By Suzanne Evans
Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol (RSVP) personnel in squad cars daily keep vigil over citizens’ safety in Carmel Valley. They perform such services as patrolling shopping centers, schools, checking on vacant houses, or monitoring isolated areas of parking lots of businesses, such as banks and gyms.
“Launched in 1992 in Rancho Bernardo, the RSVP program was the first in the country and has grown to a national level,” said officer Stephen Eisold, administrator of the Northwestern Division’s RSVP program, a branch of the San Diego Police Department. Officers also promote community awareness of the RSVP program.
YANA, the police department’s “You Are Not Alone” program, may be one of its least well-known areas of community support. A fleet of 23 volunteer RSVP citizens watches over seniors who live alone, and do not have relatives to help them.
“We have one 91-year-old woman in YANA,” Eisold said. “The purpose of this article is to let our community know that this program is alive. We know there are more homebound, elderly people in this community, they just don’t know about YANA.”
“We try to put out two cars a day, and we are always looking for volunteers,” Eisold said of the RSVP program, designed to provide additional service to strengthen the city’s police protection.
“We have a sheet of contact information for each senior who chooses to fill out a form (to receive YANA visits),” said RSVP officer Angelika Drake, a Del Mar Mesa resident. She and her husband, Preston, who contribute to the Del Mar Mesa community planning board, frequently go on patrols. “We are partners in high crime,” she teased, although they do not do surveillance together.
“Yana is a great program for people who have no children and live alone, yet don’t want to go to a [nursing] home,” Angelika Drake said. RSVP sends those residents a form to fill out, indicating how often they want to be visited. Shifts are scheduled for mornings or afternoons only, with volunteers driving in pairs to visit seniors.
“What seniors want most is to talk,” Drake said. “They need a contact, a sounding board, and they count the seconds until we arrive to visit them.”
Volunteers do not do handiwork, cook, or eat meals with seniors, but Angelika said one woman baked a cake for her and so she did taste it, to show her appreciation.
“Yana is my passion. I have compassion for people without chance or choice. There are no ‘whys,’ only ‘hows.’ How can they achieve success?” Drake stays as long as she is needed, and asks them questions to invite them to talk.
Drake called 911 when she found a woman she visited lying on the floor, unconscious. “The saddest thing is to see an information sheet suddenly missing on an elderly person. That means that they are ill or perhaps have passed away.”
Eisold said the police department is looking for more volunteers. Officers must be 50 years of age or older; interested in working with law enforcement officers; have effective oral and written communication skills; be reliable and trustworthy with confidential information; have good health; and possess a valid California Driver’s License. Time commitment: Three eight-hour shifts per month.