Community service program feeds an Ohio community

By David E. Malloy - The Herald-Dispatch

IRONTON, Ohio (AP) — Tending chickens, raising crops and helping Little League programs around the county are just some of the things community service workers are doing to help pay their debt to society.

The workers who are assigned to do between 200 to 400 hours of community service by Lawrence County Common Pleas Judges Andy Ballard and Christen Finley are raising tomatoes, corn, beans, white potatoes and sweet potatoes and green beans among other things at a farm adjacent to the Lawrence County Group Home along Ohio 93 north of Ironton, about 20 miles northwest of Huntington, W.Va.

“They’re giving back to the community,” said Carl Bowen, the county’s chief probation officer. “They’re helping with jail costs. The idea is to help them to be responsible. It will allow them to see the fruits of their labors. It teaches them to show up on time like they will need to do on a job.”

The community service workers helped package up 383 dozen eggs, some 4,382 pounds of corn, 3,127 pounds of green beans and 255 pounds of potatoes and sweet potatoes last year, said Ted Edwards, community service director and probation officer. He has overseen the workers for more than a year and a half.

“We have 344 people on community service right now,” Edwards said.

Thomas Carpenter, 21, is among them. He has completed about 100 hours of the 200 hours of community service he is required to do. Working around crops is something he is familiar with, Carpenter said.

“I helped my dad in his garden when I was growing up,” Carpenter said. “It was do this or go to jail and anyone with any sense will do this,” he said of the community service program.

Dorothy Walker, 37, was working her first day earlier this week on the community service program. She has 400 hours she has to complete. “It’s an experience,” she said. “I’m learning new things.”

The food and eggs go to the juvenile center, the county jail, the Chesapeake Senior Center, the Ironton Senior Center, the Chesapeake Food Pantry, the Ironton City Mission and the Concerned Citizens of Burlington, he said.

“The green beans and corn that was given to the seniors here at the Ironton Senior Center was very good,” said Melinda Nance, manager of the senior center program. “The seniors have said that’s the best homegrown corn and beans they have eaten this year.”

The idea of the program is to give community service workers something productive to do, Edwards said.

The program started some seven years ago when the late Jim Mayberry, a local farmer, helped the community service workers learn to grow crops, he said.

The food production hasn’t been quite as good this year because of the wet spring, Edwards said. “I’m more optimistic about the fall crop of beans and corn,” he said.

The rain and deer led to the loss of 75 percent or more of the crops earlier this year, Edwards said.

The program has a greenhouse adjacent to the former Rock Hill Redmen ball fields, he said. They also have some 45 hens that have produced more than 12 dozen eggs in the past week or two, he said.

In addition to working at the farm, community service workers have painted benches for the South Point Little League and cleaned up and worked on the Proctorville Little League field, Edwards said.

“We keep them busy,” he said.

By David E. Malloy

The Herald-Dispatch