The importance of Cape Coral Police Department volunteers is not lost on anybody in the force.
That was shown Wednesday when the police honored those public servants with an appreciation luncheon at the Yacht Club.
There are roughly 150 volunteers to the force, according to Police Chief Jay Murphy, and they provide an important service to the men and women in blue.
The Cape Coral Police Department honored its volunteers this week. From left, Police Officer Lisa Barnes, Volunteer of the Year Pat Koelber, Police Officer Jennifer Matlock and Police Chief Jay Murphy. The Cape Coral Police Volunteer Unit is looking for volunteers to work at the Information Desks at the Police Station and at City Hall. If you are available for a few hours a week, stop by the Police Station at 1100 Cultural Park Blvd. and fill out an application or call 242-3346
The volunteers worked more than 46,000 hours at a multitude of tasks, including clerical work, information desk duties, vacation house checks and traffic control, among other things.
That equates to $706,257 worth of services if they were drawing a salary, and more than $2.2 million in the past three years.
"That's a huge chunk of change. This is our little offering of thanks and appreciation for another great year," Murphy said. "And it goes to people who ask nothing more than a pat on the back."
That means people like Roger Novak, who worked nearly 1,000 hours this past year, on patrol at parking lots of the area shopping centers.
"We assist in finding violators parking illegally in fire lanes or handicapped parking," Novak said. "We issue citations and take pictures of the violation if we need to go to court."
For Novak and many others, it's the camaraderie with the others that make it well worth it.
"I like meeting the general public and instructing them on the proper things they need to do to be in Cape Coral," Novak said. "It also gets me out of the house."
Not only did the volunteers "save the city $700,000 for a $2.99 lunch" as Murphy said, but they also heard from city officials including Mayor John Sullivan and City Manager John Szerlag.
"They do a great service for the people of Cape Coral. I really don't know what we'd do without them and they're really a big help, especially in hard economic times," Sullivan said.
Also in attendance were city council members - one of which, Rana Erbrick, is a police volunteer.
"Part of it is to have something to do and part is I was willing to man the desk at the police department," Erbrick said. "They do house checks, marine patrol. The value to the city is way beyond the dollars they save our department."
At the luncheon, Barbara Hartley was given the Captain Joseph Hartley Memorial award in remembrance of the volunteer captain who worked 23 years on the volunteer force.
Murphy, along with sergeants Jennifer Matlock and Lisa Barnes, also presented awards for five and 10 years of service, along with recognition of those who served the most hours on the squad which, to some, equates to a full-time job.
The volunteer of the year was presented to Pat Koelber, who has worked on a multitude of projects for the police force this year.
Among them are Live Saver, designed to track and locate individuals who wander and become lost, such as the elderly who are have Alzheimer's or dementia, or youths with autism or Down syndrome, and Seniors Against Crime, among other things.
"My husband was in law enforcement for 40 years, so, I feel I'm giving back what everybody gave to him," Koelber said. "If I can help seniors who have no guidance or where to go and what to do, I enjoy that. I enjoy helping people."