Emlenton's Partnership With Youth Facility Feted

Kristi Runyan
Staff Writer, The Derrick & The News-Herald

A ceremony Wednesday night celebrated the five-year partnership between the Emlenton Borough and Mid-Atlantic Youth Services facility and proved that sometimes, second chances for people really do pay off.

Forty-one youths from the alternate education and juvenile detention facility outside of Emlenton have worked as paid summer employees with the borough, a partnership which is unique in this region, for four years now. In the first year of the partnership, youths only provided community service but they now spend 10 hours a week in the summer providing community service work and 10 hours a week doing paid work with the borough’s maintenance department.

The event was attended by borough employees, community members, representatives from local politicians’ offices as well as representatives from the Oil Region Alliance and the Mid-Atlantic facility. But most importantly, some of the youths from the facility were in attendance, including Paris Johnson, the first youth from Mid-Atlantic Youth Services to go through the work program. Carol Wilson, community service coordinator at Mid-Atlantic Youth Services, said the community was hesitant at first about having youths from the facility working in the borough, but that the partnership has since blossomed.

“Some of our kids have earned money before this program, but it’s not been on a legal basis and they’ve never gotten a paycheck,” Wilson said. “This gives them a sense of pride and responsibility and teaches them great life skills.”

Youths at the facility who qualify for the work program have to go through the same process anyone else would when trying to obtain a job, including filling out an application, creating a resume and going through an interview.

“If they get the job, they have to have their lunches packed and be at work on time, the same as everyone else,” Wilson said.

The community wasn’t exactly thrilled at first about the prospect of youths from the facility working in the borough, but warmed up after seeing the youths were good workers and polite people, Wilson and borough manager Nancy Marano agreed.

“They were hesitant to do this at first because of the reputation,” Wilson said. “Breaking into the community, it wasn’t like everybody had open arms. But then people in the community started meeting the kids and seeing how polite they were and it’s taken off from there. These kids are just like any other kids. They’ve just gotten caught and they’re trying to make it better.”

Marano said that she had confidence the youths would be assets to the maintenance department because they had already come so far at Mid-Atlantic.

“The kids that come out into the community are kids who are at the end of the whole treatment process at the facility,” Marano said. “It’s like the final step; they don’t want to take steps back, they just want the steps forward and this is another treatment opportunity.” Dave Wilfong, head of Emlenton’s maintenance department, said even he was hesitant at first.

“When I was approached about this program, I thought, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” Wilfong said. “But these kids are all really good. Five years and 41 kids later, I’m still looking for the bad one and haven’t found him.” Wilfong shared a story where he and Johnson were driving through town and Johnson spotted a man slumped over the wheel of his vehicle and urged Wilfong to turn around and go back to check on him. Wilfong recognized the man who apparently had a severe case of diabetes and said Johnson kept the man awake until paramedics arrived, who said had Johnson and Wilfong not stopped, the man might have died.

“You saved his life,” Wilfong said to Johnson.

Johnson addressed the audience and spoke about his experience with the program, as well as the story Wilfong shared.

“I didn’t save his life, you all saved mine,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who also acknowledged that the relationship between the youths and the community started off slow, said it eventually became strong and taught him a lot.

“Once we got to know each other, it was like we knew each other forever,” Johnson said.

Johnson said once he left the facility and was back home in Philadelphia, he carried he lessons he learned while at the facility and working in Emlenton with him.

“I’m living life and it’s finally feeling good,” Johnson said. “To my youths here, give it a try and watch what happens. I was living in hell now I'm living in heaven on earth. Open your mind. Open your heart and see what life has to offer. Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t do something. You can do anything you put your mind to. That’s what I learned here.”

Several other officials in attendance also spoke and praised the partnership, stating how it has benefited everyone involved in various ways.

Wilson said while the youths have been out working, some community members have also reached out to them to show their appreciation.

“There was a hot day last summer when it was like 100 degrees and the kids were out doing work,” Wilson said. “Someone stopped with lemonade for them and thanked them because they were making the town so much better. The kids were so impressed that someone who didn’t know them would do that for them.”

The youths from the Mid-Atlantic facility provide community service to other local municipalities, including Franklin, Chicora and Butler, Wilson said.

Youths who have been involved in the work program have gained confidence and self-esteem, Wilson said, and that she herself has learned a lot watching the kids learn and grow through the partnership. “I’m not sure how I got involved with all of this but I’m sure glad I did,” Wilson said.

