August 15, 2006
By TINA A. BROWN, Courant Staff Writer
Twenty-five Hartford youths who weren't compensated for work they did sweeping the streets this summer will get paychecks after all.
Just days after it became public that they weren't paid, dozens of individual contributors, one foundation and a nonprofit group have stepped up to help. One of the largest contributions, a check for $3,000, was hand-delivered to officials Monday by John Wilson on behalf of the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Foundation of Avon.
"They wanted to make sure that the youngsters were getting paid," Wilson said.
Eric Crawford, a violence intervention specialist for Hartford Public Schools who coordinated the collection drive, said he has also heard from a number of contributors who have pledged $2,700. Since Saturday, more than 20 readers of The Courant have asked how they could make contributions.
"This was a community effort," Crawford said. "We had to do something for these kids."
The youths participated in the summer "Saving our Kids from The Streets" program organized by the Rev. Patrice Smith; many worked for three weeks without being paid the promised rate of about $140 a week.
Smith, who used the grounds of the Hartford police substation on Albany Avenue as her hub, was credited for accepting some troubled youth into the program. Some community leaders and local police said that their involvement with Smith may have resulted in a reduction in violent crime in Hartford's North End in recent weeks.
The youths, who protested the lack of pay, said they were not angry at Smith, but they were disappointed they hadn't been compensated.
It wasn't clear if the money collected so far was enough to pay everyone what they're owed. On Monday, officials, including Lori Potter of the U.S. Attorney's office in Connecticut and Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts, met at the substation with the youths to determine exactly how much time everyone had worked.
The money will be funneled through the Justice Education Center Inc. in West Hartford, a nonprofit organization.
"We will be a repository of the funds," said the center's executive director Sherry Haller, who added that the group works closely with the U.S. Attorney's office in Connecticut on its anti-violence and early-intervention programs.
Smith declined Monday to comment, but said last week that she never intended to mislead the youth. She said she had understood that funding would be available to her, but the money never materialized.
"This is what community policing is all about," Roberts said. "The police department helped to coordinate this effort. We think it is best that the children continue to see it as a safe haven."
Some of the youths who congregated outside said they were happy that they'd be getting paid.
And Teri L. Morrison, a parent who attended the sit-ins, was ecstatic.
"It's good. These kids will finally get paid," Morrison said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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