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Thursday, May 5, 2016

DWTPCS brings in $45,000

Thursday, April 19, 2012

At the end of Saturday's Dancing with the Putnam County Stars event, Kathy Asbell and Logan Kuhne were declared the winners of the dance competition.

However, the real winners were the young people of Putnam County, as the event raised $45,000 for the Putnam County Youth Development Commission (PCYDC).

"That's the best we have done," PCYDC Director Linda Merkel said of the figure.

Merkel estimated the organization will clear approximately $25,000 once expenses from staging the dancing event are paid.

The growth the annual fundraiser has seen in its four years of existence has been helpful, as it has coincided with shrinking budgets and harder-to-attain grants.

"This money is a great benefit to us because it bridges the loss we have experienced over the last couple of years in grant funding," Merkel said. "Due to the economy the budgets have gotten tighter and tighter and the competition for grants is getting stronger and stronger.

"We're truly fortunate to still have United Way and those people who truly care about us."

PCYDC focuses its efforts on youths in the community who are in some sort of legal trouble, both by their own actions and those of others.

Merkel briefly outlined several Youth Develoipment programs for the Banner Graphic.

* Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)

CASAs are a group of volunteers in the community who serve as advocates for abused and neglected children. They are appointed by the Putnam Circuit Court to attend to the children's needs.

"They give a lot of their time to be advocates for our children in the court system -- to make sure they are receiving the best services, medical attention, psychological attention and whatever it is they need to make sure they become successful and productive citizens in our community," Merkel said.

* Coats for Kids

Each fall, PCYDC works with a number of community partners to help underprivileged children prepare to stay warm for the coming winter with free coats, hats and mittens.

"We're very blessed to have great partnerships to be able to do Coats for Kids," Merkel said. "This funding helps us continue to provide this program and get coats into the hands of families who need them without any cost."

* Teen Court

Putnam County Teen Court is a diversionary program for youth found guilty of committing an offense for the first time. Kids age 8 to 17 who haven't been in trouble before are eligible to go before a jury of their peers.

If they complete the program requirements in 90 days, the offense does not go on their record.

"It's a second chance to do what's right. It's been strongly embraced by our community," Merkel said. "In the four years we've had this program, we've heard 70 cases and of those, we're proud to say only four were returned to probation for non-compliance. We feel like that program is really making a difference."

* Thinking for a Change

Thinking for a Change is an evidence-based, cognitive skills program for kids who have made poor choices. They are encouraged the rethink their choices step by step and decide what they might do differently.

"They rethink the issue and go through 16 weeks of ways to rethink their thinking patterns and cognitive decisions on how they would do something differently the second time around," Merkel said.

Three facilitators run this program, which is offered three times a year.

* Prime for Life

Prime for life is a drug and alcohol education program for youths who have already shown this sort of at-risk behavior.

* Choices

The Choices program is the result of a partnership between PCYDC, the Putnam County Prosecutor, Youth Probation and Putnam Circuit Court. All fifth graders in the county attend a session of juvenile court. They have the chance to learn more about the juvenile justice system and the potential outcomes of poor choices.

"Choices gives the students an early experience of what it's like, seeing peers their own age and older who have committed an offense and have to come in and appear before Judge (Matt) Headley," Merkel said.

* Let's Talk Program

Let's Talk instructs students in anger management skills that can help teens gain control over their normal, yet potentially dangerous human emotions. Through role-play and discussions, students have the opportunity to apply what they have learned to their own lives.

One of the main goals of PCYDC is to continue to provide all of its services at no cost to parents.

"This money will help us continue providing our programs at no cost to parents and the youth of our community, which we feel very strongly about," Merkel said. "The greatest number of kids we see are already involved in the court system, and parents are already facing high court costs and probation costs. We feel like we can do this service for them without the parents feeling the tight budget and incur another cost."

For more information on PCYDC or any of its programs, contact Merkel at 653-9342.

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