ANTIOCH -- When it comes to helping police, Ron Van Den Baard is the go-to guy.
Since signing up to help Antioch police seven years ago, Van Den Baard has become the lead volunteer for the field and emergency call-out teams, coordinating parades and special events and helping control crowds and traffic while police respond to service calls.
Because of his leadership and willingness to chip in whenever needed, Van Den Baard, 74, recently received the Volunteer of the Year award from the Law Enforcement Volunteers of California.
The award is well-deserved, said Lt. Robin Kelley, the Antioch officer who nominated him.
"Ron's there for me pretty much whenever I need him, 24/7. He's pretty much a breath of fresh air," said Kelley, who took over managing the police's volunteer program in 2009.
"Fortunately, I'm able to lean on him a little bit."
According to police, Van Den Baard has worked 3,359.43 volunteer hours since 2005, saving the short-handed department more than $78,200.
It's not uncommon for Van Den Baard, who spent 45 years in the carpet and linoleum business, including 25 as a foreman, before retiring, to head out to an incident at 3 a.m. or earlier to make sure everything's getting done.
"He does a lot for the department; he's there whenever they need him," said fellow police volunteer Ann Bowman. "He's an all-around great guy."
Van Den Baard has extensive knowledge of what needs to be done, and
Van Den Baard, who moved to Antioch to live with his brother and sister-in-law, says he was "totally surprised" by the accolade.
Described by others as quiet but confident and energetic, Van Den Baard says he got involved in volunteering to "try to help make Antioch a better place."
"It's important because we can pick up some of the slack and handle things (the police) can't get to," Van Den Baard said.
Van Den Baard's work with the Volunteers in Police Services, or VIPS, program comes at a time when Antioch police say they need help from the community more than ever.
All 20 of Antioch's non-sworn community service officers were laid off three years ago. The VIPS have picked up the void by handling some of their old duties, including administrative support, traffic control, radar trailer placement, and vacation house checks.
Police say having more volunteers has helped free up patrol officers to handle higher priority calls for service. The number of VIPS has increased from 23 to 45 members, and more duties have been added for them, with Van Den Baard's calming presence helping to ease the transition, Kelley said.
"I do not worry about the program when he is in charge," she said. "My only fear is that he'll want to retire at some point. That kind of scares me."
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.