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Community Service Partnership with Court Lends New Baltimore a Hand

Individuals sentenced to community service instead of jail time help save the city money spent on labor and, ideally, find a way to steer clear of the streets.

For the past three months, New Baltimore resident Kevin Davis, 20, has pushed brooms, pulled weeds, painted and completed handiwork around town.

In Davis' mind, the 60 accumulated community service hours sure beat the alternative: 93 days in jail for a first-offense vandalism conviction.

"It was nice," he said Monday of Judge William Hackel's sentence. "He's a great ; he wasn't too harsh."

His community service mandate, which ended Monday as he worked at the on Washington Street, changed Davis' perspective on life.

"I was just a little misguided," he said. "I kind of got an eye-opener."

After a business owner spotted his hard work, Davis also got gigs pulling weeds and doing other labor for rental units.

Court and City Team for Better Good

Davis is just one of several adults serving their community service in New Baltimore through 42-2 District Court at any given time. The partnership, overseen by City Building Official Greg Nikkel, aims to help a city with limited manpower save money and also teach work ethic and skills to those serving, said Nikkel, who started the program two years ago.

So far this year, the city benefited from approximately 1,000 hours of community service. That time included anything from painting parking lot lines to pulling weeds in city parks.

"This way, it doesn't cost us anything," he said, adding that the Department of Public Works, which lost employees through attrition in recent years, can focus on more important duties.

On Monday, Davis served his final day of community service at the recreation center, where Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Carlos Aprea said people in the program have docked a couple hundred hours this year.

"I use community service all the time," Aprea said. "We have a short staff. ... It's a win-win for everybody."

Community Service Done at Cafe

When Nikkel has the city caught up on labor, he sends community service workers to , where Pastor Chris Steinle puts them in the kitchen or even to work outside the volunteer-run business.

"We have to invest in people because they don't just end up in the strait that they're in by doing wrong," Steinle said.

While some people have been assigned to wait tables or cook in the cafe, Steinle has taken others completely out of their comfort zones in hopes of transforming them.

The pastor--who along with others at North Shore Church--does all over the country and overseas, has brought individuals with him.

In July, a 15-year-old boy sentenced through the district court for threatening someone over the computer went with them to Joplin, MO. He helped low-income housing tenants who lost power and were without clean clothes and working appliances in the tornado-ravaged community.

"This is a kid who went from his hair in front of his face, head down to hair in a ponytail and head up, saying 'What do you have for me next?'" Steinle said.

The teen also learned how to work with his hands by installing appliances and doing other tasks.

"It's small, but it's big," Steinle said. "We gave the kid some life skills."

Community Service Lessons End with Choices

For Davis, who is thankful for the chance to avoid three months behind bars, the opportunity to benefit from community service is up to those sentenced.

"I think it's more productive but some people wouldn't do it. Some people are just more into what they're doing, as far as gangs or being a criminal," he said.

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