Rescue Mission benefits from Girard community service garden
By Samantha Phillips
Thanks to the city’s community service garden, an abundance of fresh produce was donated to the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley this year.
The gardeners are nonviolent criminals who have a choice between paying fines or serving jail time for certain crimes such as petty theft. Girard Municipal Judge Jeffrey Adler started the garden in 2011 as part of the city’s community service program.
“The garden gives offenders the ability to give something back to society”, Judge Adler said.
“Some start off with no work ethic at all; at first they don’t want to do it. But as they do it more and more, they really wanted to work in the garden ... it gives them pride that they have accomplished something,” he added.
This year, the gardeners grew 110 eggplant, 595 peppers, 1,190 tomatoes, 98 squash, 45 heads of lettuce, 118 cucumbers and 19 heads of cauliflower as well as onions and corn.
“They see the results of all the produce, they start taking pride in what they do and realize they are helping the needy,” said Cosmo Signoriello, community service program coordinator.
Over the warmer months of the year, four to six defendants at a time work together to grow the crops on land on Dearborn Avenue near the Multi-Generational Center. They are required to give 40 hours of service.
The Trumbull County Land Bank donated the plot for the project.
Judge Adler created the garden because he was inspired by the success that other courts, such as Stow Municipal Court, have had with similar projects.
Ohio law allows judges to sentence nonviolent traffic and criminal offenders to community service in lieu of jail time or fines.
“You go through the sentencing guidelines. There are certain guidelines where they should go to jail. But for some people, it doesn’t do anything for them; they do their three days in jail, they come out, and it’s done nothing for them,” he said.
As part of the community service program, some criminals also clean up blight and mow lawns on vacant properties.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Signoriello said. “They are working off their fines and also helping out their neighborhoods. It also teaches them social skills – they aren’t on their phones – and how to work as a team.”
Judge Adler added that it makes them better citizens.
The judge thanked community members who helped with the garden, especially Tom Ryser Sr. of Hubbard who helped get the garden in shape. He said his knowledge of farming and gardening helped produce a much bigger load of crops.
Judge Adler said he hopes that next year’s harvest can double this year’s.
“It’s a great program and I hope we can continue its success,” he said.