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See what happens when the community cares???

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  • See what happens when the community cares???

    I have always liked approaches like this. Idle hands are the devil's tools, to use a Christian euphamism...

    Really, most if not all vandalism is a result of boredom. On the farms, we had way to much work to do to be bored. Annoyed, yes. Sick and tired of feeding livestock, cutting crops, etc - sure. Bored, no.

    Now, with little to no chores to be done and kids whining about simply pciking up after themselves and cleaning bathrooms akin to WWII POW camps - well, idle hands...

    Originally posted by Edmonton Journal
    No-nonsense approach turns vandals into volunteers

    Scott McKeen
    The Edmonton Journal


    Monday, May 15, 2006



    CREDIT: John Lucas, the Journal
    Jan Sutherland, president of Lorelei-Beaumaris Community League

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    Bring to Jan Sutherland your kids, your budding vandals, your petty thieves. She will give them a stick and a puck.

    Bring to her your adolescent bullies and your fledgling firebugs. She will give them a skateboard and helmet.

    They will play, but by her rules.

    First rule: Each child is obligated to the community and the community is obligated to each child.

    Let me introduce an expert. Not book-learned, or degree-granted, but an expert nonetheless -- expert crime fighter, program director and child psychologist. This is Jan Sutherland, president of the north-side Lorelei-Beaumaris Community League.

    Just over a year ago, the community league suffered a spate of vandalism that threatened its financial existence. With bingo revenues down to almost nil, the community league was at wit's end. It could not afford to keep fixing the damage -- the torched rink boards, the shattered overhead lights.

    Sutherland saw something others did not.

    The hall and the chain-link fence around the hockey rinks were padlocked most of the time. Why?

    For security. After all, minor sport leagues often play outside home communities today.

    But many kids aren't in organized sport. Many kids in Lorelei-Beaumaris loitered near the hall, scaring the neighbours and getting in trouble.

    Sutherland got a provincial grant of $4,000 and bought, borrowed or begged balls, nets, skates, sticks, goalie equipment, skateboards and helmets. Then she found other volunteers and unlocked the gates every evening and weekend.

    In spring and summer, kids play everything from pickup basketball to soccer to ball hockey here. In winter, the rinks are one long shinny game.

    Many local kids never played hockey before. So the community organized a teaching program. Certified coaches volunteered to help. So did a number of teenage hockey players. The 100-odd pairs of loaner skates were barely enough.

    Not that there weren't problems along the way. But in Jan's world, there are consequences. No bullying allowed. No swearing, no fighting. Violators will apologize now, or leave. If kicked out, you can get back in only by picking up garbage for one hour. You can do this twice. But three times?

    "Then I go have a little chat with the parents," says Sutherland. "I tell them, next time your kid's going home in a police car."

    The kids are told that if the hall or its contents are subjected to vandalism or theft, the facility will be shut until the perpetrator comes forward or is identified.

    "We're serious, dead serious," says Sutherland. "This is a zero-

    tolerance zone."

    Once, just before closing, a set of keys were stolen. The next evening, before opening, Jan went over to a group of kids and said the padlocks would remain, the skateboard ramps would be taken away and the cops would be called. The keys turned up in about 10 minutes.

    "I like to put value on stuff," says Sutherland.

    "This facility cost a lot of money. It needs to be used, but it needs to be respected."

    Vandalism? Last year, it cost the community league $15,000. This year, virtually nothing. So were there a bunch of bad kids in Lorelei-Beaumaris? Jan doesn't think so. Kids are kids. If left unsupervised and with nothing to do, they'll make up their own games, with their own rules.

    Sutherland, who is being nominated for a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, believes most kids just want to play. They want a place where they feel safe and secure. They also want a place where you don't have to be a skilled player.

    Sutherland and her community league created such a place. And they made it affordable for kids. Most of the programs are free, or available to a kid willing to put in some volunteer hours. When no adult volunteers could be found to paint the outdoor rinks -- four requests were sent out by the community league -- Sutherland asked the kids.

    "We had so many volunteers they were fighting over the paint rollers," says Sutherland.

    The job was done in three days.

    One former vandal is now Sutherland's top volunteer. Other teens help instruct disabled kids in hockey and taekwondo. The group now looks after itself.

    "We are building a community here," says Sutherland.

    "This is a good place to be for the kids. It wasn't three years ago."

    [email protected]

    © The Edmonton Journal 2006
    President and CEO - Airshow.
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