The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 15, 2010

Opinions

Many aid Carlisle discreetly

Carlisle is indebted to those who work quietly behind the scenes to help others. Three examples have been mentioned in the Mosquito recently and deserve more attention:

Last week, Council on Aging (COA) Outreach Coordinator Angela Smith thanked a very thoughtful Carlisle family who anonymously helped another family who was experiencing rough times by “playing ‘Secret Santa’” over the holidays.

Before the economy recovers fully there may be more Carlisle families in need of a neighborly helping hand. Unemployment among residents has risen to 6.7% and according to Carlisle School Business Manager Susan Pray, the number of school families requesting to enroll in the free or reduced lunch program is rising. Seventeen families have qualified and more have requested information, compared to the seven to nine applications received in a typical year. (Children in the program are also eligible for a proportional reduction in field trip, athletic and other school fees.)

COA van

Another quiet benefactor is the kind resident who donated funds for not one, but two COA vans. (The Mosquito regrets the error in last week’s editorial, which stated incorrectly that the current van was purchased by the town. See also letters, at right.) The anonymous donor financed the purchase of the COA’s first van in the early 1990s. In 2005 the resident stepped forward once more and gave the town $47,500 for the purchase of the second van, currently in use. Anonymous gifts are often under-reported and a search of the Mosquito archive found scant mention of the gift, other than a line or two in a June 17, 2005 Selectmen’s meeting article.

The van is wheelchair-accessible and can make a tremendous difference in the life of seniors/disabled residents who need help with basic transportation. The population of Carlisle is aging and demand for the van is increasing. COA Board Chair Marje Stickler notes that each month, roughly ten more residents reach age 60 and qualify to receive the COA’s monthly newsletter. Van use is supplemented by volunteers who use their own cars to drive seniors to appointments. However, the van is relied on for those who are disabled, or to transport groups of seniors. What a wonderful and very generous gift to the town – given twice.

Restorative Justice

Focusing on a different age group, Volunteers in the Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ) program also aid both Carlisle and neighboring communities outside of the limelight. Most offenders are juveniles or young adults and restorative justice offers them an alternative to criminal prosecution. (See also Forum article, at right.) According to www.c4rj.com, 94% of offenders and 89% of victims and police are satisfied after participation in the program. For some offenders, it can be life-changing to learn how their actions harmed others, to make amends and to be able to move on without a police record.

According to board member Barbara Howland, there has been a 50% increase in the number of cases referred to the group this year. Many of the cases were from Carlisle. For example, last August about two dozen Carlisle youth were referred to C4RJ after police broke up underage drinking parties. Multiple contacts and meetings are involved for each case.

Those who work behind the scenes miss receiving the awards and recognition they deserve, but hopefully they know their contributions are greatly valued and help improve the quality of life in Carlisle. ∆

Partying opportunists

Here’s a new one for the list of things parents should discuss with teens: don’t go to, or hold, parties in homes or on the property of people who aren’t home. Duh? Not so duh, apparently.

At Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ), area police have referred several cases to us in the last year in which teens and young adults have used the homes or property of residents away on vacation. Then they invited their friends, brought in alcohol and/or drugs, and, presumably, had a good time without benefit of adult interference – until a neighbor was disturbed and called the police. Sometimes the kids were mellow enough to stick around. Sometimes they bolted, and the few who were apprehended were held to account for the actions of the group. In Carlisle, of course, bolting often entails hightailing it into the woods, where both pursuer and pursued are at risk for falls, disorientation and not a little poison ivy.

It’s not just Carlisle, but several of our neighboring communities have seen this trend. Often belongings are damaged and trash left behind.

Usually the home-owning family has a teenage child, whose friends know he or she will be away. One grape talks to another on the vine, and would-be party organizers find out that the premises will be vacant. They gain entry by breaking in, wiggling in through a window, or using a key they know the family has hidden outdoors.

In some instances, the teen child of the resident has given “permission,” if that’s possible for someone who is not paying insurance premiums or a mortgage. But often, police tell us, the teen child of the resident will have no idea that his or her home has been added to what seems to be a party circuit.

The people we work with whose homes have been so ill-used describe a range of emotions. A common one is anger, followed closely by concern: was anyone hurt? Was anyone sick? There is indignation that their privacy has been invaded. (This can be particularly anguishing for a young person who realizes that friends and mere acquaintances have been in his or her bedroom.) For many, the biggest emotion is a sense of betrayal that young people they know would do such a thing to them.

The young people who are apprehended and come to our program are usually contrite, but not all. We worked with one child who was quite content to lay the blame on his vacationing friend. Most say they just were not thinking of the homeowners; they just wanted a place to hang without adults being around. Of course, they know they are not old enough to use alcohol, let alone trespass in order to do so. But they indicate that this is “normal.”

I worry about the kids who are caught who know who the organizers were but feel compelled by loyalty or fear of retribution not to name the other wrongdoers. I worry just as much about the kids who get away, that they do not get the chance to see the harm they have caused, to make amends and reset their moral compass. ∆

 

 

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