While working with the Humboldt County Drug Task Force in 1995 to clean up more than a dozen drug houses in his neighborhood, Terry Long was told about the new Eureka Volunteer Patrol program the police department was starting.
He immediately applied, and has been involved since day one.
"I wouldn't mind going into law enforcement, but I have a back injury that prevents me from becoming an officer," Long said. "This was the best alternative."
During the Eureka City Council meeting on Tuesday, the volunteer patrol was awarded the Eureka Police Department's Valor Service Challenge Coin Award and a letter of appreciation from Chief Andrew Mills and the EVP's commander, acting Capt. Len Johnson.
Bob Gish, Jack Hopkins, Roger Miller, Gary Swanson, Dick Storre, Pete Vallerga, Gil Long and Terry Long were all lauded.
"I was supremely honored because everyone knows how special the award is, and it doesn't get handed out very often," said Swanson, who has volunteered for 16 years. "We're all very city-minded, love Eureka and the Eureka Police Department. It was super nice of the chief to give us the award, and I was definitely walking on air."
Swanson said he joined the patrol because he thought it would be a great way to give back to the community.
"I'm a native Eurekan; I love the city of Eureka, and I just thought this is a great way to give back to the city that I was born and raised in and love," he said. "It was just a great opportunity to do that."
The current eight members, whose service spans six years to nearly 19 years, have donated a combined total of 30,000 hours, Mills said. After Rev. Eric Freed was murdered in the St. Bernard Catholic Church rectory on Jan. 1, patrol members volunteered a total of 42 hours at the crime scene and another six during the vigils in Freed's honor.
"They do so much incredible work for us. ... We just want to continue to encourage them and tell them how much we appreciate them," Mills said.
Councilwoman Marian Brady said the patrol officers are a tremendous adjunct to the police force.
"They're sort of the unsung heroes," Brady said.
The volunteers do everything from traffic control to fingerprinting to waiting outside a house until an officer returns with a search warrant if a suspicious death occurs.
"We are a hands-on group," Terry Long said. "It's nice that the department has the faith and trust in us to allow us to participate as much as we do."
Terry Long, who designs water systems for a living, donates an average of 20 to 30 hours a month. At one time, he said he dedicated 80 to 100 hours a month to achieve 1,000 hours in a calendar year.
"I've been devoted to it, and plan on keeping going as long as they'll have me," he said.
At a glance: How to volunteer
Members of the public interested in joining the Eureka Volunteer Patrol can call Chief Andrew Mills' office at 441-4095 for more information.
Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.