Marano said her experience has been nothing but positive so far. “I remember this one kid in the program, I handed him his first paycheck and his eyes swelled up with tears,” Marano said. “He said, ‘Thank you, I’ve never got a paycheck in my life and I’ll never take anything from anyone again because I never realized how hard people work for what I took.’”

The work program gives the youths a second chance, Marano said. “This community had welcomed them with open arms; they were timid at first but our community has said, ‘Let’s give them a second chance,’” Marano said. “It’s a win-win situation the whole way across the board.”

Kristi Runyan
Staff Writer, The Derrick & The News-Herald
Derrick Publishing Co.
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MAYS Parents say Thank You!

August 19, 1012

Dear Mr. Patrus,

We wanted to thank you so much for your hard work with Jocelyn and for your support during our family sessions.

We have witnessed many changes in Jocelyn over the past 10 months. While she has only been home for a few days, it is a pleasure to have her here. We are still nervous and working on finding the right balance between supervision and independence. We also recognize that next week she will be living outside our supervision at college and trust that she has internalized the decision making skills she learned at MAYS.

She is taking her recovery seriously and has concrete goals for her transitionn to Clarion and attending a recovery group there within the first few days is one of them.

We applaud your consistency and clarity of purpose in carrying out the spirit and the letter of the therapeutic model at MAYS. Over the past three years, we have had the experience of reading and hearing about the treatment philosophy at three different facilities only to discover that the execution was sadly lacking.

The experiences that Jocelyn shares with us make it clear that the philosophy and ideals of the MAYS model are exemplified in you and the other clinical staff. I believe that you have saved her life and set her up for success in the future. She now has the tools and the framework to make different choices.

We are watching her make choices every day. At this point it is clear that she recognizes that they are choices within her control.

Again, thank you for your efforts on her behalf.

Warm regards,

Howard and Lynda West

Testimonial from the Philadelphia Defender Association

 I’m emailing you to let you know how much I appreciate the wonderful work that your staff did with my client, who just discharged from your program on Tuesday, 12-13-11. My client went through a traumatic time with the loss of her baby shortly after entering the program, and the way that your staff provided her with the support and treatment that she needed was exceptional. While my client really did a lot on her own to get through things and go on to excel in your program, if it weren’t for your staff I know she would never have gotten through it the way she did and be where she is today. She is one of my first clients in the 6 years that I have worked here that really applied herself and got the most out of everything the program had to offer, including getting her GED and many other certificates. 

Ms. Walker and Mr. Patrus, along with everyone else that worked with my client should be commended for the great work that they did with her and the work that I’m confident they do with all of our other clients in your program. I also commend the line staff that worked with my client while on the unit. I had many phone calls with her where she reflected how much she appreciated the staff on her unit and their openness to allow her to express herself and grow. Ms. Walker and Mr. Patrus also did a great job maintaining communication with me and our office, keeping us updated allowing her to call and communicate whenever it was requested.

Overall, I just wanted to express my thanks and appreciation for everything that your staff and program did to help my client succeed and grow into a phenomenal young woman. Thank you so much!

Juvenile Social Service Advocate
Defender Association of Philadelphia

Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO)

Thanksgiving Project Recap

As you know Thanksgiving is a very busy time for CEO. With hard work and dedication of many supporters and volunteers, we are able to feed thousands of households in the area. This year's food distribution was a success, because of many partnerships that held Food Drives and helped CEO serve 7,619 households for Thanksgiving.

Thanks again to all of the volunteers and donors that helped make this year's Annual Thanksgiving Project a success!

Volunteer Groups: Franklin Security Bank, Local Boy and Girl Scout Troops, King's College, Wilkes University, Misericordia University, LCCC, PPL, KNBT Bank, Wyoming Valley United Way, Greater Hazleton United Way, Wyoming County United Way, Coca Cola, RSVP (Retire & Senior Volunteer Program), Benco Dental, Travelocity, ClemMar House, LIU 18, VA Transitional Housing Program, St. Nick's/St. Mary's Church, St. Therese's Church - Shavertown, Blue Cross of NEPA, Kingston Kiwanis, Mid Atlantic Youth Services, Trion Industries, CVS / Caremark, Polish Union, CEO Staff, HDC Staff, Frontier, Westmoreland Club, Lake Silkworth Lions Club, Day Development, Lake Lehman High School, St. Jude's Church, Jewish Community Center, American Red Cross-Hazleton Chapter, Hazleton Area High School Key Club, Holy Family Academy Students of Service, Keystone Job Corps-Youth Services Division.

