In an average week, Sharon Hice puts in anywhere from 30 to 40 hours patrolling the streets of Davis as part of the city’s parking enforcement detail.
For her time, her effort and her dedication, however, Hice receives exactly nothing monetarily in return.
That’s because Hice is a volunteer, one of more than two dozen who serve the city and its residents.
And there could be a lot more people joining her very soon.
Earlier this year, the city, which continues to grapple with a tight budget, reorganized and expanded its volunteer program to enhance and support the work of regular city employees, and subsequently, the services the city provides its residents.
The city founded the volunteer program in the 1960s.
In the past, among other jobs, volunteers have been able to help Davis police with traffic control for large, citywide events, and clean up graffiti and lend a hand to the Parks Department to help maintain parks and greenbelts.
The city also runs a cadet program for young adults ages 13 to 19 who help around town when the Police Department is strapped for manpower.
But with fewer staff members than in years past, the city hopes to build out the program even further.
“There’s always been a robust program, but we definitely offer a lot more of a variety of opportunities now,” said city Police Service Specialist Supervisor Michele Sharitz, who coordinates the program.
“(And) it helps the city where we’re lacking, offering support to current city staff.”
To improve volunteer services, the city moved the program to the Police Department, including Sharitz, who was reassigned from community services to the police services position, to get it all under one roof.
This has allowed the city to really focus on outreach and recruitment to strengthen and extend the service.
Now, residents with a wide range of backgrounds and professions can donate their time to any department within the city.
From assisting with the city’s webpage and social media efforts in the city manager’s office, to basic clerical work in any department, to even assisting City Council members, the city offers on its website a laundry list of opportunities for people to give back to their community.
In addition to helping the city out, volunteers like Hice — who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice — can use their experience to advance their careers.
Taylor Klisiewicz, a full-time paid parking enforcement officer, can attest to that first hand.
Klisiewicz started as a cadet in the city’s volunteer program, worked his way up as a volunteer and eventually earned a job in the Police Department.
And he knows full well the importance of city volunteers.
“It’s huge,” Klisiewicz said Tuesday. “At a lot of our major events, officers can’t always stand around. (The volunteers) help us out so we can focus more on the streets.”
But prospective police officers aren’t the only people looking to get involved.
Lisle George, a retired veterinary professor at UC Davis, was looking for a way to give back to the community when he put away his textbooks five years ago.
He found donating his time to the city was the best way to go.
“You don’t do jobs that everyone else wants to do, it’s more that you do jobs that are helpful,” George explained. “It’s a payback to the city.”
Sharitz also says there’s nothing wrong with keeping volunteer efforts ultra-local by adopting nearby neighborhoods and parks to keep clean.
But while the volunteers are able to supplement and enhance the work of regular city employees, Sharitz stressed that they aren’t taking anyone’s job on staff.
“Any work they’re able to complete, they bring in a ton of value to the city,” Sharitz added.
The city hopes to host a volunteer fair in January to continue to publicize the opportunities it offers residents.
Sharitz also hopes to reach out to Neighborhood Watch groups around town in addition to church, senior and school groups to recruit more volunteers.
In 2011, the city had 26 regular volunteers, including cadets, who together logged 2,000 of community service.
To access all city volunteer listings, residents can log on to the city’s website at http://police.cityofdavis.org/davis-police-department-volunteer-program and the postings can be found by clicking the “current volunteer opportunities” tab at the bottom of page.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash