Probation and Pretrial Services Officers Reach Out to Communities
It’s the mission of U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Officers to assist the federal court in the fair administration of justice, to protect the community and to bring about long-term positive change in the individuals they supervise. Frequently, their work involves helping the communities they serve.
Eastern District of Arkansas
In November 2012, the U.S. Probation Office in the Eastern District of Arkansas held its first annual Dip-Off Contest. Nearly half of the office’s employees competed to claim the best homemade dip, and in the process collected donations for the office’s community service project with Women and Children First in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The Arkansas Probation Office also collects essential goods, like household items and toiletries for the facility, which offers housing, food, counseling, crisis intervention and social/legal advocacy for women and their children to help them escape domestic violence. On a Saturday morning in December 2012, employees from the probation office visited the Women and Children First facility to file paperwork, restore the playground, landscape, clean carpets, make household repairs, and much more.
“Many times we’re overwhelmed by the hullabaloo of our lives as we deal with deadlines, PACTS, case plans, field work, home life, and the list goes on. We tend to forget how truly fortunate we are to have careers and jobs that can impact the lives of our fellow man. The spirit of fellowship and service has benefitted our office and the community, and we look forward to future projects,” said Chief Probation Officer Eddie Towe, Eastern District of Arkansas.
Southern District of California, U.S. Pretrial Services Office
The Southern District of California feels so strongly about giving back to military servicemen and their families that each year they donate a substantial amount of food to the Miramar Food Locker operated by the Navy Wives Club of America. “Our goal,” said Chief Pretrial Services Office Lori Garofalo, “is to provide food to active duty heroes and their families who protect our freedom.” The Miramar Food Locker has been providing assistance to military families for over twenty years in San Diego County. “Our staff is honored to help our community in this endeavor,” said Garofalo.
Southern District of California, U.S. Probation Office
The U.S. Probation Office for the Southern District of California office sponsors a homeless shelter for 24 teens, the only facility of its kind in the area. “Last year, we organized a food drive and sponsored Thanksgiving dinner,” said U.S. Probation Officer Dawna S. Deatrick. “For Christmas it was a clothing and needed items drive. Christmas morning, each teen received a backpack filled with goodies at the foot of their bunk.”
District of Columbia
Over the years the Probation Office has given generously to several local charities, thanks to Project Dress Down. According to Senior Probation Officer Frederick Albert, staff pay to “dress down” one day a week. Participating staff have the option of paying weekly or monthly and the funds are collected throughout the year. In December, a local charitable organization is selected to receive the donation. In 2010, the district made contributions to Food and Friends, the Boys and Girls Club of Washington, DC, in 2011, and the Ronald McDonald House in 2012.
“The District of Columbia is a community that relies heavily on charitable organizations for services and support,” said Albert. “Many of these organizations need financial support, so our district decided it was time to jump in and lend a hand. The program has shown no signs of slowing down since it began in 2009, and we fully expect to help support our local charities for many years to come.”
Southern District of Florida
When the Miami Fire Rescue’s efforts to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy were featured on a local news channel, U.S. Probation Officer Karen Anderson in the Southern District of Florida reached out to offer assistance. Help was definitely needed, but only if the Probation Office could meet a tight delivery schedule for a long list of items. Anderson sent the list to all eight probation offices in a four county area. “In four days we were able to collect a substantial amount of non-perishable items that were delivered to Miami Fire Rescue and taken to New York,” said Anderson.
Eastern District of Michigan
Continuing a 31-year tradition of Holiday Food Basket Drives, the U.S. Probation Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, partnering with the District Court, delivered 99 food baskets to needy families in the Detroit, Flint, and Saginaw metro communities over the holidays. Officers raise funds throughout the year with chilidog lunches and ice cream socials and an annual holiday auction. Each food basket includes a pantry pack of nonperishable foods purchased from Gleaners Food Bank, a 14-16 lb. turkey, and sides, usually a bag of potatoes, fresh veggies and a bag of fruit. “It’s a way for our staff to give back to the community in which we work,” said Deputy Chief U.S. Probation Officer Lisa Marie Lenart. “The tears and smiles of happiness and gratitude truly warm our hearts.”
