In what was primarily a light-hearted event, Clark County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Allais took a brief second to clear his throat.
He was speaking about the 17 volunteers with the Sheriff’s Auxiliary who helped with the memorial for slain Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin DeRosier on April 24. The volunteers spent eight hours at Port of Portland Terminal 2, which had extra parking for the memorial, directing people from their cars to a shuttle that brought them to and from the Chiles Center at the University of Portland.
“They were behind the scenes making this whole event happen,” Allais said.
A ceremony Thursday night at St. Joseph Catholic Church’s parish hall, 400 S. Andresen Road, honored hundreds of public safety volunteers in Clark County. The volunteers donated more than 20,000 hours last year, estimated near $500,000 in value, Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency spokesman Eric Frank said.
“That’s a pretty good number,” Frank said.
Local volunteers with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Community Emergency Response Team, Medical Reserve Corps, Vancouver police’s Neighbors on Watch and Volunteers in Public Service, the Vancouver Fire Department’s Fire Corps, and the sheriff’s office’s Search and Rescue team were also recognized. A few of the groups are part of Citizen Corps, a program that trains people across the U.S. to assist in disaster recovery.
“It’s going to take folks like you to help us come back (from a major disaster),” Frank said.
Representatives from various agencies offered remarks about each group.
“We’re often referred to as public servants, but I really do think you in this room are the real public servants,” Vancouver Fire Capt.-Paramedic Ryan Morrisey said of the CERT volunteers.
Scott Johnson, CRESA emergency management division manager, discussed the ability of amateur radio operators to make an impact while being overlooked.
“We could not be as effective as we are in our jobs without you,” Johnson said. “They’re very subtle, they’re hard to see and, sometimes, you have to look really hard to find them.”
Allais mentioned how the auxiliary program, created in 2011, now has more than 40 volunteers donating roughly 2,600 hours per year. Their duties range from washing dishes at events to tagging improperly parked cars, which saved hundreds from being towed last year.
“We’re getting a lot of compliance because of that,” Allais said.
Lianne Martinez, emergency preparedness coordinator at Clark County Public Health, drew applause when she mentioned that, barring any new cases, the measles outbreak that has affected 73 people will be declared officially over on Monday. Martinez also mentioned that the annual ceremony had grown in size leading up to its 12th rendition Thursday.
“It’s really great to see our volunteer groups growing and growing and growing every single year,” Martinez said.