Newspaper

May 7, 2014

Westminster Senior Center Gets Help From Inmate Community Program

5/2/2014
Westminster Senior Center gets help from inmate community program

Kimberly Petalas

News Staff Writer

 

 

Sheriff Lew Evangelidis checks on the progress of work being done by county  inmates at the new Westminster Senior Center on Thursday. Above, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, Officer Jason Firmin, Co-chairman of the Senior Center Building Committee Peter Normandin, Council on Aging Director Sue Fisher, Senior Center Building Committee member Neysa Miller.

 

WESTMINSTER — Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis stopped into the new Westminster Senior Center to check in on the Inmate Community Service Program on Thursday.

“I was the state rep. here for eight years,” said  Sheriff Evangelidis. “I know that it’s been a dream for the community to get this Senior Center.”

Six inmates have been working to paint the walls of the senior center since Monday and will continue their efforts into next week.

“We’re saving about $18,000 by not having to contract a paint crew,” said Senior Center Building Committee Co-Chairman Peter Normandin.

“Aubuchon generously donated all of the paint we are using for the project. They also sent a color expert to help us color coordinate all of the rooms.”

The Inmate Community Service Program has tripled in size since Sheriff Evangelidis took office. He said the program has been very beneficial to both the places receiving the help, and  the working participants.

“These are the best inmates we have. They are nonviolent offenders,” said the sheriff. “The community benefits by saving money on projects, and the inmates benefit because it gives them an opportunity to acquire skills and turn their lives around. The inmates in this program have proven to be the least likely to become repeat offenders.”

The only cost to the community is supplies and lunch for the workers.

The Westminster Senior Center project, which is well underway, is expected to be completed before Christmas. Committee member Neysa Miller said she has been waiting for this since 2005.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” said Ms. Miller. “It originally started as plans for just the senior housing, which will still happen after this is complete. We were told we needed to invest more in our seniors before we could receive funding for the housing, so that’s how the senior center started.”

She said that students from Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School will be doing all of the wood and cabinet work, in addition to the inmates doing all of the painting.

The town purchased the land for $360,000 and donated it to the Senior Center in 2005 as part of an Annual Town Meeting article.

In 2011, voters approved $250,000 for the design of the building, and in January 2013, the $2.5 million budget for the project was backed by voters as a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion.

The project’s budget includes a $189,000 contract with architectural firm Reinhardt Associates — which includes a $64,000 extension given by the Board of Selectmen in April 2013 — and a $50,000 contract for Suresh Bhatia of Atlantic Construction and Management to oversee the construction.

The  7,400-square-foot building sits on about 12 acres of land and will include an art room, game room, lounge, kitchen, outdoor patio and grill space, and a multipurpose room.

“So many people have volunteered their time or money to this project,” said Mr. Normandin. “Everyone is so appreciative of our seniors and all seem to want to help. That’s just the spirit of Westminster.”

May 7, 2014

Hammers Swing at Westminster Senior Center

Inmate workers helping with construction

By Michael Hartwell, mhartwell@sentinelandenterprise.com

05/01/2014 06:53:17 AM

 

Tommie-Lee Goddard sands a doorway in the new Westminster Senior Center Wednesday morning as part of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Community

 

 

 

Tommie-Lee Goddard sands a doorway in the new Westminster Senior Center

Wednesday morning as part of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Community Service Program.

 

SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / ASHLEY GREEN

 

 

 

 

 

WESTMINSTER — Contractors and inmate workers were working hard on the inside of the Westminster Senior Center, which town officials expect to be open by Christmas.

The inmate workers, who are sanding and painting the interior this week, were brought in courtesy of a Worcester County Sheriff’s Office program for low-risk inmates nearing release.

Inmates are unpaid, but receive credit towards an earlier release. Corrections Officer Jason Firmin, who was one of two officers supervising the work Wednesday, said it also allows them to give back to the community.

“It’s a good way to pass the time,” said Felix Mendoza, an inmate worker originally from Clinton and no stranger to construction work.

 

Town officials say the new Westminster Senior Center is on track to open by Christmas.

SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / ASHLEY GREEN

Town officials say the new Westminster Senior Center is on track to open by Christmas.SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / ASHLEY GREENSentinel and Enterprise staff

He has experience with masonry and electrical work, but the inmate crew is only there to paint.

Tommie Goddard of Leicester said the work gives them something to do and breaks up their routine. The inmate workers received coffee and doughnuts in the morning and sandwiches for lunch.

Inmate worker Brandon Griffin of Fitchburg has never done painting work before. Previously this week, he put down primer and paint and on Wednesday he was using sandpaper on doorways to smoothe out the brushstrokes. He said when he gets out he plans to work and continue his education. He currently has an associate’s degree in business and plans to get a bachelor’s degree in business.

Construction contractors from L.D. Russo Inc., of Harvard, are working on more advanced tasks like installing components of the temperature-control system. In addition, unpaid volunteers from town are also helping work on the project, including Keith Harding, a former advisory board member, and Don Barry of the Planning Board.

Aubuchon Hardware, which has its headquarters in Westminster, donated paint for the project. A Westminster resident donated the use of a scissor lift to reach the high points of the ceiling in the large activity room at the center of the senior center.

“With the tight budget we have, everyone’s help is appreciated,” said Peter Normandin of the Senior Center Building Committee.

Wearing old clothes for painting work, Normandin said next week students from Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School will come in to put in ceramic tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms and install stone details on the bottom of the outside walls and columns.

The contractor should be finished with the construction work before July, according to Normandin. He said they hope to have the 7,400 square foot building finished and open before Christmas of this year.

Neysa Miller of Westminster’s Council on Aging has been one of the volunteers working on the building project since 2005. At age 87, she said it’s a success that the single-floor building will offer program space for people her age, as well as the younger seniors. She praised the volunteer work that has been crucial to keeping the budget low for the project.

“It brings the whole town together,” said Miller.

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis represented Westminster for eight years as a state representative, “And I know how hard they worked to get the senior center in their budget. The amazing thing about this program is it saves millions of dollars … and at the same time it gives the inmates a skillset they can rely on when they get out.”

He said participation in the inmate-work program is a privilege reserved for nonviolent offenders without behavioral issues, and participants have one of the lowest recidivism rates among inmates.

May 7, 2014

Community Service Participants Lend a Hand in Hubbardston

hubbardston

5/5/2014 7:31:00 AM

Community Service participants lend a hand in Hubbardston 

Eryn Dion
News Staff Writer

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis visits participants

of the county’s Community Service program as they work on the  youth baseball fields in Hubbardston.

HUBBARDSTON—Inmates from the Worcester County House of Corrections traded their cells for a baseball diamond Friday afternoon, as the Sheriff Office’s Inmate Community Service Program stopped by the Roy E. Handy Jr. Memorial field to ready the landscape for opening day.

“I love this program,” commented Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, who dropped by the field to oversee the crew.

According to the Sheriff, the program has tripled in size during his term and has saved towns across the county several million dollars. Multiple crews travel throughout the area, completing inside work during the cold winter months and outside work in the spring and summer. In Hubbardston alone, the inmate’s work on the baseball fields has saved the town over $27,000 in the last four years. Friday’s three-person crew has been raking gravel and painting dugouts all week.

The work crews are made up of non-violent offenders from around Worcester County who are within six months of their scheduled release date. The service is voluntary and inmates are screened before they can enter the program.

“They want to do this,” said Sheriff Evangelidis. “They see it as a privilege.”

The Sheriff explained that the inmates involved in the program see it as a way to gain skills like painting and landscaping, making them more marketable once they are released. Many people who end up in the prison system have no useful skills and no way of gaining meaningful employment.

The Community Service Program ensures that these inmates learn the tools they need to get jobs and stay out of the prison system, he said.

The program has been keeping busy all around the greater-Gardner area, working in both Westminster and Gardner this week. The group will return to Hubbardston in June to help paint the Police Department at the request of Hubbardston Police Chief Dennis Perron.

Apr 9, 2014

Evangelidis to Worcester Students: ‘You want to know how to get to prison? Drugs and alcohol’

 

 

get to prison

 

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis stands in front of a list of celebrities

that have died as a result of drug use during a presentation of his Face-to-Face

program at Burncoat High School Tuesday. (Sam Bonacci, MassLive.com)  

 

 

By: Sam Bonacci, MassLive

April 9, 2014

 

 

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis rattled off the story of nearly every inmate at the Worcester County House of Correction in 10.6 seconds for Burncoat High School’s ninth grade students on Tuesday.

“I was in middle or high school and started taking drugs. I got addicted and stole from my family to support my addiction; got kicked out. Ended up staying with a friend but stole from him to feed my addiction; so he threw me out. So then I started stealing from neighbors and strangers, got arrested and ended up going to prison. That’s the story,” said Evangelidis. “That’s the story of 90 percent of the people in the prison up there … is your life story one you want told?”

Evangelidis is reaching out through his Face-to-Face program to tell students about the perils of drug and alcohol abuse. The program started after talking to prisoners about their path to prison. The majority said they could trace their problems back to drugs in middle and high school. It was then that Evangelidis decided to bring this message to students in the hopes that it would change the path for at least a few students every time he makes the presentation.

“They wish they could bring this program to you, but they can’t because they are in prison,” Evangelidis told the gathered students. “If people didn’t drink and do drugs, the prisons would probably be empty … you want to know how to get to prison? Drugs and alcohol.”

The multi-media presentation has been given throughout Worcester county for the last three years. It is geared towards seventh grade students through high school seniors, although a modified form was given in Auburn to fifth graders at the request of school officials. He has spoken to over 80,000 students, he said. Every time, he has students coming up to him afterwards talking about how drugs have personally touched their lives, said Evangelidis.

The presentation is constantly changing to address drug trends. It makes uses of examples of celebrities affected by or having died from drugs while debunking the myths of various drugs. One of the biggest myths right now revolves around a perceived safety of prescription pills, said Evangelidis.

“So many young people don’t think these are real drugs because they are prescription drugs,” said Evangelidis. “These are some of the hardest, most addictive drugs out there and yet people don’t think they are real.”

This generation of students are at the front lines of a widespread change in drug use in America because of the time in which they are growing up, he explained. Prescription pills, which have not been as prevalent in previous generations, are just as dangerous as any drug that can be put into someone’s arm, he said, and it can take mere months for people hooked on them to turn to heroin.

“No one is going to tell you ‘Try this Oxy(codone) or try this Vic(odin), but six months later you are going to be so addicted that you are going to go out and buy heroin,’” said Evangelidis, explaining that a bag of heroin costs less than a pack of cigarettes and is where people turn to keep an expensive habit going. “Once you’ve started down that road of heroin, you’ve pretty much reached the end of the line and it doesn’t take long to get there.”

For some prisoners, it is a path where even prison is not the worst outcome possible, he said.

“They say, ‘sometimes I think I am the lucky one, because some of my friends died. At least I am still alive,’” said Evangelidis, of conversations he has had with prisoners. “It’s a pretty rough life when you feel fortunate to be sitting in a jail cell.”

The program’s goal is to make students aware that they are taking the first steps down the path to addiction which can lead to prison or death, said Evangelidis. It is one part what needs to be a multi-faceted approach to the problem of drug abuse, he said.

“We need to look closely at addiction programming out there to offer assistance to people who are addicted. We need to look at how prescriptions are allocated by physicians and how people are getting these huge amounts prescribed,” said Evangelidis. “We need to tackle this problem head on and there are so many layers to it.”