(St. George, UT) - Known as a place where a lot of people go to retire, the City of St. George has found a way to engage its older population and put them to work.
The program is called the VIPS, which stands for Volunteers in Public Service. Basically, they go out in teams of two doing the kind of busy police work that frees up the real officers to do real police work.
On the day we met them, Joe Sharp and his partner John Bremseth knew it was going to be a busy day. They had a stack of papers, court subpoenas, to hand out. But they didn't mind one bit.
"What our job is, Alex, is to do the busy work, the paperwork, so the real officers can go out and catch the bad guys," Bremseth explained.
Sharp and Bremseth are both VIPS. In addition to serving subpoenas, VIPS patrol trails and roads looking for anything out of the ordinary, and even help direct traffic during car crashes.
"I wanted to learn the city, meet people and be somewhat helpful," said Sharp, explaining why he joined the group.
When he found the group after retiring from NASA, he couldn't wait to get involved.
"I think other cities are missing out on an opportunity to tap into resources," Sharp said. "We old geezers, we've been around a little bit."
They also write handicapped parking tickets, making sure those spaces are reserved for this who really need them.
Last year, the group of 47 VIPS worked 9,312 volunteer hours; writing 878 warnings, handing out 568 subpoenas, and ticketing 443 handicapped parking violators. In all, they provided about $182,980 in value of services.
They "help to give St. George the quality of life we want our citizens to have," said St. George Police Sgt. Scott Lemmon.
"Being put out to pasture is no fun," said John Hull, another member of the VIPS. "And so if you have something to do that is meaningful and contributes to the community, it's fun to do."
And fun is what these guys and gals are having.
"We get a lot of satisfaction from helping people," Bremseth said.
Each member of the VIPS is expected to work four hours a week, 16 hours a month.
When this program first started roughly eight years ago, police officers were a little worried about what it meant. Now, they call for them to help all the time.