City Council, City Manager, and Director Human Resources: Regarding the item “Municipal Volunteer Program (M.V.P.)” on the CC agenda for October 8.
I support a review and discussion of the direction and status of the volunteer functions. Due to the nature and opportunities in some areas, there is a range of volunteer participation in the various departments. Here is my overview.
Our Volunteer Fire Department has a long history of being staffed mainly by volunteers. There has been some recent addition of paid staff to meet the requirements of mutual aid and the paramedic program. To further augment, that I am working with the Fire Department to establish the Sierra Madre Community Emergency Response Team (SMCERT), which is sponsored by the SMVFD. This is a group that augments the SMVFD for emergencies and other situations such as Fire Watch during Red Alerts. SMCERT also participates in various city functions to educate citizens about preparedness for emergencies. This will help the SMVFD by having people be more independent and less demanding of emergency services.
The library has a significant use of volunteers, both adult and very successful programs working with the schools to provide an opportunity for their students to perform useful services. There has been a constructive use of interns for specific functions and projects.
The SM Police Department uses volunteer reserve officers. I think a few more would be in place but the initial cost of qualifying and equipping them is a somewhat limiting element. Volunteers have been used for other supporting functions in traffic control and office functions. Sergeant Ortiz has been spearheading an aggressive effort to expand the use of non-sworn volunteers. The addition of a vehicle for volunteer use and the formation of the Volunteers on Patrol group expand the scope of activities that volunteers can perform, of which I am a member. Due to the newness of the formation of this group it is still in its formative stages. I have been working with Sergeant Enriquez to enhance the Neighborhood Watch program by expanding their scope and information provided to them.
Other departments successfully use volunteers and interns. However, there is a restriction as to how many and what functions can be performed due to limited office space availability. The public works department use volunteers for specific projects that an individual, Eagle Scout, or a school group may perform.
There are many functions and events that civic organizations do and also assist in; such as the Fourth of July, Huck Finn Day, Wisteria Festival, Mount Wilson Trail Race, and Halloween activities. There is a long list of civic groups that directly help the city; such as the Civic Club, Women’s Club, Friends of the Library, Kiwanis, Rotary, CERT, Emergency Radio support, VFW, and many others. Also we have the youth activities such as Little League and related groups. I am personally involved in several of these organizations.
There is participation by the citizens in the various City committees and commissions. These volunteer groups perform functions vital to the functioning of the City.
For my part, one of my first assignments was to produce a Volunteer Management Policies document that the JPIA was demanding. I met with people from the cities of Pasadena, Santa Monica, Monrovia, Arcadia, and South Pasadena. The other organizations I met with were Huntington Hospital and Arcadia Methodist Hospital to get a view as to how they utilize a cadre of volunteers for a wide range of activities with constraints of confidentiality of patient’s information. I also met with the volunteer coordinator at Blair High School to better understand the use and limitations of utilizing student volunteers. I also researched the internet. From this I wrote a Volunteer Management Policies document which was reviewed by staff and legal counsel. With some minor modifications the policy document was adopted by the City.
A brochure was needed for volunteer recruitment so I devised one to be used. An intern did the final editing. Job descriptions for existing and new volunteers were produced by staff and an intern. The editing of this was done by a professional I recruited. I initiated a newspaper article which recognized a different volunteer every week that ran for a year. I attended all the committee and commission meetings many times to better understand the roles and challenges of those groups and get a better view of the City functions and activities. I participate in the planning, preparation, and execution of the Volunteer Recognition Brunch. I interface with some volunteers and interact with the Human Resources Department for their potential placement and have helped volunteers find a match for their interests. More recently at the request of Pete Sibrell, Pat and I met with him to discuss projects that the Rotary Club could do to benefit the City. We shared our thoughts and gave him some ideas with potential.
Finally, the City has a viable volunteer program. It is evolving in a good fashion. There are improvements that staff has instituted, with more coming. A review of the volunteer program and the function of Secretary of Service and Volunteering can help assure the program is on track as well as foster an improving volunteer program. When I was appointed Secretary of Service and Volunteering there was no time of service established. This should be reviewed and there should be a set term established similar to the other commissions, committees, and elected positions.
However it takes time to establish a relationship with the various departments, civic organizations, and the public so this should be considered in the length of time to be served. The appointment process, function, and job description of the Secretary of Service and Volunteering should be reviewed. I think this should have a large ombudsman role. I have some other thoughts on this I am willing to share.
Altogether, I think the City should be proud of its volunteerism and participation of its citizens. I firmly believe that Sierra Madre is unique in its per capita citizen participation. This, despite the challenges of recent years of more families having two spouses working and the strain the economy has placed on many people.
Volunteers are vital and necessary to the function of Sierra Madre and add cohesiveness and a sense of ownership to its residents. Their participation should be fostered in as many ways as the City can accommodate.
Secretary of Service and Volunteering