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Mail Theft Spurs Senior Outreach Program
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Riverbank Police Services in cooperation with the Riverbank Federated Women's Club and Catholic Charities have partnered to form the Riverbank Senior Outreach Program.

The program, designed to check on senior citizens who may need assistance, will use local volunteers to provide seniors with everything from basic necessities to educational information on scams and elder abuse prevention. Volunteers will work directly with law enforcement if physical or financial abuse is suspected and will work with community members if other services are needed.

Recently detectives found a stolen checkbook belonging to a local senior during a parole search. The checkbook had been taken from a mailbox outside her home in the downtown. Bills she had paid were also taken so her utility bills were falling into arrears. When contacted, the victim said she knew her mail had been stolen, but wasn't sure what to do and didn't report the theft to law enforcement.

"This program will help protect our senior citizens," said Riverbank Police Services Chief Bill Pooley.

During the investigation one evening last week, detectives noticed the victim's home was in need of some general maintenance and repair. She was using a portable space heater that was deemed unsafe and had a broken window that was the result of recent vandalism. Detectives contacted the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Department who installed new smoke detectors in the home and also donated a new space heater.

Fire Capt. Clinton Bray, Firefighter Shawn Ehrenberg and Engineer Bobby Rocha came from the station to do this work.

"You have to remember this senior is in her 80s, has no relatives and few friends in town, has no vehicle and speaks only Spanish," said Sheriff's Deputy Jesus Sigala. "The firefighters also brought over some food. She said she liked an occasional glass of milk but had not tasted any in a long time. So they brought over two gallons of milk."

On the same Tuesday evening, representatives from Home Depot assisted with replacing the broken window. They also installed a window-mounted air conditioner that the elderly homeowner had bought but never installed, because she couldn't manage it herself and didn't know whom to call. Cohen Blount of Home Depot together with store manager Matt Lee, Gary Russell of the store's appliance department and Cohen's brother Josh were involved in providing this help.

"We've done community work for years," said Cohen Blount. "But the company is pushing now to do more. They've given us financial backing. We donated $1,500 and 80 people, for example, to the recent Love Modesto project."

Volunteers who were present for the Riverbank effort on the recent evening assisted with cleaning the victim's home and taking care of some much needed yard work.

"This is just one example of how we can use community partnerships to build programs, using volunteers, that help us protect and serve our senior citizens," said Sheriff Adam Christianson.

Volunteers undergo limited background checks and are fingerprinted before joining the program. To assist in recognizing signs of elder abuse and knowing all of the resources that are available to senior citizens, training is provided by members of Riverbank Police Services and Adult Protective Services.

Chief Pooley and his team have been actively engaged in building and strengthening community partnerships that have a positive effect on the quality of life in Riverbank, Christianson added.

There are many morals to draw from this story, added Sigala. To stop mail theft, for instance, keep an eye on mailboxes outside the home and consider renting a locked mailbox at the post office. Consider having a pension check paid directly into your bank account rather than dropped in a box.

If you know of a senior who may need assistance or you're interested in becoming a Senior Outreach Volunteer, contact Community Service Officer Gina Reno at (209) 869-7162.