On behalf of all those who were able to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, a special thank you goes out to all those organizations who held "Feed a Friend" Food drive in support of CEO and the Weinberg Foodbank and to all those who volunteered.

Partnership and Community Service Awards
On October 15, 2008, two awards were given to Western PA Child Care during the Emlenton Community Service Awards Ceremony. The awards included a Community Service Award presented by State Representative Scott Hutchinson to MAYS' Executive Director Mike Cummings and an Oustanding Partnership Award presented by State Senator Mary Jo White. View Certificates

The youth who participated in MAYS' community service program were present at the ceremony and thanked the borough of Emlenton for the opportunity to right their wrongs and give back to the community.

The partnership between Western PA Child Care and the Borough of Emlenton has not only enhanced the lives of the young men at the facility, but the lives of those living in Emlenton.

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Volunteer Service Awards
On May 21, 2008, Pennsylvania Senator Lisa Baker presented a Certificate of Recognition to PA Child Care (formerly Luzerne County Juvenile Detention Center) in recognition of their generous contribution of volunteer service. View Certificate

Letters of Commendation
On Saturday December 6th and Sunday December 7th I had the privilege, along with another instructor to provide a First Aid and CPR (Adult, Infant, Child, and AED) class to 25 Youth in Units G and H. Please congratulate and commend these youth for a job well done. I truly was proud of each and every one of them. Their behavior as well as their performance in both classes was “top notch”.

My friend, Steph Marlow, and I have now done CPR and First Aid training with 1/3 of the youth population in this facility (Units A, G, and H). Thank you for the opportunity to give youth another “tool for success” and a means of possibly helping others in the future. A special thank you to Carol Wilson for setting this past training up and also to Kim Kaufman for setting up the one for Unit A.

Linda Trojak,
Red Cross Instructor

"...Not once have I seen any of the boys without a smile and a happy "hello." They have made a difference in Emlenton by their work ethic, respectfulness and pride in the work they have accomplished. I, for one, would be proud to have any of them as a neighbor in this community." Read Letter

Barbara E. Carr,
Emlenton Renaissance Committee - Garden Committee

"On behalf of the Borough of Emlenton, I would like to thank you and your staff for the outstanding contributions that Western PA Child Care has made to our community through the volunteer work performed by your young men. We have experienced budget difficulties in Emlenton for many years due to depressed economic conditions. The work you have performed has enabled us to provide services for our citizens that otherwise would not have been available. We are also impressed by the pride that the young men take in the work that they have performed..." Read Letter

Richard L. Carr,
Emlenton Borough Mayor

"Recently I was invited to Western PA Child Care to see a presentation presented by two of the youth that are on the work program and work with the borough maintenance department. I've seen their transformation from scared children into secure young men full of pride. It was amazing to hear them in their own words tell about their first days here in the community. They were apprehensive to even step out into public, fearful that they wouldn't be accepted. They described themselves as criminals that would be looked down upon... Soon they learned they were now part of a community. They were overcome by the respect you get from a hard day's work... This program has been a win-win situation for everyone. We hope that this partnership continues for many years to come." Read Letter

Nancy Marano,
Emlenton Borough Manager

"On behalf of myself and my grandson, we would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Chriswell and Mrs. Palmer for their thoughtfulness and dedication in helping my grandson achieve his goals. Indeed, they have went way above and beyond their ordinary duties to help my grandson to be all that he can be. They are dedicated, impartial, fair, and just... Thank you all again for my grandson's care."

Youth's Grandmother

"I would like to thank you for hiring such a good team of staff that has the will power to turn youth from the streets into productive men and women of society. When I walked through these doors, I had the mind set that all I'm going to do is time and go home, but I was fooled when I met Ms. Tronzo, Mr. Coast, and Mr. Patterson for the first time, and they told me I could make it in this program. I didn't believe them, and as a matter of fact, I didn't believe in myself.

Since my time here in Unit G, I grasped the understanding from the staff and my peers about what is really important and that it is my life. No staff member could have said it better than Mr. Gallagher who said "if you are man enough to get yourself in placement, be man enough to get yourself out."

Mr. Shorts, you are the wisest man I ever met, and you bring joy to one of the most miserable places in the world and that is to be away from family. I would also like to thank Mr. Ross for showing me what I like to call tough love and Mr. Dickson for showing me how to be a good father figure and a friend.

Mark T.
Discharged Youth

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