Thanks to Probation Office efforts, children at a local YWCA Interim House, a domestic violence shelter, have a safe place to just be kids. In May 2012, the Probation Office partnered with the local Lowe’s to rebuild an overgrown and dilapidated playground in Detroit. Lowe’s contributed materials and probation officers cleaned up the area, planted trees, and renovated the play area, adding a big sand box and basketball set. “The officers really put forth a great effort,” said Probation Officer Robin K. Johnson. “But the most rewarding gift was the children's faces when they saw the playground.”
Western District of Missouri
Seventy people at the Salvation Army Center in Jefferson City, Missouri, sat down to a dinner of hamburgers, baked beans, applesauce, and potato chips, provided and served by volunteers from the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office for the Western District of Missouri; the clerk of court office, and district judges chambers.
For over 30 years, the Probation Office has collected money to serve a full Thanksgiving meal to some of the state’s neediest citizens at a Salvation Army Center in Union, New Jersey. Enough money is raised each year to provide children who attend the dinner with winter coats, toys, and candy. Retired and active probation officers turn out to help serve, along with their families.
But in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Chief Probation Officer Wilfredo Torres worried there’d be no Thanksgiving this year. “Many of our staff were without power for long periods of time, lost food they had stored, and had to spend money to eat out and stay with family or friends after Hurricane Sandy,” said Torres. “Some of their homes were damaged and cars destroyed. And I worried about donations because of our uncertain budget and the adverse impact on salaries.”
Instead, as Thanksgiving drew closer, Torres found that total collections were approaching past years’ totals. The district’s Office of Pretrial Services also helped out, collecting money and donating toys and candy.
“In the end, the total amount donated exceeded $900, the largest sum of money ever collected for this event,” said Torres. “And we had extra candy since most Halloween activities were cancelled in New Jersey because of the hurricane.”
There were even toys to donate to the flooded day care center in one probation officer’s apartment building.
“The good will did not stop there,” said Torres. “During the holidays, we collect gifts for various community agencies. Our Camden office led the collection of a little over 150 toys donated by our staff with help from the Pretrial Services Office, the clerk of court’s office, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Federal Public Defender, Judges and their staff, and the U.S. Marshals. The total number of toys was more than twice the amount collected the prior year!”
The toys were delivered to The Anna Sample House in Camden, a shelter for displaced mothers and their children. It was expected that approximately 80 displaced children would be housed at the shelter during the holidays.
The Probation and Pretrial Services Offices in Portland skipped their traditional holiday celebration this year – but not because they lacked holiday spirit. “Our staff unanimously voted to forgo our traditional holiday luncheon and, instead, contribute to a local food bank that serves all 16 counties in Maine,” said Chief Probation Officer Karen-Lee Moody.
In Bangor, Maine, the entire court family—district, bankruptcy, probation and pretrial services, U.S. Marshals, Federal Defender, U.S. Attorney, and the General Services Administration representative —came together for a courthouse holiday luncheon and collected $500 for Bangor’s Good Samaritan Agency in Bangor. Court staff also partnered with Target to provide diapers and baby wipes for the agency's Teen Parent Education Program.
Northern District of Texas
In August the Federal Executive Board (FEB) rounded up nearby agencies to help fill the shelves of the North Texas Food Bank through the "Feds Feed Families" initiative. The Trustee's office, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Passport office, U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services office, and others worked together to provide over 2,000 pounds of food.
The Probation Office participated in a toy drive to benefit Metrocare Services, a non-profit organization caring for individuals and families struggling with mental illness, developmental disability, or severe emotional problems. US Probation Officer Robert Fino said, “Just think, the smiles and laughs we shared today will be the smiles on the faces of the kids receiving these gifts.”
he Dallas Probation office collected socks, toothpaste, lotions, and shampoos for shut-in clients of the Visiting Nurse Association's Meals on Wheels project. These items were delivered by volunteers to be included in holiday gift bags for the VNA's clients in the Dallas area.