As the community service coordinator of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Dayton, Ohio, Gregory H. connects people with new purpose. He is responsible for matching offenders on probation with one of dozens of local nonprofit and government agencies — from museums to mediation centers and public health programs. His unique alliances with such a broad spectrum of community partners help in finding the perfect fit for each offender with a community service requirement. “I try to … help them feel the joy of helping their fellowman,” Gregory said.
Gregory is especially proud of strides his clients have made through collaboration with Habitat for Humanity. Gregory took carpentry classes in high school, and has traveled throughout the U.S. to build homes for the organization. For the past 10 years he has coordinated offender community service workers’ structured, disciplined involvement with Habitat. Probationers commit to working on weekly homebuilding projects and serve in Habitat ReStore resale outlets, which sell new and used building materials and home improvement items. More than 300 offenders on probation have taken part in Gregory’s program, some volunteering their free time on Saturdays to complete projects begun during their required hours. “A lot of courts and programs could benefit from partnering with Habitat,” Gregory said.
Every Wednesday, he leads by example — at work beside offenders on new Habitat for Humanity homes. For his work with the nonprofit organization, Gregory was the recipient of Ohio Habitat for Humanity’s 2009 Volunteer of the Year award. The impression he makes, however, is not limited to Habitat’s administrators. In a letter provided by Deputy Court Administrator James E. Dare, an offender wrote to express his gratitude: “I would just like to thank you for this opportunity that I had … I know you must work very hard to keep this program running, and also safe. All in all, it was a great experience for me.”
Gregory puts immense thought, time and care into each of his community service placements, leading to successful relationships for offenders and the community. Numerous volunteer coordinators describe Gregory’s “handpicked” clients as willing, positive and competent — even having fun at work during their placements. “Not only did each person willingly do all that was asked, they anticipated tasks that needed to be done,” wrote Kathy Dierker, executive director of Life Essentials, a Dayton volunteer organization. Offenders have the chance to make a new impression on those with whom they interact, and the trust placed in them by Gregory pays off. Another former offender stated: “[T]hank you for sending me to the museum … It was such a great thing for my self-esteem…I truly appreciate your insight and kindness.”
“I work for great people,” Gregory said. “I couldn’t do it without them.” His Montgomery County colleagues return the sentiment. “He goes above and beyond to connect the dots with the court, the community and our clients,” Dare said. Gregory has given 22 years of his life to community corrections, serving as a youth treatment worker and a juvenile probation officer before his time with the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. During his career, he has been awarded numerous commendations and merits for his commitment to service. Gregory, a U.S. Army veteran, was also honored by George W. Bush and the Council on Service and Civic Participation with the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2009.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has implemented a long-range plan for increased sustainability and increased energy conservation in its facilities (featured in the February/March 2013 issue of Corrections Today). As part of this initiative, Montgomery County Courts recently relocated to a 22,500-square foot “green” office space. With the help of Gregory and his community service workers, the Montgomery County Courts building in Dayton earned a platinum-level certification for leadership in energy and environmental design from the U.S. Green Building Council. “Probationers helped assemble our green office space. They cleaned, painted, moved furniture and sorted items for reuse,” Gregory said. “Our communities are not just repurposing places and things — they are finding a purpose for people. That’s what is cool about my job.”