Allen Thompson is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
At age 83, he decided one day last year to take a trip in his pickup truck and wound up lost, unable to find his way back home.
A missing person’s request went out, and Allen was rescued thanks to new technology used by the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office in cooperation with the Pilot Club of Statesboro.
The program is called Project Lifesaver. Each client wears a bracelet on a wrist 24 hours a day. The bracelets are monitored by the sheriff’s office on a set frequency. The sheriff’s office can locate a client who might have wandered off within 30 minutes of notification.
Each sheriff’s deputy receives training from Sgt. Jimmy Billings on how to manage the bracelets and receivers. Sheriff Lynn Anderson, impressed with the first receiver, decided to buy two more at $10,000 each. The bracelets cost $300. It gives family members peace of mind.
“We maintain the actual receivers at the sheriff’s department,” Lt. Neil Casey said. “The Pilot Club puts the bracelets on each client, and each client (is) then assigned a frequency that goes into our log book at the sheriff’s department and with 911. When the caregiver gives us a call and says that the person wearing the bracelet has wandered off, we respond by punching in their frequency and, on national average, we can find that person within 30 minutes.
“I was on the national website the other day and the agency has just rescued the 2,599th client through this program,” he continued. “In fact, the program has a 100 percent success rate, and we’re extremely proud of that.”
Magina Bullock of the Pilot Club handles the administrative side of things with Project Lifesaver. Since 2003, when the club took on the project, she has worked with the sheriff’s office on Project Lifesaver.
“The project started in Chesapeake, Va., in 1998,” she said. “Chief Gene Saunders of that area had done a lot of rescues of this nature. He was given the opportunity to speak at our national Pilot Club convention back then. Our local Pilot Club president was at that meeting and was impressed enough to bring it back to Bulloch County, where the Club immediately adopted the program.
“The first receiver we purchased was $10,000. The local Club paid half of that amount and the International Club paid the other half,” she continued. “Local costs for this program come through the annual breakfast the club sponsors at RJ’s Steakhouse. We have also received generous donations, which are tax deductible.”
The upkeep of putting a new battery in the bracelet costs $10 per month. This fee is the responsibility of the family. Pilot Club funds are also available for those unable to pay the monthly fee. There are currently nine people wearing the bracelets in Bulloch County, Bullock said.
“This program has been a lifesaver for my family; it gives us the peace of mind knowing that if dad wanders off again, we’ll be able to locate him,” said Teresa Sanders of Augusta, who is the daughter of Allen Thompson. “We took dad’s truck away, and he became an unhappy camper for a while. He quickly adapted to the change. He has settled with wearing the bracelet full time.”
Thompson said, “I do not know why I have to wear it any longer since I have to walk everywhere I go.”
His daughter responded: “But dad, you could get lost again by walking away from home and losing your way back. This helps us to know exactly where you are.”
In addition to Project Lifesaver, the Pilot Club of Statesboro is also involved in the following community service projects: Brain Minder, Silver Lining Club, Alzheimer’s Caregivers and Parkinson’s Support Group, Dictionary Project for Bulloch County third-graders and the Caring Closet.