There are roughly 300 volunteers serving within the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Volunteer Bureau in one of three divisions – Emergency Services, Community Services and Reserve. Assistant Chief Ronnie Washington is part of the Reserve Division, where officers are required to work 24 hours a month. And while that works out to 288 hours a year, Washington logs more like 800 hours a year for one dollar.
Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jason Bartlett of Patrol Services, Emergency Services, Reserves and Community services said it’s an honor to have Washington as part of his team.
“(H)e’s doing at least three times more than what’s expected of him,” Bartlett said of Washington. “He is indeed a very busy man. Besides that, we are in the Christmas season and through my secretary Debbie Sandridge’s orchestration, Chief Washington is sponsoring 250 senior citizens that are visited by our Community Services group. The people that are receiving this live throughout all of Shelby County and you would be surprised at what these gifts mean to them.
“You also have to remember that many of these senior citizens wouldn’t be receiving anything for Christmas if it wasn’t for him,” Bartlett said.
“On top of that, he is also sponsoring 35 youth at a local church. These are fixed-income families located in South Memphis and I want you to know that he’s spent at least $200 on each kid. His story is a story that the public needs to hear.
“We are not here just to lock you up, we are here to help you as well,” Bartlett said. “He’s too modest to tell you these things, so that’s why I’m saying it. We hand out bikes, gloves, shoes, build wheelchair ramps and put on roofs for the elderly. And we’ve been doing it for years.”
Kelvin Cowans: Did you start out as an officer?
Assistant Chief Ronnie Washington: No, I didn’t. I was actually a maintenance director for Memphis Housing Authority. I later joined the academy here and then the reserve program. I liked helping people so much until I look around and I’ve been here 30 years now.
KC: You’ve been doing good longer than most people have been alive.
Asst. Chief Washington: Well, I was an orphan and I know what it’s like to want and need things and not have them. Just as important is the people I work with. They are my family and when I say family, I mean it. We don’t have all of the different issues that go on in America, black and white and so on; we’re family. Even in the field when we assist the regular officers, they give us reserves the same respect as any other officer.
Another thing I really love is that over the years we’ve had different times where we knew we’d have an even stronger team if we took certain classes such as bomb detection, etc., and Lt. Bartlett listens to us and takes those requests right on upstairs and fights for us to get them.
KC: To do something of this nature on the level of which you give of your time, you must love people.
Asst. Chief Washington: You have to have a passion for people. I don’t look for recognition. None of the officers look for that. We enjoy helping people. I’ll tell you another thing, we have a different day every day. One day we could be out on the lake at Shelby Farms keeping things safe for the visitors; and in good weather Shelby Farms can see up to 70,000 visitors in a week. Or at another time we could be down on the river carrying out a recovery mission to find someone who may have fallen in the river; never a dull moment.
KC: You’re also Santa Clause too many. What does it do for you to be such a blessing?
Asst. Chief Washington: I look at (the fact) that some of those seniors don’t have anyone but us. I like to see the smiles on their faces. I’ve adopted Kansas Elementary and we definitely see the kids smiling and laughing. So I thought about the seniors and how they need love as well.
KC: Thirty years of giving and spending time with people of different backgrounds, races and financial ability or lack thereof. You have to have come to a conclusion about people. What do you know that you know that you know about people?
Asst. Chief Washington: It means a lot to me to see a smile and receive a hug. That also means a lot to many people. Having someone to talk to goes a long way as well.
KC: What’s a perfect day for you?
Asst. Chief Washington: Being able to wake up and tell the Lord, “Thank you for another day.”
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