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The Gardner News
By Damien Fisher

A crew of workers from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Inmate Community Service Program has been cleaning up at the Templeton Developmental Center this week.

“It’s been an invaluable service,” said Patty Lyons, the center’s director.

The inmates are a familiar sight at the center, which houses about 59 adults with developmental disabilities. Every year, an inmate crew also helps to harvest the fruits and vegetables sold at the annual Ferncol Fair.

“These are our best inmates,” said Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis.

The program puts inmates nearing their release dates to work in communities throughout the county. The inmates learns trade skills while area municipalities and nonprofits get free labor for needed projects.

John Harrington, the inventory control manager at the developmental center, estimates the inmates are doing $400 worth of work a day. This week they are clearing out buildings used for storage, full of decades worth of furniture and old equipment.

The Templeton Developmental Center opened in 1900 as a home for the developmentally disabled. The residents learned trades working on the farm situated on 2,600 acres.

The center is scheduled to close as part of the state’s shift toward more community-based housing for the developmentally disabled. A community home will be built at the site for former residents, while others are being transitioned to homes throughout the state.

Mr. Evangelidis made it his goal to grow the service program when he took office last year. So far, he estimates he has saved communities and nonprofit organizations $2.5 million through the inmate crews.

Templeton alone has benefited to the tune of $36,279 in savings, he said, while Gardner has seen $116,141 in saving to various organizations.

The program requires inmates to earn their way in through good behavior.

It excludes sex offenders and inmates with violent records.