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By C. Jayden Smith

Following a pandemic-induced hiatus, the City of San Clemente held a luncheon last week to commemorate the return of its Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)—the long-standing initiative comprising a volunteer force of retirees who assist the town’s deputy sheriffs.

Mayor Gene James, who was present at the luncheon, told San Clemente Times in an interview that he is excited for the volunteers to come back.

“I see the RSVPs as the first line of defense for the city,” James said. “They are the eyes and ears of our Police Services division, and they’re the ones that bring a lot of things to the attention of Police Services.”

According to the city, there are 25 volunteers in the program, with 17 of them currently active, helping around the city when it comes to parking enforcement, special events, conducting vacation home checks and setting up radar speed displays.

In an email to the SC Times, the city’s Police Services—members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department assigned to San Clemente—outlined the benefits of the program.

“The RSVP program provides additional resources at no cost to the residents of San Clemente,” the department wrote. “In addition to allowing the retired volunteer force an opportunity to become more engaged in their own community, it acts as a force multiplier for Police Services, allowing deputies to stay focused on calls for service and proactive enforcement activity.”

City officials including Mayor Gene James and City Manager Erik Sund hold a luncheon on Thursday, May 19, to commemorate the return of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program—the longstanding initiative wherein a volunteer force of retirees assist the town’s deputy sheriffs. Photo: Courtesy of Gene James

The pandemic had a significant effect on the program, as RSVP members were a part of the demographic most vulnerable to COVID-19. Most also chose to avoid interactions with the public, according to Police Services.

“As the pandemic restrictions eased and people returned to work, many members of the program did not, and our staffing levels remain low compared to pre-pandemic numbers,” the department said. “We are seeing a gradual increase in the number of volunteers and hours donated, but are still actively working to increase our staffing.”

James also mentioned that the program is taking applications.

Promotion of the program and recruiting can occur through various forms, according to Police Services, such as interactions at planned events that RSVPs assist with, events such as National Night Out that feature booths of RSVP staffers and application information, and through word-of-mouth.

“We are currently hosting a ‘Citizen’s Academy,’ for those who live or work in San Clemente, to learn about Sheriff’s Department resources and the various department bureaus we have,” the department wrote. “During this academy, a presentation on the RSVP program is given to help inform those in attendance about the work that they do.”

The RSVP program has similarities to others across the Orange County, such as the Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS) in Dana Point, the Associated Senior Action Program (ASAP) in San Juan Capistrano, and the Senior Corps of Retirees in Mission Viejo.

The San Clemente Police Services, however, was not aware of how the pandemic affected programs or staffing levels in the other cities.

Regarding RSVP hours donated, only 925 were contributed in 2020, a stark contrast from previous years. According to the department, volunteers contributed 10,309 hours in 2017; 9,316 hours in 2018; and 7,680 hours in 2019.

Visit san-clemente.org to apply, or call the city’s RSVP Volunteer Administrator at 949.361.8353.

C. Jayden Smith

C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.

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