Sheriff's volunteers help seniors in Douglas County

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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Nev. (KOLO) - Seniors in Douglas County are getting a little love from a group you might not expect.

Citizen Patrol volunteers from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office are spending their free time with seniors as part of a program called “Caring Neighbors”. They are visiting seniors monthly, calling them once a week and making sure they have an advocate in the community.

“It gives you a reason to get up in the morning,” 72-year-old Ledean Harbridge said. Harbridge lives by herself in Douglas County, her closest relative is hundreds of miles away.

Harbridge is the first senior this program has helped. Her Citizen Patrol buddy is named Claudia Lowe, and they have forged a strong relationship.
“She calls me and lets me know she’s there if I need anything, it’s, you know, it’s like having my best friend back,” Harbridge said.

Volunteers are also trained to spot signs of elder abuse and other crimes that can be committed against seniors.

“Maybe she has checks missing, maybe somebody is taking her prescriptions and she’s used them up and can’t remember, although Ledean would remember,” Lowe said.

It makes some seniors more comfortable to know that these volunteers are part of the sheriff's office.

“You’re not just having some unknown soul come into your house you know nothing about and um, the sheriff’s department, you know, they’ve been checked out and that they’re okay,” Harbridge said.

Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini said these Citizen Patrol volunteers also lessen the load for law enforcement.

“It makes our job easier, because we can do the job, do the things that are really high risk and things that we need to do,” Pierini said.

It all started because Sheriff’s deputies saw the need in the community, but did not have the resources to help.

“As a patrol officer, responding to call for service, I came across many seniors who were alone and isolated, didn’t have any, didn’t know their neighbors, didn’t have family close by,” DCSO Sergeant Bernadette Smith said. Smith started the program in January.

Harbridge thinks this program could change the way people look at law enforcement.

“They’re out there every day, putting their lives on the line, and they still take the time to think about the seniors. I think it’s, I think it says a lot about our sheriff’s department,” Harbridge said.

Aside from all of that, the real value for those involved is the friendship.
“It’s nice to know, when you get up my age, that people remember you,” Harbridge said.

“To my surprise, you get very attached to your client,” Lowe said, adding that she hopes there will be a program like this for her when she gets older.

This program is relatively new, starting in January 2017. If you want to get involved, call Douglas County Social Services at (775) 782-9825.