Operation Lost & Found

Oakhurst’s Lutheran Church Men’s Club has donated $2,200 to Operation Lost & Found (OLF), the Madera County Sheriff’s Office electronic tracking program that can locate people who are prone to wander off.

The funds, from a Sept. 19 tri-tip barbecue for nearly 100 people at the church, were presented to Sheriff Jay Varney, and Mike Perreira, team leader for OLF, by Lutheran Church Men’s Club President Steve Norman, and Hale Farley, barbecue chairman, during the club’s Oct. 17 breakfast meeting.

Operation Lost & Found clients wear a personalized wristband, similar to a watch, with a transmitter that emits a tracking signal that can be picked up on the ground or from the air. When caregivers notify the sheriff’s office that a person is missing, a Madera County Search & Rescue Team responds to the wanderer’s area, and begins searching with a mobile locator tracking system.

The OLF program can reduce costly search and rescue missions from an average of three days to less than an hour. According to Varney, in over 800 searches nationwide, every client has been found, and found alive.

According to Perreira, who has been team leader for the program for eight years, there are currently 20 clients in the county (18 in Eastern Madera County and two in the Valley) being served by the program - 60% of the clients are elderly and have been diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimer’s, and 40% are Autistic, with the youngest client 6 years old.

Perreira feels not enough people are taking advantage of what can be a life saving program - a program unlike any other in the state that is offered at no charge to clients and caregivers.

“If anyone knows someone who can benefit from this program, let me know, and I would be happy to talk with them, and help them apply for Operation Lost & Found,” Perreira said.

A family member or caregiver will be asked to complete a personal data form about the client, along with a recent photo that will be filed with the sheriff’s office.

“We receive personal information about the client that we keep confidential ... information that could help locate the person quicker if need be,” Perreira said.

Once approved for the program, members of the OLF team, who are also members of the search and rescue team, visit the client’s home and provide the person with a personalized transmitter, log sheet, and a battery tester. Team members visit the client monthly to change batteries in the transmitter.

“The batteries are good for one to two, but we change them monthly at no charge, to make sure all the transmitters are fully operational at all times,” Perreira said.

Varney said the $2,200 donation will enable the program to expand with seven new transmitters for seven new clients - and the sheriff encourages caregivers to consider the program for a loved one.

Varney said being a caregiver is a difficult job, but Operation Lost & Found can provide a little peace of mind for caregivers who know the program could find a loved one quickly if they were to wonder off.

This was one of the largest single donations received in the 12-year history of the program - a program funded entirely by public donations.

The Lutheran Church has been holding public barbecues twice a year for more than 20 years in support of Mountain Area non-profits such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Yosemite High School Future Farmers of America, Wounded Warriors, Oakhurst Library, and the Oakhurst fire station. The next men’s club barbecue will be in March.

Details: Madera County Sheriff’s Office, (559) 642-3201 (Oakhurst), or (559) 675-7770 (Madera).

Care givers meet twice a month

The Oakhurst Lutheran Church, located at the corner of Crane Valley Road (426), and Black Road, hosts care giver meetings, 10 - 11 a.m., the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.

The meetings, run by Carol Breit, provide information and resources for care givers dealing with Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and the after affects of strokes.

Details: Carol Breit, (559) 683-4045.