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The Gardner News
By Damien Fisher

GARDNER — Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis is proud of the inmates who spent most of this week cleaning the grounds at the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center.

“These are our best inmates,” he said during a tour of the facility on Friday.

The work was done as part of the Inmate Community Service Program, which sends non-violent prisoners out to work for nonprofit organizations and municipalities.

This week, the inmates have swept out all of the sand from the roadway at the center and the housing units, as well as raked and cleaned up all of the grounds.

Pamela Toomey, a case manager at the center, said the inmates have been great to have around the campus.

“They’re really nice, very polite,” she said.

Clinical Director Martha Gauvin said the center’s maintenance man is spread too thin between the operations n Gardner, Fitchburg and Leominster to have time to do the spring clean-up the inmates did.

“It would have taken him a long time to do it,” she said.

Inmates close to their release from the jail are eligible for the program. It offers them a chance to get out of the jail, help out their communities and earn real-life working skills.

The program has saved organizations and municipalities in Worcester County more than $2 million since Mr. Evangelidis took office.

The Northeast Veteran Training & Rehabilitation Center offers disabled veterans and their families physical therapy, counseling, housing and education through adjacent Mount Wachusett Community College.

The center has 10 housing units in use right now, with 10 more slated for opening in August.

Mr. Evangelidis likes to come out to see the work the crews have done whenever he can. He spent time Friday afternoon speaking to the inmates, and offering them assistance for when they get out to help ensure they don’t return to prison.