – Coarsegold – 723 Gold
Shane Morton – Coarsegold – 691 Gold
Bill Briggs – Oakhurst – 551 Gold
Joliene Mason – Valley – 550 Gold
Dave Myers – North Fork – 507 Gold
Greg Wheeler – Coarsegold – 503 Gold
Tom Landess – Coarsegold – 476 Silver
Jean Newman – Oakhurst – 453 Silver
Susan Myers – North Fork – 402 Silver
Henry Lara – W. Valley – 311 Silver
Mary Fesler – Coarsegold – 299 Silver
Larry Mullin – Valley – 260 Silver
Patricia Perry – W. Valley – 271 Bronze
Bart Nagel – Oakhurst- 260 Bronze
Denny Litton – Oakhurst – 250 Bronze
Randy Taylor – Oakhurst – 245 Bronze
Howard McFarland – Valley – 227 Bronze
Sandy Chaille – North Fork – 214 Bronze
Barbara Colliander – North Fork – 204 Bronze
Duayne Bowman – Coarsegold – 201 Bronze
Joseph Perry – W. Valley – 168 Bronze
Vonda Mullin – W. Valley – 130 Bronze
Richard Rhoan – Oakhurst – 114 Bronze
John McCann – Valley – 109 Bronze
A special lifetime achievement medal was awarded to George Johnson of Oakhurst for clocking more than 4,000 hours during his years of service.