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Community farm at drug treatment center

  • Subject: [cg] Community farm at drug treatment center
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2006 19:40:14 -0700 (PDT)

The Ironton Tribune, Ohio
August 15, 2006
By Kirsten Stanley

Pedro man, STAR residents team up for garden project

HAVERHILL  What started out as a community service
project has grown  literally  into much more at the
STAR Community Justice Center on Gallia Pike.

A 10,000-square-foot plot of land at the
drug-treatment facility is flourishing with more than
20 kinds of vegetables under the watchful eye of some
of the centers residents and volunteer A.J. Walsh, a
Pedro business owner.

Walsh came to the center in April proposing to plant
the garden and see it through until harvest as part of
a class project he was required to do for his recently
completed bachelors degree at Ohio University
Southern.

Walsh is no stranger to either agriculture or
corrections. He is the owner of Evening Shade Nursery
on State Route 93 and is also a retired police
officer.

I was familiar with this and I knew a lot about
community service projects from my experience as a Boy
Scout leader, he explained.

So, since the spring, Walsh has been coming to STAR at
least twice a week to work with groups of about eight
men  a total of about 50 have participated  who are
nearing completion of their treatment at the center
and have been given the opportunity to take part in
the gardening program.

STAR  which stands for Structure, Therapy, Advocacy
and Restoration  is a minimum-security facility for
non-violent, felony offenders from who are recommended
for the program by judges in their communities.

There are 65 residents from nine counties currently
housed at the center, one of those is Jeremy Johnson,
who has worked tending to the garden for the past few
weeks. The 31-year-old from Highland County said he is
thankful for the opportunity to work with Walsh.

Its wonderful to be out here, Johnson said during a
break from his work Wednesday. It makes you feel
free.

Although the residents get to go outside for other
activities, Johnson said the time in the fresh air can
never last long enough.

So, what is Johnsons favorite part of the gardening
program? He said it is opening the doors to come
outside. Though dreaded by most, Johnson said he also
enjoys weeding the garden because it is more of a
challenge that other gardening tasks such as picking.

Johnson is expected to be released from STAR in
September. He was sentenced to drug treatment after a
number of probation violations, he said.

Although the garden has netted pounds and pounds of
produce  all of which is used at the center or
donated to local social service organizations  Walsh
said things didnt look so promising at first. The
garden started out a piece of land with fill dirt and
clay, he said. With a little tender loving care and a
lot of fertilizer, the land has become a fertile home
to the crops from bell peppers and green beans to
cabbage and watermelons. Walsh said he and the
residents have harvested about $8,000 in produce.

In addition to gardening, STAR residents are also
exposed to a number of other programs, ranging from
culinary arts to grounds maintenance, said Christine
Martin, STAR community justice supervisor. They
participate in a number of community service projects
in Scioto and Lawrence counties; all of which are
aimed at teaching the men job skills they will
hopefully use when they are released. The center
partners with OUS, Shawnee State University and many
other government and community agencies in the area to
provide the residents opportunities for hands-on work
experience, Martin said.

Many of the residents havent rightfully earned a
paycheck in the past. Our goal is to help them develop
the work ethic and give them the skills they need to
use later in life, she explained.

Dan Hieronimus, STAR executive director agreed with
Martin saying that work projects help the residents to
learn job skills. Once they are released, he said
those offenders who can find gainful employment are
less likely to return to jail or drug treatment

In addition to the vocational skills, he said there
are other benefits to residents. Many of those
receiving treatment at STAR have never done anything
for anybody without getting something in return,
according to Hieronimus. Through programs such as
gardening, they can experience what its like to give
back to the community.

This lets them know how good it feels to give to
someone without expecting anything, he said. It lets
them reach out


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