Lowell Juvenile Offenders Help Struggling Families Through Community Service Project
Lowell juvenile offenders are helping feed struggling families and individuals while fulfilling their obligations to the court as part of a community service initiative developed by Middlesex County Juvenile Court Probation Officer Kristin Pepin.
Pepin, a 14-year Middlesex Juvenile Probation Officer based in Lowell, launched a food drive effort in which juvenile probationers receive four hours of community service hours for each full grocery bag of food they collect. The food is then donated to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank in Lowell. The youngsters have collected more than 2,000 pounds of food over the past eight months, according to Pepin. On average, the youths collect and donate more than 300 pounds of food to the food bank each month.
“The children feel empowered by giving back to the community what it needs while earning community service hours,” said Pepin.
One young man has performed 96 hours of community service by participating in this effort.
The 17-year-old high school junior said of the effort, “It feels good to help someone out who is in need.”
The Merrimack Valley Food Bank staff is also appreciative of the community service effort and the opportunity to provide more food to their client base.
“The (Middlesex Juvenile) program has donated a generous amount of food to us for which we are really grateful. Kristin is so enthusiastic about the program as well and we all love when she stops by with her donations,” said Debbie Callery, Community Relations Director at the Merrimack Valley Food Bank.
Callery continued, “Anytime we are able to create a new partnership with an organization and or individual in the community is a bonus. This is especially true when they become passionate about our mission as Kristin and the kids are. For the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, this is a double win. We win with the food and partnership and hopefully the kids get something out of it as well.”
The Food Bank provides food to over 100 organizations which feeds 70,000 individuals per month, according to Callery.
"We are basically the supermarket to the pantries, meals programs, group homes, shelters, and day program in 35 cities and towns in Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. These organizations take what they need back to their locations, stock their shelves and that is where the families and individuals go to receive a meal or supplemental bag of food,” Callery said.