I am quickly learning that everyone with IRC Sheriff's Office is passionate about what they do. Good thing for us too! Imagine what our society would be like without these people who feel and follow a calling to serve and protect us. Not somewhere I would want to be!
I am also learning that plenty goes on each week behind the scenes while we merrily go about our daily lives. Sgt. Eric Flowers told us that in just the past week, there was a tragic fire that killed two people, and a homicide currently under investigation by IRCSO. Did you know that?
Day 3 of Citizens' Academy started off on the bright side with a beautiful arrangement of food (including crust-less peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! YUM!) prepared by Deputy Roberta Barker. "We have to keep the people happy," exclaims Deputy Barker. Here she is with one of the trays:
First up was Shirley Rosemond of the IRCSO Victims Advocates office. "We are here to support the physical, emotional and financial needs of victims," she said. "We are always working for a positive outcome. We are right there on the side of law enforcement to support victims. In this job, we get so much more than we give. You have to have a heart for people to genuinely help them."
I believe her. Having been a recipient of their emotional support on two occasions in my own life, I can attest to the sincere care that the IRCSO Victims Advocates so freely give. In their office, there are three advocates and seven volunteers. They give support to IRCSO's cases as well as other area police departments.
"We have to help each other. I am helping you today and tomorrow I may need help," she said. "Not everyone has the skills and fortitude to get through life. We reach out to those who need us. In general, if we all did a little bit to help one person, that would turn into a big impact. We would have less stragglers."
We learned about the Victim Compensation Fund, made up of money collected through court-ordered restitution. If you are over 60 years of age and a victim of crime, you can be compensated for some of your losses. There is a WE CARE program where a volunteer will call each day of the week to check on and evaluate an elderly person. There are programs called NO LOVES LOST for the elderly and ONE CALL CLOSER for victims of domestic abuse - where donated cell phones are given to them to use in case of needing to call 9-1-1. Charged phones will call 9-1-1 without cell service! I did not know that! In addition, Shirley's office works with PROJECT LIFESAVER - which we learned about last week in Day 2 of Citizens' Academy. Shirley's office also has a new Domestic Violence specialist. "With victims of domestic violence, we never know when an incident might be the last time, ending in death. We try to give the victims the tools they need to gain control and change their lives."
Shirley closed by sending around a giant photo album of deceased victims of crime in our county. "We keep their memories alive through this album and services we hold throughout the year."
Next up was Debi Girard of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch. Debi was brought to tears several times as she spoke of the children who have been helped through the FSYR. (I told you these good people were passionate about their work!). "These kids are so resilient," said Debi.
Founded 57 years ago, FSYR gives at-risk kids a home and hope for a future. Children are not ordered to live there. In fact, the child, parents, guardians, the Sheriff and FSYR all meet and evaluate the situation, and all must say YES. Children live in a cottage with up to 10 other children and one set of cottage parents. They learn how to 'play appropriately' through swimming, fishing, horseback riding and so on. They are taught how to be successful in school. They learn career-training, how to manage a paycheck, and the importance of writing thank-you notes.
We watched a fascinating video about the FSYR history. Many now-grown, successful adults served by the Ranch spoke to how it changed their lives. Some of the testimonies included: "I believed in it then, and I believe in it now," and "The Ranch backed me to be part of the world. I learned that success is a journey not a destination," and "I simply would not be where I am today if not for the Ranch and my cottage parents," and "I learned responsibility, self-reliance, teamwork, and how to work to achieve a goal."
To learn more, visit: https://www.youthranches.org/
Last up was Deputy Doug MacKenzie, and the comedy show I had become accustomed to in the first two classes returned! Locals may recognize Deputy MacKenzie as the tall motorcycle cop who comes out of no where when you least expect him! "I have my secret hunting spots I won't reveal," he teased.
Deputy MacKenzie was born and raised in Vero Beach and grew up riding dirt bikes in the rural areas of the county. "In 1967, my dad became the first motorcycle cop on patrol."
He showed us the technology he uses to track speeders, and he emphasized the increase in accidents caused by 'electronic communication devices.' In other words, GET OFF YOUR PHONES PEOPLE WHEN DRIVING! "Pay attention to what is going on around you," he said.
Day 3 ended with a comical display of drunk driving tests. Deputy MacKenzie had three volunteers come up and he gave them special goggles designed to re-create the sense of being drunk. Then he made them touch their noses and walk the line!
That wraps up Day 3 of Citizens' Academy! See you next week.
I am an official, fully vetted volunteer with the Indian River County Sheriff's Office (Citizen's Academy, background checks, fingerprinted, etc.). Since my expertise is photo-journalism, producing these stories is one way I give back to my community.
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