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The Landmark
By Patricia Roy

Community outreach officer Shawn McKenna of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, helps dish up lunch for Sterling seniors. Patricia Roy photo

About 50 senior citizens were treated to lunch at the Sterling Senior Center last week by the office of Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.

Community outreach officer Shawn McKenna spoke with seniors about programs for all ages performed by the Sheriff ’s office, then helped serve up spaghetti and meatballs followed by cake to the crowd.

Programs of particular interest to seniors include the IRIS Recognition program that uses biometric recognition technology to positively identify missing children and elderly persons.

A member of the Sheriff ’s office captures a high resolution digital photograph of the subject’s eye in addition to collecting other information.

The photo and data is then uploaded to a national database so it is available to law enforcement in the event of an emergency.

McKenna said that along with Project Lifesaver, the IRIS Recognition program can be an important piece of identification for elderly who have dementia or other mental impairments who may easily get lost or wander away from home. Project Lifesaver provides a bracelet that emits a radio wave signal when activated.

It’s a good program for Alzheimer patients or developmentally disabled persons, McKenna said.

A house numbering program is also available for people who don’t have a clearly marked street number on their home.

The numbers are crucial to helping emergency personnel find a house when responding to a call, McKenna said. The Sheriff ’s office can provide a custom wooden sign with the house number that can be placed on the house or at the end of a driveway.

The File of Life program was explained and distributed to the seniors on hand. It’s an emergency information card that comes in a red case where people can list their contacts and medical data like conditions, prescriptions, blood type, allergies and physician name and number.

The Sheriff ’s K-9 services have been profiled on national television, including one dog that came from the Sterling Animal Shelter. The dogs are also used in missing person searches and for drug detection in public buildings.

The Inmate Community Service Program has inmate work crews complete projects in community owned buildings like Butterick Municipal Building, providing free labor for Worcester County towns and benefitting inmates who are close to their release date.

Scared Straight and Face2Face are two youth oriented programs, McKenna said. The first takes at risk youth on a tour of the correctional facility for a look at what life is like behind bars. A hand-picked group of inmates share their stories. The Face2Face program is an multi-media anti-drug program that Sheriff Evangelidis has taken to schools in the area, including Wachusett Regional High School.