October 10, 2017

Youth working to make things right and make meaningful connections to the community

A brochure and a plate of food on a white table
Squash Stew, Thai Coconut Chicken, Potatoes and Peas, Garden Noodles, Stuffed Naan, Carrot and Beet Salad, Roasted Vegetables, Vegan Collard Greens, and fresh baked pie were on the menu.
The 5th Annual Fresh Start Farm to Table event took place on Saturday, September 30th at the Multnomah County C.R.O.P.S. Farm.

Youth participants in three DCJ programs helped to make the night a success: The Hands of Wonder Garden program, the Culinary Arts program, and the Community Healing Initiative (CHI).

Over 60 people attended the event. Youth and families were the focus, but attendees included employees from POIC, Latino Network, juvenile justice system partners, and other community-based organizations. Multnomah County Commissioners Smith, Stegmann, and Vega Pederson, along with Oregon State Representatives Gorsek, Smith-Warner, and Senator Monnes Anderson were in attendance.

Deena Corso, DCJ’s Juvenile Services Division Director welcomed everyone, acknowledging the collaborative nature of community and system partners serving in the best interest of youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system. To POIC and Latino Network partners, who provide culturally responsive services for youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system, Corso added “we could not do the amazing work we are able to do without your teams’ tireless efforts and the strong and vital collaboration we share with both agencies.”

“These kids are good community members.” - Liz Levy

The Hands of Wonder Garden Program fosters meaningful connections between youth and the community. Youth participate in restorative justice circles and engage in community service project planning and implementation that have to do with food security.

Rhea DuMont, who oversees the Hands of Wonder program opened Saturday’s festivities by acknowledging the youth as “the future and health of our community.”

A large group of people stand around tables under a tent applauding and smiling.
Youth success stories were met with standing ovations by attendees.
Youth in the 2017 sessions participated in 388 restorative justice circles. They grew, harvested, and donated over 450 pounds of produce to local soup kitchens and SUN Community Schools. Additionally, they organized a drive for homeless youth, and in just under a week had collected, sorted, and donated over 200 items to Outside In.

Liz Levy, a community works leader with the program shared her pride for the participants. The incremental changes and growth she witnesses as the youth move through the program, “is really rewarding,” she says, “Not only are we growing the plants, we are growing as human beings.”

“These young people make all of this worth it.” - Kimberly Pidcoke

Kimberly Pidcoke manages the Courtyard Cafe, which houses the JSD Culinary Arts program. Participants are on formal probation, and learn how to prepare, cook, and present fine dining meals.

Current Culinary Arts participants designed the menu for Saturday’s event. They prepared and cooked the food, and set up the venue. “The youth were more involved in the planning for this event than ever before,” said Pidcoke, adding, “they’re learning how to garden and how to cook, both valuable skills for life.”

“My daughter volunteers and stays out of trouble.” - CHI Parent

Parents with children who have recently completed supervision while in the Community Healing Initiative (CHI) program took the stage to tell their stories, thank the agencies and workers involved in their journeys, and share how they’re working to make the system even more responsive to youth and families.

“The people here are hope builders.” - Judge Nan Waller

Three women pose with bouquets of fresh flowers
DCJ's Rhea DuMont, Liz Levy, and Kimberly Pidcoke

Fresh Start doesn’t just celebrate youth and families. Policy makers, staff, and community members coming together in support of the youth get an honorable mention as well.

Presiding Judge Nan Waller acknowledged attendees’ commitment to juvenile justice work by saying, “we come together to affirm our belief that the resiliency of our youth, along with the appropriate supports, will get them through difficult times.”