Volunteer program helps keep city safe

UPSHUR COUNTY, W. Va. (WDTV) - Volunteers in police service, or VIPS are the unsung heros that make sure the city of Buckhannon is safe.

The program began four years ago.

Jewel Fisher has been a volunteer since the program's inception.

"I always like giving back to the community," said Fisher "And this is one way that i can do it, and i can be an influence to some other people,"

Fisher and the other members of VIPS go through special training in order to be prepared for any situation they might encounter.

"We do have training, we are certified in first aid and CPR, we are certified in CERT, which is the community emergency response team"

This six weeks of training through the Citizens Police Academy is taught in part by Steve Wykoff, one of the founding members of VIPS.

Wykoff says the goal of having this program is to allow officers to be available for other emergency situations.

"That allows the officers to concentrate on more pressing issues such as car accidents, or domestic issues, or something like that where they're needed," said Wykoff

One event VIPS helps out with is the annual Christmas parade.

They direct traffic in order to make sure parade performers and the crowds that watch them stay safe.

But the volunteer hours cover more than just parade safety.

"That's a lot of documentation, that's a lot of paperwork with the officers, again that's traffic and crowd management- events like this they don't have to pay over-time to bring additional officers in," said Wykoff

Because VIPS are unpaid volunteers, they've also been able to assist the police department financially.

"We've saved the department over 27,000 dollars in the amount on man hours with the volunteer hours we've put in this year,"

Over the past four years, the program has grown.

"We started out with 5 members, five founding members, three of which were here tonight including myself- and we are now up to 13 members,"

And with several more applications pending, Wykoff says he is close to reaching a personal goal.

"If all goes well by the end of the year we will outnumber the actual city officers, so that was one of my goals,"

And while their numbers are growing, the VIPS program has even bigger plans for the future, including a program for middle school and high school students.

Training is open to the public, so even if someone doesn't want to become a VIPS member, they can help make for a safer community.

"The more people we have trained like that the better off the community is," said Wykoff