In Ida’s wake, Chester County juvenile probation staff rally to help victims


WEST CHESTER – The concept of restoring people to the Chester County community is central to the work of the County Juvenile Probation Office. It emphasizes “balanced and restorative justice” for young offenders, as well as for anyone who may be the victim of their crimes.

So it’s no surprise that when Hurricane Ida hit the county last month, many working in this office decided they had to step in and do something to help those who suffered in its wake. to find a certain meaning.

By mid-month, more than two dozen office workers took on the task of delivering food, supplies and, in one case, home appliances to residents of the regions of the county affected by Ida.

Their efforts are reminiscent of the community efforts of juvenile probation officers as the county celebrates Juvenile Justice Week, Monday through Friday, with a ceremony Wednesday in which officers are recognized for their work by the county. .

County Commissioners will issue a proclamation commending officers for their efforts “to improve and improve the lives of young people in Chester County.” ”

“Juvenile justice programs can help at-risk children and their families avoid crime, resulting in less crime and a safer community,” the proclamation reads. “Juvenile justice staff are highly trained and dedicated professionals tasked with creating balanced and restorative plans for juvenile offenders. ”

In partnership with local law enforcement agencies, community agencies, families and schools, “juvenile justice staff supervise juvenile offenders based on their level of individual risk to the community, provide minors the opportunity to to understand the damage they have caused and how they can repair victims and develop ways to help minors become responsible and productive members of the community, ”say the commissioners.

Chief Probation Officer Don Corry said last week that the idea of ​​getting involved in helping those who have suffered from Ida was formed through various new discussion efforts within the office to address concerns raised by current events, including notions of bias and social justice, as well as the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a combination of things,” he said in an interview. Not only were there committee meetings going on to address social concerns, but in the aftermath of the hurricane there were people in the office whose lives were turned upside down by the storm, bringing home personal devastation. that she had caused.

These included a woman whose auto repair business her husband was inundated in Downingtown, destroying equipment and cars there; a family whose basement was flooded and suffered significant damage and whose car was lost in the flooding on Route 322; and another couple whose apartment has been flooded and has to stay in a hotel for a week.

“We were very aware that people across the county were hit hard because we had people in our office who were hit hard,” Corry said. “And there is a primary focus in our office to connect with the community. This is an example of that.

“We recognize that our interaction with an individual (offender) is not that long,” he noted. “But supporting the whole community is something that we try to prioritize in an ongoing effort.

“The very nature of a juvenile probation officer’s job is that you try to help other people, so I’m very proud of them,” Corry said.

He named one of the staff, Lai-Onda Welcome, a specialist in juvenile probation officers, as the main organizer of Ida’s relief efforts.

A woman from Coatesville who has worked in the office for more than 10 years, Welcome said she worked with other staff such as Jason Torres and Cathy Young to set the wheels in motion.

They were able to collect everything from babies’ needs, non-perishable food and hygiene items to electric dryers and a refrigerator that were donated to people and organizations in Downingtown and West Chester.

“I believe the department absolutely saw a need and stepped up to help restore the citizens we serve,” Welcome said in an interview. “They have stepped in directly to help the hardest hit areas in Chester County.

“We are not always viewed positively by people in the community, due to the nature of our work. But we are here to serve the community in any way we can, both by helping young people become better citizens and by being better citizens ourselves. ”

To contact editor Michael P. Rellahan, call 610-696-1544.

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