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Taking the hardest calls

It's the phone call no parent wants to make — the one to say a child has gone missing.

But what about the person on the other line, the one who takes such calls day after day?

Cindy Rudometkin has been doing so from an old, faded pink building tucked behind Petaluma Market for 14 years this August.

The slight, blonde woman answers the phone near a purple sign that reads "Polly's Hotline." Faces of missing children hang near the sign, a haunting reminder of what her vocation is all about.

The organization Rudometkin works for is the Polly Klaas Foundation, which was created after Polly Klaas, a 12-year-old Petaluma girl, was abducted by a stranger in 1993.

An exhaustive search for Polly galvanized the community and the country, but the search ended in tragedy when she was found dead two months later.

For almost 20 years now, the foundation has quietly carried on the work of preventing child abductions and helping families find missing children in Polly's name, sending out missing children fliers, counseling families and working with other agencies like police departments.

Rudometkin, from Novato, had just graduated from high school when Polly went missing. She can still remember the frustration she felt.

"All you could do was watch the news, wait and wonder," she said. "I wanted to get in the trenches."

Six years later, Rudometkin graduated with a degree in psychology and plans to be an environmental lawyer. But when she went to a law school orientation, she realized the career was not for her. When she saw an employment ad for a position at the Polly Klaas Foundation, she applied.

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