By Doug Curlee | Editor at Large
YANA program keeps eyes on those who need human contact
Billy Martin lives alone in Del Cerro.
He’s pretty much confined to a wheelchair.
He’s almost totally alone in the world, with only a sister to visit him.
Billy is 92.
Think about that, and think about the fact that, were it not for the San Diego Police Department’s Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol, Martin would likely have no one to talk to.
But he does have someone, at least three times a week. On this day, RSVP members Julie Dahlin and Wayne Findlay checked in on Martin, just to visit, and to check on his welfare. Things like making sure the stove is off, checking to see if Martin’s medication is handy for him. In other words, just be there for him.
“You’ll have to excuse how my voice sounds” said Martin, who is a veteran of both WWII and Korea. “I’m just out of practice. I don’t get much chance to talk to anyone these days.”
After chatting for a while, Dahlin and Findlay had other stops to make. It was easy to see that Martin really would have liked to talk more, but there will be another visit in two days.
“We see so many people like Billy,” Dahlin said. “They just don’t get the human connection most people really want and need.”
Giving seniors much-needed human companionship is what the You Are Not Alone (YANA) program is all about.
But YANA is only one of a whole litany of tasks the RSVP members perform for the police department and the public.
Dr. Dennis Brown is the director of the RSVP program at the department’s Eastern Division, which covers the areas usually covered by this newspaper.
“Department-wide, we have about 400 members in the RSVP program, but we need a whole lot more.”
You’ve no doubt seen RSVP cars and teams. You’ll see them driving through parking lots at shopping centers, maybe writing tickets to people illegally parked in handicapped zones, maybe helping control traffic at accident scenes, and many other duties that help free up sworn police officers for the real demand on their time.
“These volunteers are not police officers,” Brown is quick to point out. “They are another set of eyes and ears for the department. They are in radio contact with the police dispatchers, but their duty is only to observe and report.”
Anyone 50 years of age, retired or semi-retired, with a valid California driver’s license and at least two to three days a month to volunteer their time is welcome to apply. You’d need to spend one week at the Police Academy, learning the ropes, and what you can and cannot do as a volunteer.
Dahlin and Findley get a tremendous sense of fulfillment, just doing things like the YANA visit with Martin.
“It’s worth it,” Dahlin said. “Every time.”