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Sheriff's Office Honors 247 Volunteers At Annual Banquet

Date Added: April 21, 2011 1:00 pm

Gary Davidson
Public Information Officer

One of Volusia County’s early 20th century Sheriffs, Lee Morris was elected in 1915, served for eight years and was laid to rest upon his death in 1942 at the Oakdale Cemetery in DeLand. Recently, Morris’ headstone was discovered to be desecrated by being shoved off of its base. After learning of the damage, the Sheriff’s Office is working with a local business to get the headstone repaired. The apparent act of vandalism might have gone unnoticed, if not for the dedication and vigilance of the Sheriff’s Office’s volunteer historian, Charles DeFrance.

On Wednesday, DeFrance was one of nearly 250 residents who were honored by the Sheriff’s Office for their volunteer service. Citizen volunteers help out the Sheriff’s Office in a variety of areas, including civilian patrols, court services, training, evidence, records and civil. They perform security checks at radio and cell towers, fingerprint children (more than 31,000) for parent records, monitor vacant homes, work in area courthouses, enter and maintain computer data and scan records. Volunteer chaplains, meanwhile, handled 77 calls last year, helping deputies with the emotional task of making death notifications and comforting victims’ families. Still others volunteer as receptionists, clerks and mail couriers. All combined, Sheriff’s Office volunteers donated 62,640 hours of labor in the past year, worth an estimated $1.2 million in free service to the community. While appreciated at all times, the volunteer labor is particularly helpful during difficult fiscal times when budgets, tax dollars and personnel are stretched thin, Sheriff Ben Johnson told a large gathering during the agency’s 15th Annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet in Daytona Beach Shores. In fact, the Sheriff said the program was initially met with some skepticism when first launched more than 20 years ago. Two decades later, he said, the volunteer program is not only accepted, but is absolutely indispensable.

“In these bad budget times, it’s tough. And it gets tougher all the time,” said Sheriff Johnson. “You’re always there, and we couldn’t do it without you.”

Nearly 300 people, including volunteers, Sheriff’s Office staff and County Council members, attended the gala. As part of Wednesday’s banquet, dozens of volunteers were singled out for awards, mostly based on their number of years or hours of service. Among those honored Wednesday was the Sheriff’s Office’s top volunteer for 2010, Laverne Curry. Curry, who volunteers as an analyst with the agency’s Intelligence Unit, was credited with creating a regular report that aids in the identification and investigation of organized retail theft rings. Curry also was recognized for her 401 hours of volunteer labor. DeFrance, meanwhile, was honored for reaching the five-year milestone in his volunteer service. Two other volunteers, Wallace Breland and Dwight Wendt, were recognized as recipients of the President’s Call to Service Award. The award is designed to honor Americans who, through 4,000 or more hours of volunteerism, set an example that inspires others to volunteer service. A total of 50 Sheriff’s Office volunteers have been recipients of the award. “Each and every one of you gives so much,” Sheriff Johnson told the volunteers. “I want to thank you for the great job that you do and for what you do for the citizens of Volusia County.”

The evening also included a special remembrance for 11 former Sheriff’s Office volunteers who passed away since last year’s banquet. “We don’t ever want to forget these people,” said Sheriff Johnson. “These are our friends. These are the people who stood up with us when we needed them.”

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