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|December 15, 2008
Director of Communications
MASSACHUSETTS COMMUNITY SERVICE CREWS ASSIST FINANCIALLY-
STRAPPED AGENCIES SPREAD HOLIDAY CHEER TO STRUGGLING FAMILIES
Probationers ordered by the court
to do community service work are spending hundreds of
hours assisting food pantries and aiding Christmas toy
drives during a holiday season in which community agencies
are struggling to stay afloat due to the recession.
Work crews from the Massachusetts Trial Court
Community Service Program are unloading food donations
and sorting canned goods for food pantries as well as unloading
and separating donated toys for local toy drives. In some
cases, the Community Service Program provided its own vans
to transport donated toys.
“There is nothing more gratifying than
to have the ability to assist these agencies during our
difficult times. It is amazing to witness how our court-ordered
participants express their concern and interest for the
individuals who benefit from our services. A sense of accomplishment
and pride is quite apparent on the faces of participants
and is demonstrated through their actions. This is why
we strive to provide meaningful community service projects,” said
David Skocik, Community Service Statewide Supervisor.
In Hampden County, Community Service crews
will continue its tradition of helping out the Salvation
Army, located on Pearl Street in Springfield. Community
Service crews unloaded two tractor trailer loads of donated
toys and assisted with separating the toys and placing
them in groups for distribution by age and gender.
“This year, we have had such a cry
for services, it has been almost overwhelming. And, it
certainly would be overwhelming if it were not for friends
like the Community Service Program,” said Major Thomas
D. Perks of the Salvation Army’s Springfield Citadel
Major Perks added, “We have had a long-standing
partnership with the Community Service Program, more than
The Salvation Army in Springfield, according
to Major Perks, helps more than 30,000 families throughout
the year and over 6,000 families during the holiday season.
Additional crews from the Hampden County
Community Service Program will help the Gray House, a human
services agency that provides resources for low-income
families located on Sheldon Street in Springfield. The
crews will unload 900 donated toys at the Gray House and
help sort them.
“The Community Service crews are a
HUGE help,” said Dena Calvanese, Executive Director
of The Gray House. “The first year I was here, I
got a call from an organization and was told they were
going to give us 1,000 toys. ‘Can you come pick them
up?’ It took four cars and four trips to pick up
all of those toys.”
“The next year, one of our board members
said ‘call Paula Therrien (Hampden Community Services
Court Services Coordinator). I bet she can help.’ Paula
sent her crews and it only took one trip to pick up the
toys. We saved so much time and energy. Having the Community
Service crews is a true blessing.”
The Gray House, which celebrates its 25th
anniversary next year, is a private, non-profit organization
which serves individuals and families in the North End
of Springfield, providing food, clothing, and educational
Community Service crews also assisted with
the annual Rock 102 Mayflower Marathon, a Thanksgiving
Food Drive held at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.
The offenders unloaded tractor trailer loads of food donations
into a Community Service moving truck. The food donations
were transported to the Open Pantry, a food pantry located
on State Street, and then unloaded the food.
“We really depend upon the volunteers
from the probation department and the Trial Court Community
Service Program to load and unload non-perishable food
items donated to our emergency food pantry,” said
Kevin J. Noonan, Executive Director of Open Pantry Community
Services, Inc. “Since we have a limited budget and
an ever increasing number of people seeking food assistance,
it is wonderful to receive these very helpful volunteers.
It is also reassuring to see people on probation who are
willing to give back to the community.”
In Franklin County, Community Service crews
were also dispatched to the Adopt-A-Family Program at the
St. James Church in Greenfield where they unloaded donations
of food, clothing, and toys at the church over a three-day
period. They were also on hand to help load the vehicles
of the families when they arrived to pick up the donated
The Adopt-A-Family Program at St. James Church
services more than 200 families in Franklin County during
the holiday season. The families are sponsored by local
companies and donors who provide food and gifts.
“The volunteers at the program are
mostly a bunch of older people. We would not be able to
do all of the work required of this program without the
help of the Community Service people,” said Libby
Kolasinski who along with Joan Arms serves as coordinators
of the program.
Kolasinski added, “The people from
Community Service are very energetic. They seem to be happy
to do what they are doing. Some of the workers have come
back to help after they completed their (Community Service)
hours. They realize how important it is for these families.”
In Berkshire County, the Community Service
Program has worked in collaboration with the Pittsfield
District Court, Berkshire Superior Court, the Berkshire
Community Corrections Center and the Northern Berkshire
District Court to help The Christian Center. Community
Service crews have sorted non-perishable food collected
in food drives; helped make Thanksgiving Day Food baskets
for people in need; and organized toys collected at holiday
time for distribution to underprivileged teens and children
in the community.
The Center serves 100 people lunch and provides
15 to 20 food bags each day at its site where Continental
breakfast is also available. In addition to food, the Center
offers clothing as well as educational services and programs—all
of which are available free of charge to anyone.
“The Community Service group helps
us at the Christian Center throughout the year. They help
us organize donated food and stock the shelves for our
food pantry. They have helped us prepare for our annual
block party in the fall and prepare bags of food at Thanksgiving.
I think they are a good group of people who are giving
back to their community. We can call anytime and they come
right away,” said Hand.
The Trial Court Community Service Program
is a division of the Office of Community Corrections (OCC).
OCC is an independent division of the Office of the Commissioner
of Probation, the administrative office for the Massachusetts
Probation Service which is comprised of 105 probation departments
throughout the state.