March 01, 2022

AFSCME member’s detective skills reunite a mother and son

AFSCME Local 2953 executive board member and chief steward Serbekian Minas is an operational support officer with the Niles Police Department. He greets residents who walk into the police station for assistance and supports police officers in their work.

One day a woman came to the station distraught about her son Marco who had gone missing. Not fluent in Spanish, the mother’s first language, Minas recruited fellow AFSCME member and records clerk Anita Protofanousis to translate.

The last time Marco’s mother had contact with her son was the day before—in a brief call from Rawlins, Wyoming—and now his cell was dead. Minas saw the zip code of the small town and came up with a truck stop where he had likely been calling from. He called the gas station clerk and using the mother’s description, found that the young man had indeed been there but left the night before.

Minas didn’t stop there. He called the local police department, then left word with the Carbon County sheriff’s office that he was in search of any information on Marco.

“These buddies of Marco took off on him and left him high and dry, with no money, a dead cell phone and not the most fluent English,” Minas said. “I was worried this would be like finding a needle in a haystack but I had a distraught mom who wanted to talk to her son, so I didn’t give up.”

Just 20 minutes later, an Officer Murphy called Minas’ desk. Marco had been found walking alone on a busy highway. The two men worked on getting Marco and his mother connected on a phone call.

“Anita sat with her while she spoke with her son. They made arrangements for him to go to a nearby location where he could pick up wired money from his mom for bus fare to come back to Niles,” Minas recounted. “All this took a little over an hour. I couldn’t believe we got this kid and mom talking. It was pretty cool.”

Word of the good work by Minas and Protofanousis spread through the station and the two were given Star Awards, a special recognition for employees who go above and beyond the call of duty. But Minas said he and Protofanousis were just acting on human nature, to help.

“I could see the angst in her eyes,” Minas said. “How can I not help this woman as much as I can and go the extra mile? She’s beside herself. She can’t speak the language; she has no way of reaching her son. I am a parent too. It felt great to say mission accomplished.”

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