SIKESTON -- Community service isn't just a nice option for participants -- it is also a big help to the city and agencies in the community.
"Since July of last year, over 125 individuals have served 8,600 hours of court-ordered community service," said Linda Lowes, director of governmental services for the city of Sikeston.
With each hour of court-ordered community service being valued at $5 toward a fine, "that's more than $43,404 worth of services our local judicial system has made available to the community," noted City Manager Doug Friend in a recent press release.
If an individual is determined to be eligible for community service, their case is forwarded to court clerks who manage the program.
"These individuals perform a number of tasks," said Pat Cox, deputy court clerk and coordinator of the local community service program, in the press release. "Assignment is considered on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration the type of offense that has been committed, the defendant's abilities and the needs of the community."
Defendants can be assigned to work alongside Department of Public Works employees, wash cars and trucks for the Department of Public Safety or perform janitorial functions at City Hall and the Municipal Court Building.
"It makes a major difference for the Department of Public Works," Lowes said. "Our Department of Public Works has been understaffed for the last four or five years. The community service program provides us with individuals who can and are willing to work."
Defendants can also be referred to area not-for-profit agencies such as the Sikeston Food Bank, Heritage House Nutrition Center and the Sikeston Area Humane Society "dependent on the needs of those agencies and if they have an opening or not," Lowes said.
"It's awesome," said Deandra Smith, who works in the Sikeston Area Humane Society's office. "We've only got two workers here and the work is overwhelming so it always helps to have a few extra hands."
Yvonne Craig, administrator of the Heritage House Nutrition Center, said it is great to have community service workers come and help.
"Without them I would be behind on my cleaning -- I wouldn't have any extra help at all," she said. "It would put us behind if we didn't have them. I just enjoy using them."
One of the community service programs, the First Time Offender's Program established by Frank Marshall, municipal judge, in 2005, is even targeted at cleaning up the town -- literally.
"It was specially designed for individuals under the age of 18 who have received their first conviction," explained Court Clerk Mary White-Ross in the press release. "First Time Offenders are assigned to Sikeston Public Works and serve two four-hour sessions picking up litter in our parks and along city streets."
"In the past year, these individuals have devoted 496 hours to litter control," Lowes said. "It does make a difference -- they are picking up paper that would not have been picked up otherwise."
In addition to helping to address the city's present litter problem, city officials are hoping it will make a difference in the future by teaching participants that "if you throw something out the window, somebody is going to have to pick it up," Lowes said. "We're hoping they will learn not to throw their trash out the window, that they'll be a little more respectful of their community."
For more information on the Sikeston Municipal Court's community service programs, view the city's press release at http://www.sikeston.org/PressReleases.ht...