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Lou Leto, RSVP member
Lou Leto, RSVP member

When you see the men and women in uniform walking down Avenida Del Mar, or at the little Police and Community Together House at the base of the pier, or walking around a vacationers’ home in your neighborhood with a radio squawking, or setting up a radar trailer, it might recall a scene in a popular movie, when Butch Cassidy asks the Sundance Kid: “Who are those guys?”

Those guys (and ladies) are members of the Retired Volunteer Senior Program, RSVP for short. The organization was founded almost 30 years ago. A dedicated and well-trained group of nearly three dozen residents of San Clemente commit to making our village a better place by assisting the San Clemente Police Services and the Orange County Sheriff Department through assigned duties.

Most of the time you can find them perusing large events wearing white shirts stitched with the city’s seal.

Each member, after going through a stringent qualification, interview and training process, is sworn to an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the state of California and to uphold the laws that help make San Clemente safe.

They come from all walks of life, bringing valuable experience earned in a lifetime that only age, maturity, patience and various professional disciplines can offer. Although none of them have law enforcement background, they bring expertise as engineers, business owners, global executives, an assistant district attorney and senior managers who want to give back to the San Clemente they love.

Most people don’t join RSVP because they want to be a cop. Many have served our country through military experience; the membership includes a highly decorated WWII flying Ace, some who served in Korea and others are from the Vietnam War era. They are parents, grandparents, some are great-grandparents, and most importantly they are your neighbors.

Those guys commit to serving on a regular basis.

The expectation is for them, after training, to take on three to four formally assigned, scheduled duties. That might include: beach patrol at the PACT House, assisting with information and directions at the base of the pier while keeping a watchful eye out to remind about smoking, alcohol, dogs off leash or rules about bike riding. Another duty performed could be to monitor homes for folks who advise they are on vacation. Radar trailers appear all over San Clemente at the request of concerned residents about speeders, and those are deployed by RSVP members.

A heartfelt program is You Are Not Alone. RSVP members visit with homebound seniors who have no family nearby. Visitors to the San Clemente Police Services substation might interact with an RSVP member at the front desk who is performing administrative tasks. Additionally, RSVP members are asked to volunteer for special events. Performing crowd and traffic control duties at Ocean Festival, Fiesta Days, the Classic Car Show, Friends of San Clemente Carnival, Puttin’ on the Glitz and school programs at Las Palmas, Concordia and San Clemente High School. With RSVP members performing these non-policing duties, it allows more time for Deputies to concentrate on the work of law enforcement their numerous calls demand.

And RSVP members regularly patrol public areas for disabled parking violators, expired vehicle registrations and issue citations to people who exceed the two- or three-hour parking rules downtown. While writing handicap parking violation citations are universally applauded by all bystanders, on occasion the short-term parking violators sometimes forget their manners when approaching an RSVP member writing that citation. The reminder to folks who threaten RSVP members that they carry the most powerful weapon in law enforcement—a radio to call a deputy for assistance—usually has a calming influence.

RSVP members constantly hear the pledge from Orange County Sheriff’s Department Lt. David Moodie, chief of San Clemente Police Services; Sgt. Werner Hartmann, administrative sergeant, and Johanne Thordahl, city of San Clemente RSVP coordinator, that their organizations support and appreciate the efforts of RSVP members. Now that that you know who “those guys” are, perhaps you might be tempted to do the same the next time that you see those guys on volunteer duty.

Lou Leto is a San Clemente resident who has pioneered American-made products into 45 countries. He applies the same expertise to help companies and mentor individuals. Lou devotes many volunteer hours to support organizations and events in San Clemente, and is a member of RSVP.

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