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High school-age work crew offenders provide cleanup services to the elderly

by: SHELBY CASE/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Alfredo Vargas, 17, helps load trash from Wayne Eldridge’s property to take to the Crook County Landfill. He was helped Monday afternoon by Baldemar Lopez, Mario Villagomez and Antonio Sanchez. Juvenile offender work crew members and youth volunteers have been helping beautify seniors’ yards.

Wayne Eldridge was a happy man Monday afternoon.
   Eldridge had just received help from juvenile work crew members Alfredo Vargas, 17, Baldemar Lopez, 17, Mario Villagomez, 16, and Antonio Sanchez, 15, in hauling garbage off to the Crook County Landfill.
   "Oh they're fantastic! Fantastic!" Eldridge said. "Cooperation is great with them. They're willing to do anything you want them to, within reason."
   Eldridge is one of the senior citizen property owners who has been working closely with Prineville Police Officer Dawn Jordan and Cindy Brockett of the Crook County Juvenile Department.
   "We've been doing this for a good year at least," Jordan said. "I think it was when I started doing the ordinance job. You see people who have nice houses and then you see the elderly who need some help. I've always been that way. you go out and you want a solution. So we become part of the solution for them, gladly."
   "Finances become an issue for a lot of people," she said of the cost in hauling away garbage.
   The police department budgets about $250 annually for the cleanup program, and she said both Police Chief Eric Bush and Captain Michael Boyd have been quite supportive of the program.
   Dumping charges vary, depending on the load. For example, the load from Eldridge's home cost $45. That included tires and a washing machine.
   "And the dump - they didn't even charge me for the household (garbage). They just charged me for the washer and tires," Jordan said.
   Both Jordan and Brockett were pleased with the boys' work.
   "I've had these guys for the last month easy - the last month and a half," Officer Jordan said. "These guys have been great. For the most part, work crew members have been good workers."
   Jordan said property owners are called, letting them know that youth crew members are available to help. Additionally, sometimes young volunteers who want to help out their community provide assistance.
   "They're very happy to see the kids helping, being willing to help," Jordan said. "And I think it's good for them to do it for the elderly because we're all going to be at that point at some time."
   Jordan emphasized that a pre-screening of those who seek the police's help in cleaning up their properties is required.
   "I mean, we aren't going to be helping anybody who has a meth house haul off their garbage," Jordan said.
   She said that elderly property owners should call the Prineville Police Department for having garbage hauled away.
   Currently she uses an old red pickup to haul off trash, but that may change.
   "One of the things they're trying to do for the city is to get us a city-owned pickup," Jordan said.
   The officer figures about 24 properties are cleaned per year.
   Like Jordan, Brockett, community service coordinator with the juvenile department, was also happy with the boys' work.
   "Even though this is my job, I really enjoy working with the youth," said Brockett, who has many jobs with the department. "They always have a great attitude. They do anything we have them do. Just very polite."
   Eldridge paused for a few minutes while Jordan, the boys and Brockett took a load of trash up to the landfill.
   "This is about 45 year of accumulation," Eldridge said, grinning, and adding that hoarding items was one of the lessons of the 1930s. The boys worked for him about a month ago.
   "I've got a lot of burning to do," Eldridge said. "She says they are going to come back and help out."
   Villagomez was proud of his work and the other youths.
   "I think it's good for the community, helping out the seniors," Villagomez said.
   Vargas estimated the youth had hauled off about 50 pounds of trash, but he was happy to help out Eldridge.
   "He's a nice guy and I enjoyed working here," Vargas said.
   Sanchez also assisted.
   "I like to help out seniors, you know with their problems," he said.
   The youth shook Eldridge's hand and then they headed home for the evening.
   "I'd rather be doing this than sitting at home," Lopez said.