Friends, colleagues, say thanks to victim’s assistance volunteer Larry Fortier

Left to right, Juanita LaFeir, Undersheriff John O’Hagan, Emilia Rennie, Chris Olen, Larry Fortier, and Sheriff Dale Kowalkowski. Missing from the photo is Judy Skiera. (Photo by David L. Barber/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — The only thing wider than Larry Fortier’s supportive shoulders is his inviting smile.

Kind, friendly and always ready to reach out to those in pain and sorrow, Fortier stepped down recently from his role with the Manistee County Sheriff’s Office Victim Assistance Program (VAP) that he helped establish seven years ago.

Volunteers with the program help victims, survivors and family members get through those immediate moments after being victimized by a crime, or who have been in an accident, fire, and more.

Last week, Fortier was surrounded by his VAP colleagues and sheriff’s personnel, who gave him a number of gifts of appreciation, and a plaque. More importantly, they gave him hugs and handshakes.

“Larry, you have been instrumental in getting our service unit going and we appreciate all that you have done for victims services here in Manistee,” Sheriff Dale Kowalkowski told Fortier. “It was in 2005 that we got this group going and you were on the ground floor as one of the people who came forward and volunteered to help people who were in need.

“Our victims service team is a group of individuals who work to (provide) that intermediate support to people who have been caught in tragedy in their lives, whether it be a fire, or a car accident, the most serious tragedy being if somebody dies.

“You (and your) people come forward to help those individuals in their time of need, when they have no support system in place for themselves,” Kowalkowski said.

In presenting Fortier with an appreciation plaque, Kowalkowski and undersheriff John O’Hagan also presented the 70-year-old veteran of the Navy, National Guard and Army with a number of gifts, including a sheriff’s pull-over shirt, T-shirt, planner, coffee mug and carry-all bag.

The plaque read, in part: “Special Recognition for your years of service, loyalty and devotion to the victims services unit of Manistee County.”

“The undershefiff and I want to thank you for all your years of service,” Kowalkowski said. “We really appreciate all you have done for us.”

A military chaplain and longtime veterans activist, Fortier talked of how being a victim’s advocate has developed in recent years.

“In my era — the Barney Fife days — we were lucky if the radio worked in the car and if we had a little blue light on top,” Fortier jokingly talked of his early days in police work.

“We didn’t have victims services then. We’d go to a bad accident … and it was left to me to tell the guy’s wife, ‘have a seat in the back of the patrol car,’ and that was it.”

When he heard in 2005 of a Victim Assistance Program being considered by the Manistee County Sheriff Department, Fortier said he immediately became interested in becoming involved.

“When I got word (they wanted to start) a victims services here to console the victims, so the officers can go about and do their duty, (I thought), that would be a big help,” Fortier said.

“I wanted to get as much education about victims services, about how to respond to other people, and understand other people. Being part of this, gave me that.”

Kowalkowski said Fortier “played a crucial role” in developing and helping to maintain the Manistee County Victim Assistance Program.

“Larry’s a good person, first and foremost,” Kowalkowski said. “He genuinely cares about other people. To say he’s made a difference in a lot of our lives is an understatement.”

Anyone wanting to become a Victims Assistance Program volunteer can fill out an application at the Manistee County Sheriff’s Office.

Prospective volunteers then go through an interview process, 16 hours of training, log 16 hours of ride-along time with a sheriff’s deputy, attend periodic training programs and attend quarterly meetings.

“It’s a tremendous program,” Kowalkowski said. “We certainly appreciate all they do to help and support the victims of crime, accidents, and the such. We also appreciate al they do to support our office, too.”

avatar

Posted by David L. Barber

David L. Barber is the retired editor of the Manistee News Advocate. He contributes columns weekly for the News Advocate. You can contact him at dlbarber1006@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply