LIVINGSTON — In a city with a population of 13,000, one person can make a big difference.
Pearlie Merchant, a volunteer with the Livingston Police Department since 2001, is credited with doing just that. Merchant is one of the original volunteers with the department and is still lending a hand.
Since moving to Livingston in 1988, Merchant has become a fixture of the community and a friend of the police force.
Police Chief Ruben Chavez said anytime the department needs to do community outreach, it relies on volunteers such as Merchant.
"She's just been a tremendous help," Chavez said. "You can tell that she really cares about the community."
Not only is it a benefit to have a dedicated, knowledgeable resident working for the community, the department relies on volunteers, cadets and reserves to save on costs, Chavez noted.
"She's always one to volunteer for anything we need her for," he said.
For Merchant, volunteering for the Police Department is a matter of commitment.
Some of her volunteer time involves routine, but greatly needed work such as traffic control for parades, but a lot of her efforts make a direct impact on the lives of others, especially children.
Merchant helps out at several events, including the Livingston Bike Rodeo, Toys for Tots, Sober Grad Night and neighborhood visits. She's well-known because of the time she spends in the community.
"Just about everybody knows me," Merchant laughed. "Every time I turn around, somebody's calling my name."
When Merchant was a full-time volunteer, she spent a lot of time riding along with officers and taking care of additional duties for them, such as paperwork.
Merchant used to live in Oakland and worked for the Oakland Police Department as a police clerk. She also worked for the Modesto Police Department as a community service officer.
When the Livingston Police Department put the word out that it needed extra help, Merchant stepped up.
"Since I had the background and experience, I decided to volunteer," she said.
Lt. Chris Soria said the Livingston Police Department needs volunteers, and Merchant is the only one who's stuck around since the program started. The department is down to three volunteers.
"We had quite a few, and then they all just went their own ways," Soria said. "She just stuck with us. She's always there every time we need her."
Merchant is the type of person who gets along with everyone -- residents and officers included, Soria said.
"She's just part of the PD," he said. "She's become a mainstay here."
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.