Victim impact panel seeking volunteers | RecordCourier.com

Victim impact panel seeking volunteers

by Amy Alonzo
aalonzo@recordcourier.com

It's been 35 years since a drunk driver struck Linda Finch, but she still relives the moment on a regular basis — but this time, with the hope she will help someone think twice before driving impaired.

The Sunridge resident coordinates Douglas County's Victim Impact Panel, a volunteer group that shares personal testimonies with those convicted of driving in Douglas County while under the influence.

"The whole concept of Victim Impact Panels is to try to educate people about taking responsibility for their behavior," Finch said. "Our goal is to convince them through our stories that they don't want to be impaired and drive."

Six times per year, panels are offered at either Douglas County or Tahoe justice courts. During the panels, two people who have been victims of impaired drivers, one first responder and one former offender speak.

"It's not fun," Finch said.

"But it's rewarding," said Sue H., a recovering alcoholic and public information officer for Alcoholics Anonymous, who volunteers for Douglas County's panel.

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Sue, who has 23 years of sobriety under her belt, said she caused several accidents while driving drunk.

"I never thought past myself of just drinking," she said. "Thank God I never killed anybody. After I got sober I realized all the other people I was impacting."

She said after getting sober she realized the impact the actions had not only on her loved ones, but also on first responders, attorneys and the court system.

"All of these things I never saw as a drunk driver," she said.

Currently, Finch, Sue, Topaz Volunteer Fire Chief Dave Thomas and another victim, Ramona Madore, who lost her son to a drunk driver, offer testimonies during the panels. However, Finch and Thomas plan to retire at the end of the year and new volunteers are needed for the program.

Finch is hoping at least one first responder and one person who has been impacted by an impaired driver will step in to fill their places, but she recognizes that "it's hard to ask somebody to bare their soul in public."

For anyone interested in more information about the Douglas County Victim Impact Panel, contact Finch at 782-5484 or stop by Shelby's Book Shoppe at 16663 Lucerne St.