This year's Knights of Columbus Community Service Recognition Dinner was a family affair as keynote speaker Steve Richard told a story about how his father, event chairman Francis Richard, had recently been kept out of harms way by law enforcement.
Steve said his father heard a noise in the garage at about 12:30 a.m. on a weeknight. Francis did not turn on any lights and immediately called the Exeter Police Department, which showed up in under three minutes.
"We take for granted what you do when we go to sleep," Steve told the crowd. "I am thankful that my father did not have to go out there."
Richard was born and raised a few houses down from the Sacred Heart Catholic Church on E Street in Exeter where he served as an altar boy. He told the crowd that one night he snuck into the church and stole the communion wine. He and three other friends got drunk and began walking along Belmont Road out of town until they saw a car pull up. The all began to scatter but a reserve officer spotted Richard and took him home to his parents.
"When I got home I saw my father and fainted," Richard said to the crowd of law enforcement officers and firefighters. "That was my first run-in with the law."
The next morning, his father made him get up and apologize to the church and each of his friend's parents. It was a valuable lesson that he would use later in life. "When I was young there were a lot of times that I didn't make the right choices," he said. "And I had a caring mother and father." Most of his clients do not.
Richard founded Youth Recovery Unlimited in 1996 as a residential facility to help juvenile delinquent wards of the court on how to become productive members of society through job and life skills training. The program started with one home for six boys. Under his guidance the program now has five residential facilities housing 30 juveniles from Oakland to San Diego.
"I realized tonight that what we all have in common is an opportunity to help people," Richard said. "You are all caring individuals, because if you weren't, you wouldn't do what you do."
Following Richard's speech, emcee Rich Rodriguez, co-anchor of KSEE-24 News, took the microphone, to begin introducing the nights honorees. The Community Service Recognition Dinner is an annual event to honor an Officer of the Year from the California Highway Patrol, Tulare County Sheriff's Office and the Exeter, Farmersville and Woodlake police departments. The dinner also recognizes a Firefighter of the Year from the Exeter and Woodlake fire departments. The event is sponsored and catered by the Exeter/Farmersville and Woodlake councils of the Knights of Columbus.
This year's honorees and their presenters are: