Community service workers prepare for Family Fun Days, other events

Published 9:36 am Thursday, July 1, 2010

COAL GROVE — This evening, a crowd will descend on Paul Porter Park in Coal Grove for the annual Family Fun Days.

Festival-goers will nosh baked goods, try their luck at the Chinese auction and relax to some entertainment. But before the crowd arrives for the fun, a group of community service workers will have been there before, helping village employees and volunteers set up tents, paint, clean and tidy up the park and other parts of the village before one of the biggest events Coal Grove has each year.

The community service workers come compliments of Ironton Municipal Court Judge O. Clark Collins, who last year doubled his community service program to nearly 20, allowing more people a chance to work off their fines and work during or instead of a jail stay, thus alleviating overcrowding at the county’s extremely overcrowded jail and allowing people convicted of non-violent crimes to, as Collins says, “work their way out of trouble.”

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Been to a public event lately? Chances are, some of the preparation for it was performed by community service workers. Charity Fair. Navy Night. Gus Macker. The Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade.

Before these events, Ironton Municipal Court Community Service workers were probably there, picking up litter, planting flowers, cleaning trash cans and performing other work local communities can’t afford to pay to have done.

CS workers helped move Ironton High School furnishings and equipment from the old high school into the Delaware Street site a couple of years ago and last year helped St. Lawrence Elementary make the move from its Lawrence Street site to new digs at the old Kingsbury building. Collins said the CS workers also spent six weeks this past winter securing an area of the city center where court records are kept. Community service workers also help clean the Ironton City Center, pick up trash on the floodwall, clean and tidy area cemeteries and has helped Ironton In Bloom get ready for the visit by America In Bloom Judges.

But last week and this week, one of the crews was committed to Coal Grove.

“I was in weeds up to my knees,” Community Service Supervisor Tim Collins said. “We cleaned all the culverts, cleaned curbs and everything along Marion Pike. We painted garbage receptacles, washed down the stage and painted the restrooms. We painted all the poles and planted flowers. We’ve been busy.”

One worker who helped at Paul Porter Park Wednesday was paying off fines by helping pitch tents and paint trash receptacles. Convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, he spent 21 days in jail and 10 on the community service work crew. He prefers the work crew to cooling his heels in jail.

“There’s a little bit more freedom. Even though you’re working, it’s better than just staying in jail,” he said. He asked not to be identified.

Coal Grove Mayor Larry McDaniel said if not for the community service workers, much of the work performed “just wouldn’t have gotten done. I appreciate all the help they send us. They also help us at Christmas time decorating the park for Christmas.”

Judge Collins agreed.

“It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved,” he said. “The individual gets to work his way out of trouble, pay off his fines and the community gets the benefit of having the work done.”

While Collins supervised the crew in Coal Grove, J.D. Gore, the court’s community service program director, supervised another group of workers as they cut weeds along the entrance and exit ramps in the village of Hanging Rock.

The weed cutting crew included Melvin Cade, whose jail sentence was reduced for good behavior and was working out the balance of his sentence on the community service program. Cade has an interview today at a local fast food restaurant and hopes to work a night shift there and stay on the work crew during the day. There is satisfaction, he said, in doing something constructive.

“I like helping the city,” he said, and “keeping things nice and clean.”