Senior law enforcement grads honored

Seniors sat at round tables decorated with red tablecloths and balloons, filling the Carson Valley United Methodist Church hall for dinner and an inspirational talk Wednesday.

Each year the Douglas County Nevada TRIAD board offers a Seniors' Law Enforcement Academy to Carson Valley seniors and then holds a senior enhancement dinner in honor of the graduates. This year there were 20 grads, plus many more from previous years.

"This is our seventh year," said TRIAD president Samantha Heers. "We call it our educational night. We send an invitation to all the law enforcement academy graduates. We really believe in making them feel good."

After Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini and Heers spoke, Leo Kruger, pastor of Valley Christian Fellowship, took his turn at the podium - the topic "The Value of Senior Citizens."

"A lot of you know some friends who think they're a burden," he said to the quiet crowd. "This is not good because you need to understand that it's healthy to take care of people. It's healthy to take care of people who take care of us. Care coming in equals care going out."

Kruger talked about "three things to remember": "You're valuable, you're resourceful and you're essential ... and don't let anybody ever tell you anything less."

As far as resources, he reminded the seniors that percentage-wise, they have more resources than anyone - plus experience and time - and can make a difference.

"A lot of time seniors say when something's wrong, 'What can I do about it?' Well, you can do a lot about it," he said.

Kruger collected phone numbers from seniors who are willing to be interviewed by Douglas High School journalism students, and plans to compile their stories into a book.

Pierini said the number of seniors attending the free academy has dropped from previous years, and they have to get at least 30 signed up next year to make it worthwhile.

At the academy, seniors learn about every facet of public safety, from the sheriff's office, to the fire department, paramedics and investigations. Plus, they are given tips on how to avoid fraud and how to be safe every day, especially over the holidays.

"It gives them a sense of what public safety help there is available," said Pierini. "If they need us, they can put a name to a face."

Pierini said that most of the graduates go on to become volunteers for the sheriff's office, which has more than 300.

"I tell them, 'You're our ambassadors,'" said Pierini. "(The program's) been extremely successful. We've seen a lot of the same faces over the seven years. They still want to see some of their graduate friends."

John Wilson, 60, one of this year's graduates, attended the 12 weeks of courses 1-5 p.m. one day a week, from March through May, and said he wants to go again in a couple of years.

"It's very valuable," he said. "You feel like you're part of the county and you can help. There are so many things I didn't know prior to that and I've lived here for 20 years."

He said each week they attended a different class - on the canine unit, weapons, the jail - each taught by a different instructor.

"It was incredibly interesting," he said. "Now we have the opportunity to volunteer for the citizen's patrol, help with search and rescue or work inside the sheriff's office."

To sign up for the next academy, call 782-9900.


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