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The ones in light blue; Perham Police Reserves celebrate 40 years, prep for annual food drive

Submitted photo Members of the Perham Police Reserve: Lt. Jeff Williams, Officer Kenny Wick, Office Steve Huddleston, Officer Marcia Huddleston, Unidentified, short-term volunteer, Officer Larry Hunt and Officer Dale Wright.

For the last 40 years, officers in light blue uniforms have been happily serving the Perham community.

They help search for missing people, check in with residents after bad storms, raise funds to meet community needs, entertain families at Turtle Fest, and more.

And they do it all for free.

As the volunteer backup force for the city's police department, the members of the Perham Police Reserves like to joke that they "do all the dirty work" for the department, according to long-time member, Lt. Jeff Williams.

In an interview last week, Williams and another long-time Reserves volunteer, Officer Dale Wright, laughed as they tried to explain why they have spent a combined 49 years with the program.

They both agreed it came down to the enjoyment factor: "It's plain and simple fun. That's why we do it."

Reserves volunteers work closely with the Perham Police Department, assisting upon request. Williams said the batons, mace and handcuffs on their belts are enough to handle any situation they're called to.

Over the years, they've assisted in searches for missing people, and they've checked in with residents after tornadoes and other severe storms, analyzing and reporting damage.

Williams and Wright said they've assisted with train derailments, too. After a derailment in 1992, in which 31 cars tumbled off the tracks near downtown Perham, the Reserves helped with crowd control and cleanup.

And back in 2003, after a robber got away with an undisclosed amount of cash from Bremer Bank, the Reserves assisted in scouring ditches in search of evidence.

On a more regular basis, those in light blue can be spotted helping with crowd control at local sporting events and patrolling the fairgrounds on their golf carts and ATV.

Started by Bob Kinlund, the Reserves remain an active part of the community. They walk the streets during Turtle Fest, for example, entertaining the crowds by 'arresting' citizens and placing them in an old jail cell on the street.

They also find ways to give back to the community, such as through their annual Food Drive for the Perham Food Shelf.

This year's drive will take place this Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Dean's Country Market in Perham. Reserves volunteers will be collecting food and cash, trying to fill their Mobile Command Center with donated items. Williams said the food shelf needs canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, and dry foods like pastas and cereals.

The five men and one woman who currently make up the Reserves have a combined 1,200 volunteer hours in an average year, and the request list for their services keeps growing.

Though Wright and Williams said life in the Reserve force isn't for everyone, they could really use about 10 more volunteers in the group.

"We need qualified, sane, dependable people," Williams said.

Although the volunteers don't have formal law enforcement training, each member went through an extensive application and interview process.

The Perham Police Reserves has its own fleet of vehicles, including a squad car, a mobile command center, an ATV and two golf carts, all purchased with donations from Perham organizations.

"We are not a drain on the city," Williams explained. Though the city contributes gas money, and insures the officers when they are on duty, all other funding comes from donations.