North Carolina Department of Correction News - July 1999

DOC employees, families volunteer for Special Olympics

RALEIGH — On June 26, 7,000 athletes from 150 countries around the world descended on the Triangle to spend a week competing in 19 different sports as part of the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games. In addition to the athletes, thousands of coaches, family members, friends and members of the international media all came to witness the largest international sporting event to ever be held in the history of North Carolina.

Along with the athletes who helped prove that there is very little that people with mental retardation cannot do, the real heroes of the week were the 35,000 volunteers who worked countless hours to help make this event a reality.

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Beverly Mecum, Tony Taylor and Dennis Mecum

Hundreds of Department of Correction employees across the state were among the volunteers who generously gave of their time and skills to help out with this momentous event. DOC employees helped register members of the media, coordinate softball coverage, provide security for track and field and organize bocce and powerlifting events. DOC even had an entire family volunteer to help out with the World Summer Games.

Dennis Mecum, a sergeant at Central Prison, along with his wife, Beverly Mecum, who works with the Division of Community Correction’s electronic house arrest program, and Beverly’s brother, Tony Taylor, a chief probation and parole officer in Wake County, all volunteered together to work security at the bowling venue. Beverly’s daughter, Shannon, and Tony’s wife, Teresa who works for the Department of Transportation, also volunteered to help out.

"This is a real family event for us," Dennis Mecum said. "I’m the security manager for bowling, and I needed some people that I could count on to help me out with the security, so I got my family involved."

As security officers for bowling, Mecum said he, his family and the other volunteers were responsible for controlling access into the bowling venue and keeping an eye out for pedophiles and other potential problems. They had to make sure that the athletes didn’t wander out into the parking lot or to the lake across the street.

"Many of these athletes are in a foreign place, they don’t speak the language, and they have a handicap," he said. "The potential for problems was enormous. We were there to make sure nothing went wrong."

By recruiting family members to help out, Mecum not only had people he could count on to show up to work, but by being volunteers themselves, his family understood the huge time commitment involved in volunteering. As security manager for bowling, Mecum starting preparing for the World Summer Games back in November by attending monthly security meetings to go over plans and discuss potential problem areas. In May, the meetings increased to twice a month.

In addition to the security meetings, Mecum also attended venue meetings once a month and spent hours on the phone contacting the 40 to 60 volunteers who were scheduled to work security with him. He was also responsible for developing a policy book outlining security guidelines for the bowling venue. In all, Mecum said he probably spent 15 to 20 hours a month preparing for the World Games and then worked security the entire week of the Games.

Other volunteers were required to attend a general orientation session, job-specific training and a venue walk-through to familiarize themselves with the layout of the facility where they would be working. In addition, the volunteers also had to commit to working at least three six-hour shifts during the week of the Games.

"If I had known how much time was involved when they first asked me to serve as security manager, I may not have agreed to do this," Mecum said. "But seeing the excitement on the athletes’ faces when they receive their awards makes it all worth it. That makes you really feel good about yourself and good about the athletes."

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