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Day Reporting Center clients make Easter baskets for children

April 07, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A pyramid of violet Easter baskets was stacked in a room of the Franklin County Day Reporting Center earlier this week, filled with candy and waiting to be delivered to children whose lives might need brightening this holiday.

"I'm sure they'll make some people happy," Jeff Lyons of Shippensburg, Pa., said while looking at the baskets. Each one took about an hour and a half to make, he said.

Lyons, 26, who was assigned to the center for violating probation, is one of dozens of criminal offenders who helped make the baskets. Lyons said he gained something from the project.

"I guess a lot of things we were doing were about ourselves, about selfish acts," Lyons said. "It feels good doing something that's going to help somebody rather than harm them."

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Most of the center's clients who worked on the baskets did so because they wanted to, not as part of their therapy, said Kim Eaton, director of the center. The 50 baskets were handed over to Children & Youth Services this week to be delivered to children, many of them in foster care, she said.

Starting with a half-peck cardboard fruit basket, the criminal offenders at the center untwisted decorative crepe paper, then wove it into a wicker pattern for the outside. The insides of the baskets are lined with fabric.

"At times, the whole waiting room was filled with people untwisting paper" to pass the time before their appointments, Eaton said. The voluntary participation in the arts and crafts project was particularly striking to Eaton "because the majority of my clients are men."

Moral reconation therapy, showing offenders the negative consequences of their behavior for themselves and others, is an important part of the rehabilitation program at the center. Many of clients qualified for the center after serving two-thirds of their jail sentences, while others are assigned directly to the center by the sentencing judge, Eaton said.

Some clients were assigned to basket-making as part of their therapy, but the majority saw them being made and asked if they could help, Eaton said.

"It created a whole different atmosphere here," Eaton said.

Easter baskets are not the end of the project - more are being made to give out to nursing home residents for Mother's Day, she said.

"They really came up with the idea for Mother's Day," Eaton said of the clients. "They took ownership of the idea."

"You can't do too many acts of selfless kindness," Lyons said.

That reflects a philosophy summed up by three words on a plaque above Eaton's desk:

"Because Nice Matters," it reads.

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