AUBURN — Claire Caldwell knew when the police officers began to tease her that she was part of the family.

“I said something and it didn’t come out right and the officers said, ‘Oh no! Did you really say that?'” the Auburn Police Department volunteer said.

“They just give you a hard time. You joke back and forth, and I just love it,” she said.

She’s in the department’s basement office Tuesdays and Wednesdays, staffing the front desk, handling payments for parking fines and filing.

There’s lots of filing.

“I think they save it for me,” she said. “They know I’m coming in, and they set it all aside and leave it for me.”

For officers, volunteers like Caldwell are a blessing.

“They are a force multiplier for us,” Liz Allen, volunteer coordinator for the department, said. “It embodies what they do. It means that when budgets get tighter, they are a way for us to get our filing done and complete some of those things we might not be able to get to.”

But Allen said there’s also a hidden benefit.

“The best part for me as a coordinator is that moment when the police officers realize that there are people in the community that do want to help them do what they do,” Allen said. “And conversely, residents can realize that police officers will let them help.”

Caldwell is an old hand at volunteering. She won a commendation from Gov. Paul LePage for logging 558 hours at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston in 2014.

“People say, ‘why do the work if you don’t get paid?'” she said. “But throughout my life, L-A has been there for me. People have always been there to help me, financially and otherwise. So when I finally retired, I decided it was time to pay some of it forward.”

Volunteering at a police department is very different from volunteering at a hospital. She’ll mark a year in the position this November.

“I have the highest respect for these officers, for what they do and for just being officers,” she said. “I see what they do and they are just amazing.”

She frequently deals with people who are not always in the best of moods, paying off parking tickets or reporting crimes.

“They’re not very happy, but I tell them, ‘You’re not supposed to be parking there,'” she said. “Especially when they park in handicap spaces. People have to realize that someone else needs that space, so people should really know better.”

Know someone with a deep well of unlimited public spirit? Someone who gives of their time to make their community a better place? Nominate them for Kudos. Send their name and the place where they do their good deeds to reporter Scott Taylor at [email protected] and we’ll do the rest.

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