Brooks was tireless in her efforts to make a difference

August 24, 2011

Plenty of people talk, write and theorize about what it takes to bring change to higher-crime, economically disadvantaged communities.

But the real difference-makers are the ones who roll up their sleeves and wade into these communities to do the work on the front lines. Of these, the ones who can stay at it for more than a year or two are the exceptions.

Carolyn Brooks is one of these exceptions. She began by leading a local chapter of a state initiative called HotSpots, which in the beginning was little more than a dozen people sitting around a curtainless room trying to find a way.

Trying to find a way to give kids a chance; trying to find a way to make the northwestern edge of downtown Hagerstown feel safe; trying to find a way to help kids without dependable parents focus on a productive, drug-free life.

HotSpots had morphed into CSAFE over the years, and Brooks’ office was quiet no longer, surrounded as it was much of the time by happy chatter of kids in need of a watchful eye.

Brooks announced her retirement from CSAFE last week after 13 years of making a difference in ways that few others could even dream of, or have the determination to enact. Certainly the community has a different look and feel from the days when HotSpots considered it a win simply to introduce public trash receptacles, or to keep drug dealers from setting up their offices in streetside phone booths.

Notably, CSAFE is responsible for teaching youngsters that police are the good guys, and that healthy families do not have elements that lock themselves in a bedroom for days at a time doing drugs. It gives kids a safe place to go after school, and organizes community events that are fun and foster neighborhood camaraderie and pride.

Progress in these areas is, of course, measured with small spoons, and it’s a job that will never be completed. But we thank and congratulate Brooks (and others who have worked hard in the program, including her successor, Hagerstown Police Department Officer Gerard Kendle) for her tireless work, and for keeping the program going, even as others around her became discouraged or lost hope.

Thanks to Brooks, more than a few kids will grow up with positive feelings of hope, knowing that they are valuable citizens of a valuable community. Brooks and her team have given many children something they might otherwise not have had — a chance. And there can be no greater community service than this.

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