Since 1996, Charles and Gail Helfer have been civilian volunteers for the Park Police Friends Board, a nonprofit group that provides additional funds and in-kind services to supplement the Montgomery County Park Police. The group works in cooperation with the Montgomery County Recreation Department and Montgomery County Park Police. The Helfers were elected to the board in 2000.
In 1998, Maryland Governor Parris Glendenning honored the Park Police’s civilian volunteer bicycle program with a Crime Prevention Award in Annapolis. Charles and Gail were both, personally acknowledged by the governor, during the ceremony. In October 2000, Park Police Chief Elizabeth Kreiter awarded the couple for their contributions to the Park Police and the Park Police Friends Board. They received the award at the Police Awareness Day, an event in which the police, fire and rescue agencies get the opportunity to build community support for crime prevention programs. The event draws 3,000 to 6,000 people annually.
Charles and Gail Helfer have been involved regularly in other Park Police special community awareness events including National Night Out, Friends of the Park Police Bicycle Time Trials, Capital Crescent Trail Opening and Trail Safety Initiatives, Brookside Gardens Light Show, Wheaton Bicycle Safety Program, Long Branch Community Day and Pathways Schools 5k Race. Since 1996, the couple has served over 1,600 combined hours of community service.
While on volunteer patrol, the Helfers report violations to the Park Police Communications Section. They assist in searches for lost children, evidence – under the direction of an officer after a subject has fled from the area, observe alcohol abuse incidents, controlled dangerous substances, parking and report any safety hazards in the parks they observe. The Helfers also recruit volunteers to the Park Police volunteer corp. They also helped to write two manuals used by Park Police Volunteers.