I am writing in regards to the Governor's budget announcement which includes the closing of Naselle Youth Camp.
In reality no one will be untouched by these tough economic times, however, those who need help the most will be the ones who pay the biggest price.
I am going to put aside the outdated studies, the manipulated statistics, and get down to what matters most about those who pass through the gates at Naselle Youth Camp.
One year while carving pumpkins, the residents were so proud of what they had done, it took them two days of class to complete their project. I didn't really "get" why they were so excited until they told me that although they had smashed lots of them on people's porches, they had never actually carved one themselves - they were 17 years old. When I asked them why they suddenly felt bad, they said because they didn't realize how much time and effort went into making it just right. They vowed never to smash pumpkins again.
One resident, who was leaving to go live with a family member in another state, had nothing but the standard issue clothing he wore. We collectively brought him shoes, pants, a coat, T-shirt, backpack and a personal CD player to listen to on the plane. He was so grateful and excited he had to put everything on and come show us the day before he left. He could not believe people actually cared.
Another resident, who worked in the kitchen, wrote a note about each of the staff, which included these statements: "You have helped me a lot with teamwork and getting things done." "The best thing that I have learned from you would be respect." "Remember, what goes around comes around." "The best part about working with you is that we can always find something to laugh at." "You have taught me how to not put others down and make people feel bad." "Thank you for showing me how to have a great attitude and look at the positives." "You showed me how to make bread. You make me laugh."
And last, what this resident wrote about me: "Thank you for showing me that people can have second chances." That is just one thing that Naselle Youth Camp is about, giving those that need it a second chance. They have already been judged and sentenced, our job is rehabilitation, prepare them to face the community, the real world, and to teach them to be better people to themselves and others.
These few examples must seem very simplistic to most of you, but to those residents they meant something special.
Naselle Youth Camp is an important bridge between juvenile offenders and the communities they will return to. Once an institution is lost, it will not be regained. It is one of only four left in the state and Washington's only work camp for juvenile offenders.
Please contact your representatives, commissioners and governor to save Naselle Youth Camp and Pacific County.
Food service manager
Naselle Youth Camp