Add the hard-earned wisdom and wit of these two Redding women together, and the sum total is a stunning 170-plus years of life experience.
No wonder that a couple of hours spent with them one afternoon barely scratches the surface. What it does do, however, is provide a delightful overview of two remarkable, hard-working women who kept right on helping out even after they retired.
Last month, the Redding City Council honored Helen Klingler, 91, and Shirley Wood, 81, for 25 years of volunteer service with the Redding Police Department.
“When they came in to apply, what stood out was their professionalism, their love and loyalty to the department, and the fact that they could be trusted,” said Karen Calanchini, who was hired by the city in 1987 to start the volunteer program for RPD. “Their life skills were invaluable to us.”
Calanchini went on to become the volunteer program manager and personnel analyst for RPD before she retired in 1996. The two women she “hired” as volunteers in 1991 have long outlasted her tenure.
Klingler, who started volunteering March 11, 1991, will soon be leaving Redding for her next adventure—moving to Panama to live with her son, a doctor and retired Army colonel, and his family. She is no stranger to travel, having moved more than 35 times during her nine decades thus far.
Born and raised in Woodland, Klingler worked for a government induction station, then an abstract and title company before getting married to a man she’d known since grammar school. Her husband, a butcher, joined the Navy reserves, launching his young family into a series of moves that included San Diego, Key West, Fla., New York, Bainbridge, Md., Hawaii, Portland, Ore., Norfolk, Va., Cuba, and Panama. They lived in some places more than once.
“Did you enjoy the travel?” Wood asked her fellow volunteer during an interview at Klingler’s home. “You were young and sassy, huh?”
Teasing is a trademark of Wood, who was given the nickname “trouble” by one of the officers, Klingler said. Wood is also the mother of Redding police Sgt. Mike Wood.
Klingler, who has 10 great-grandchildren, did enjoy the travel—and has colorful memorabilia throughout her house collected from the various locations they visited. Many of those items will get shipped to Panama when she moves. Among them are trophies she has won from speed-walking races (she estimates she’s done more than 100 races)—an activity she did until she turned 80 and wanted to minimize her risk of falling.
Wood has stayed closer to home throughout her life. She grew up in Yuba City, where her family picked peaches, almonds and prunes to make a living.
“Mom was determined her five kids would have a college education,” she said. During Wood’s first year of college, in 1955, a flood hit Yuba City, destroying her family’s house. Her father rebuilt, and got a reputation for building houses. “It was a tough life,” she said.
Wood’s first husband drowned, but she remarried and raised two sons, working for water resources in Sutter County.
Klingler worked at Shasta Dam until she retired in 1990. “I didn’t want to sit home,” she said. She and Wood first met at the Redding fire station on Churn Creek Road and Hartnell Avenue, which had a room for police volunteers.
Klingler initially volunteered for Calanchini as her secretary, keeping tracking of volunteers’ time. She then took on the task of coordinating ride-alongs for civilians interested in traveling in a police cruiser during a shift.
Wood got matched up with RPD when she talked to a recruiter at an event she attended. The woman told her about volunteer opportunities within the department and gave her a form to fill out.
“My husband and Mike said, ‘Why would you want to do that?’,” Wood said. “I told them because I like to be doing something for my mind. Mike later called and told me to go ahead and join if I wanted. I told him, ‘I already mailed my papers.’”
Wood has spent the majority of her time helping with traffic ticket paperwork – entering and filing, and sending out reports. “Sometimes I see tickets for people I know,” she said.
The pair has worked in different rooms and locations, but “Wood comes and sees me every Wednesday,” said Klingler, who has volunteered two days a week for four hours total.
“They thought Klingler was too rowdy to be around me,” Wood joked. Her hours are typically two days a week, six hours a day.
During their quarter-century, Wood and Klinger have worked with five volunteer coordinators and four police chiefs—Bob Blankenship, Leonard Moty, Peter Hansen, and current Chief Robert Paoletti.
Paoletti spoke during last month’s council meeting about the honorees. “It’s not what they do. It’s not the paperwork. It’s not the phone calls. It’s the smiles and the attitude they bring to the Redding Police Department,” he is quoted as saying on RPD’s Facebook page. “And in Shirley’s case, bossing cops around.”
When RPD moved from California Street to its new location (the Robert P. Blankenship Police Facility) on Cypress Avenue in 2015, Wood and Klingler were relocated to Redding City Hall, where they work on different floors.
Both miss the old RPD building for one main reason: “Now we don’t see the officers,” Wood said.
The camaraderie they felt being part of the activity in the police station is evident in their fond reminiscences of conversations, jokes, dinners, and meetings.
“Shirley and I love all the police officers down there, especially the older ones that remember us,” Klingler said. “They are just people. They put up with a lot.”
The feeling is mutual, Calanchini said. “The officers and paid staff grew to love our volunteers,” she said. “Most remained on the job for a very long time. They trusted them and many become longtime friends, yet they retained a professional relationship.”
When Calanchini retired 20 years ago, she left a team of 100 “well-trained and loyal” volunteers. “At the time, volunteerism was not in vogue in the public sector, especially law enforcement,” she said. “Our volunteer program became a model for other communities in California, and we had many visitors from other police departments seeking advice and knowledge.”
Volunteers undergo background checks by the FBI and Department of Justice, receive training and are assigned jobs or projects that free up paid staff to do the jobs they were hired to do, she said.
City of Redding volunteer coordinator Kristy Lanham presented a plaque at the council meeting that now hangs behind the volunteer desk in City Hall. Marking “Milestones in Volunteer Service,” the first names engraved belong to Wood and Klingler.
“They became an integral part of our program,” Calanchini said.
Learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Redding Police Department at http://reddingpolice.org/programs/volunteer/.