Youths clean up their act Jobs program helps delinquents, town

September 16, 1992|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Staff Writer

SYKESVILLE -- For the past several weeks, Davey and Joe have spent Tuesday and Friday mornings working for the town, helping the maintenance crew keep the streets and parks clean.

The teen-agers, both 17, sweep the curbs, clean out the garbage trucks, and do other odd jobs.

"Whatever needs done -- dirty work, clean work -- anything they ** ask us to do, we do," said Davey, whose birthday was Thursday.

Davey said he enjoys the work so much that he's volunteered to work an extra day each week if the town will let him.

"They're real good to us. We get complimented a lot," he said.

"It's nothing I've never done before, but the work is challenging," Joe said. "I've swept the curbs at home, but here it's different. The stuff is piled up and you need shovels."

"Yeah, we broke two brooms already sweeping," Davey chuckled.

The part-time jobs represent a new freedom and trust for Davey and Joe, who live at the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center for delinquent juveniles in Henryton.

Hiring the boys gives the town a chance to support people who are trying to put their lives back on track. It's also extra help for Sykesville's small maintenance staff.

"It's really a well-rounded program that helps the boys spiritually, physically and emotionally," said Town Manager James L. Schumacher. "And it's good for us. They've been pretty helpful."

Sykesville became involved in the program last spring when center staffers approached several town officials. A visit to the center so impressed the officials that they decided to join the employment program.

"It's a model facility and they don't have any serious criminals," Councilman Jonathan Herman said. "We should do what we can to help them, and it would benefit the town."

Dalita Friend, the program's vocational coordinator, said she and PTC the town officials are happy to be working together. They will continue the program with other boys after Davey and Joe leave the center in a few weeks.

The center, nestled in the woods along Henryton Road, offers a secure haven for as many as 40 troubled youths who have committed such relatively minor offenses as breaking and entering, theft or selling drugs.

The boys are referred from the Department of Juvenile Services, which contracts with TOYC to take teen-agers who likely can be helped.

"We don't take every boy who is referred to us," Ms. Friend said. "They are interviewed before coming here to make sure they understand what we're doing."

While the boys live at the center, usually for six to nine months, they are given a state-approved education program, and a variety of individual and family counseling services, to prepare them for their transition back into society.

There's also a six-month, after-care program for boys when they leave, and a transitional program for those who need to come back for a short time.

The staff works to accentuate the positive in the boys and help them face their problems head-on, then learn to deal with them. The boys are encouraged to learn about each other so they can help one another through the program.

Model residents who request outside jobs must go through a pre-employment class with Ms. Friend, then fill out an application and be interviewed by the employer.

"Joe was almost made for this job with Sykesville," Ms. Friend said. "Sometimes it's all he talks about. I try to monitor the program and send the boys to jobs they want, and are interested in, and will do well at."

Davey and Joe are expecting to return home within three weeks. Davey hopes to go back to school, get his diploma and go to college.

Joe also wants to return to school and take up carpentry.

"If I get the courage, I'd like to start up my own business building houses," Joe said.

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