For the past few weeks, Douglas County Comptroller Claudette Springmeyer used vacation and rearranged her schedule during the busy budget season so she could help in the search for slain Reno woman Brianna Denison.
Springmeyer, related to the 19-year-old's family through marriage, became an unofficial spokeswoman for the army of volunteers who "set their lives aside" to join the search that ended Feb. 15 with the discovery of Denison's body in a south Reno field.
"In our small town (Minden), we're used to the community coming together," Springmeyer said. "But to see this whole Reno area pull together like this has been awesome."
Springmeyer was in Las Vegas when Denison was reported missing on Jan. 20 from a residence near the University of Nevada, Reno, where she spent the night with friends.
"I got a call from my brother-in-law and I said, 'Just tell me when you guys need anything.'"
Springmeyer said when the call came for volunteers she headed to Reno with cold-weather gear, prepared to join dozens of others who were combing the area searching for Denison.
But her skills as a detail-oriented manager kept her indoors.
"At first, they put me on the phones," Springmeyer said. "Then I started doing some of the paperwork. I was prepared to go in the field, but I just ended up in the volunteer center shuffling paper, and I was happy to do that."
Two nonprofit groups - the KlaasKids Foundation and the Laura Recovery Center, both formed in the wake of high profile abductions and murders - came to Reno and helped set up the center.
Volunteers had to be registered, briefed and debriefed, and sent out with maps.
"People came in just off the street who set their lives aside for this. We had one firefighter who would work a 24-hour shift, come in and work at our center, then go back to work for another 24-hour shift," she said.
Many of the volunteers were at the center when news came Friday that a body had been discovered in a field in south Reno.
"It was pretty tough," Springmeyer said. "Everybody was apprehensive. The volunteers just started streaming in. They've become a family there. They wanted to hang out and talk."
Saturday, Springmeyer said 50 to 75 volunteers came to the center and crowded around a 12-inch television for the news conference that announced the body was Denison.
"They called us before the press conference and let us know, but you can imagine this was very sad," she said. "When the press conference was over, we had a meeting with everybody there. We had a chaplain from the fire department in case anybody wanted to talk. There were a lot of tears. They just adopted her (Denison)."
On Monday, volunteers tied blue ribbons and made up new signs seeking help in finding the serial rapist who killed Denison.
Springmeyer assisted with the reorganization and returned to work Tuesday in Douglas County.
"We've got budgets," she said.
If her county schedule permits, Springmeyer may try to work a couple afternoons a week at the center.
"I took vacation to do this. On the days I could, I rearranged my schedule and worked from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m., then worked the second shift at the volunteer center. I want the taxpayers to know they weren't paying for me to be there," she said.
Springmeyer said she was humbled by the experience.
"It was everybody there who made it happen, all those amazing volunteers. I just got to be the point person," she said. "How many times do you hear awful news like this, and think you will never, ever deal with it yourself?
"They say out of everything bad, something good happens. That foundation is started now, and I don't know what life it will take, but I think of those wonderful relationships and friends we made during the past few weeks. You get involved because you want to help. I think most of us are that way. But I think it does you more good."
HOW TO HELP
Anyone with information about the abduction, rape and murder of Brianna Denison can reach the Reno police hotline at (775) 745-3521, detectives at (775 334-2115 or Secret Witness at (775) 322-4900. Secret Witness is offering a $2,500 reward for anonymous tips that lead to an arrest and prosecution.
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