The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 19, 2014

Volunteers helping to spruce up community

JOHNSTOWN — Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.

The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.

It is the second time residents have assisted the library. A few years ago, some individuals built mobile bookcases. Neither the carpentry nor the painting likely would have been done if the library needed to pay professionals or ask its maintenance workers to take time to do the work.

“I’ve always found these gentlemen to be very polite and respectful of all of our staff and the public that uses the library,” said Cambria County Library System Director Lyn Meek.

“To me, they seem to take great pride in being able to do this kind of work for the community and give something back to this community that they’re residing in for a while.”

In all, the center’s residents contributed more than 10,000 volunteer hours to the community last year, according to the center’s director, Donald Bachota. They offer their services to numerous organizations, including The Salvation Army, Richland Township Volunteer Fire Department, Heavenly Sent Ministries and the city.

“It’s been a tremendously valuable relationship,” said Bob Heffelfinger, the chief of the Richland department. “These fellows contribute extensively with completing projects.” He added, “It’s been a plus, plus, plus positive.”

Along with benefiting the community, the volunteer work is meant to provide the residents a sense of accomplishment that can help them during the rehabilitation process and when they get out of the system. It also helps occupy time, as opposed to simply allowing the clients to loiter in Central Park or other locations.

“For a while there, we did have quite a few of their folks just coming in and just sitting on the computers and just passing time,” Meek said. “I think that’s been improved now because I think the center itself has made their program more structured. They need to be doing something if they’re not out searching for a job or doing something like this, volunteering in their community. They’re going to find something for them to do.

“I think it’s improved things here. Folks used to come in an not even be able to get on one of our computers because a lot of them were filled up, and that’s not happening anymore. They have to have something specific that they’re here doing.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.

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