WEST CHESTER, PA — This December, members of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and collaborating partner Alpha Kappa Alpha-Iota Tau Omega (AKA-ITO), an African American women’s service organization, collected and delivered items for the Chester County Youth Center. The project, initiated by CCSO’s Sgt. Paul Bryant, aims to build bridges among law enforcement and youth who may be afraid of or resistant to law enforcement.
Members of the CCSO interact with many of the youth who reside at the Center’s detention facility or shelter when they come to the Justice Center during stressful court cases. This fall, Sgt. Janis Pickell and USPCA-certified Comfort K-9 Marley began visiting small groups at the Youth Center. Marley—nonjudgmental and attentive to their moods and needs—can often calm a child or stabilize intense emotions very quickly in a way that humans cannot.
“As a lawyer, in the past I represented children who were part of the juvenile legal system as victims or who were heading down troubled paths,” said Sheriff Fredda Maddox who is also a member of AKA-ITO. “Largely, trauma was at the root of their difficulties. Like some residents of the Youth Center, they were vulnerable, homeless, shuffled from one foster home to another, or living in very challenging situations. Gifts of journals or snacks, or visits from Sgt. Pickell and Marley, sometimes speak louder than words when connecting with youth who don’t trust any adults.”
Megan Delaney, PREA Coordinator at the Youth Center, explained the importance of the donations and Marley’s visits. “Gift cards for pizza, cups of noodles, special blankets and fun socks go a long way toward letting youth know that the community cares about them,” she said. “During the holidays they are aware that their experiences don’t resemble idyllic Christmas card pictures. Marley’s wagging tail and small gifts make a difference.”
The Chester County Youth Center provides specialized programs for Chester County youths who receive services from the Chester County Juvenile Probation Department, the Chester County Department of Children, Youth and Families.
To find out more about opportunities to help, contact Megan Delaney at the Chester County Youth Center, (610)-344-6700 ext. 7204 or [email protected].
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