Project Lifesaver volunteers honored for service

PARKERKSBURG -Don and Peg Griffith, longtime volunteers with Project Lifesaver, were honored this week for the many hours of service they have provided since the inception of the program here.

Sue Patalano is the Wood County Project Lifesaver administrator and state coordinator for the program. The program was initiated here in 2005. Wood was the first county in West Virginia to adopt Project Lifesaver.

“Peg and Don were among the first volunteers in the program, they would go to homes all over the county and do battery changes on the transmitters used with the project,” Patalano said.

“Your efforts save us from taking deputies off road patrol to do this, and we really appreciate everything you do, it really helps out the sheriff’s department,” said Chief Law Enforcement Deputy Shawn Graham.

The nonprofit Project Lifesaver assists families and caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s, Autism, Down Syndrome, stroke, traumatic brain injury and other cognitive disabilities who are prone to wander. Through a radio transmitter attached on the client and with the use of tracking equipment, trained law enforcement Project Lifesaver search and rescue teams can track individuals on the ground, from the air, underwater or even underground. This method saves time in rescue/search operations. The average rescue time is usually under 30 minutes with no deaths or serious injuries. It has been used successfully in 40 operations so far in the state.

The batteries on the transmitters must be changed monthly and the Griffins, among their other volunteer activities for the project, went to clients’ homes throughout the county to install new batteries.

“Peg would call and ask me if there was anything else they could do to help in addition to visiting their 4-6 clients monthly to change the batteries. They have helped with other volunteer work as well,” Patalano said. “They really care about the families they work with,” Patalano said.

Peg, who is retired from the Internal Revenue Service, and Don, who is retired from Hope Gas Co. have also worked at Blennerhassett Island Historical Park; Peg as a docent and Don drove golf carts for those needing a lift around the island. They volunteer with Henderson Hall, the Oil and Gas Museum, Meals on Wheels. Peg is in Senior Stitchers and Don is a veteran and member of the Disabled American Veterans, Peg is in the DAV Auxiliary.

The couple first became involved with Project Lifesaver through the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and there are still volunteers affiliated with RSVP in Project Lifesaver.

“We were just a small part of it, but this is a very important program,” Don said of the couples contribution to Project Lifesaver. “We understand a lot of these programs would not be able to offer services if it weren’t for the volunteers.”

“This program is important, it’s already saved lives here,” Graham noted.

“They have always been willing to go above and beyond what they were asked to do,” Patalano said of the couple.

Patalano said the project will be receiving some grants funds through the McDonough Foundation to help carry it through next year.

There are currently five volunteers going to the homes of clients enrolled in the program to change the transmitter batteries. Firefighters at Parkersburg Fire Department Station 1 also assist.

The program administrator said she hopes to meet with area volunteer fire department chiefs to have volunteer firefighters from each department trained to change the batteries and in search and rescue in conjunction with the program as well.

“We currently have 12 deputies in the Wood County Sheriff’s Department trained in search and rescue for the program,” Patalano said.

Project Lifesaver is currently in 40 West Virginia counties.

“I have Pocahontas, Hampshire, and Brooke counties scheduled for next year and possibly Preston County,” Patalano said.

Patalano said there have been more than 200 clients enrolled since the local program began here.

The program is always looking for more volunteers and funds to assist families in need with the $10 monthly fee; $120 pays for one person for one year on the program; $300 pays for a transmitter, battery tester and year’s supply of .

For more information call 304-424-1769, or email spatalano@woodcountywv.com.