January 22, 2005
As an active Gilbert volunteer, Janet LaTour is used to working behind the scenes.
However, she was thrust into the spotlight last Saturday at the Congress of Neighborhoods workshop when she received the Frank Pane Volunteer of the Year Award.
"I was blown away," said LaTour, 59, an accountant with Talley Defense Systems in Mesa for 23 years.
She started volunteering with the Congress of Neighborhoods when she moved to Gilbert from Mesa in 1995. She had the extra time and wanted to make a difference in the community.
"You get a lot of selfsatisfaction from people you help and from the police department," LaTour said. "I can help out and do something that makes a difference to people who live here."
LaTour volunteers with her younger sister, Diane Howard, who nominated her for the award.
Howard nominated her sister for the volunteer award because she sees firsthand what LaTour goes through on a volunteer basis.
"She sees the value in what she does," said Howard, 57, a sales administrator for a pavement maintenance products manufacturer. "She enjoys working with the officers. It makes her feel what she’s doing is worthwhile, and it is."
LaTour attended the Gilbert Citizens Police Academy, an eight-week course designed and presented by the Gilbert Police Department to provide Gilbert residents with a firsthand view of the department.
She was hooked. She joined the Citizens on Patrol, and started helping the police department. In that capacity, she can issue parking tickets, help at accident scenes and help officers whenever necessary as an extra set of eyes and ears around town. As a citizen on patrol for at least eight hours a month, LaTour wears a uniform, drives a marked car and carries a police radio in addition to recruiting new members.
LaTour also helped form an association of the graduates of the citizens academy in 1996, and she serves as secretary on that board.
LaTour also is a member of the Gilbert Police Department Problem Oriented Community Policing Committee, which brings people together to solve problems within the town. They might talk about an area that has an excessive amount of speeding, or other problems residents need to look out for, such as an area having problems with graffiti.
Besides her accounting job and the many hours she spends volunteering around Gilbert, LaTour enjoys traveling, going on cruises and reading.
LaTour is also involved with her neighborhood, Western Skies, and helps deliver the neighborhood newsletter her sister puts together.
LaTour comes from a military family, and was an "Air Force brat," so they moved around a lot, she said.
"This is the longest time I’ve ever lived in one spot," LaTour said. "It’s where I live, so it makes a difference to me. I enjoy meeting new people."
About the award
The Frank Pane Volunteer of the Year Award is named for the late president of the El Dorado Lakes Homeowners Association, a member of the Congress of Neighborhoods and community volunteer. The award goes to an individual that has given tremendous service in their time and talents to Gilbert, a neighborhood or the Congress of Neighborhoods Committee.