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Westmoreland County looks to restore troubled youth through refurbished furniture program

Matthew Santoni
| Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Community service work coordinator Anthony Cremonese sits among furniture that was restored by kids on probation involved in the CHANGE program at Westmoreland County Juvenile Probation office in Hempfield Township on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. CHANGE participants can earn community service by restoring furniture, and proceeds from the sale of the furniture can be applied toward their restitution.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Community service work coordinator Anthony Cremonese sits among furniture that was restored by kids on probation involved in the CHANGE program at Westmoreland County Juvenile Probation office in Hempfield Township on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. CHANGE participants can earn community service by restoring furniture, and proceeds from the sale of the furniture can be applied toward their restitution.
Furniture that was restored by kids on probation involved in the CHANGE program sits in storage at the Westmoreland County Juvenile Probation office in Hempfield Township on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. CHANGE participants can earn community service by restoring furniture, and proceeds from the sale of the furniture can be applied toward their restitution.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Furniture that was restored by kids on probation involved in the CHANGE program sits in storage at the Westmoreland County Juvenile Probation office in Hempfield Township on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. CHANGE participants can earn community service by restoring furniture, and proceeds from the sale of the furniture can be applied toward their restitution.

A new Westmoreland County program will help restore victims of juvenile crime by restoring and selling old furniture.

The juvenile probation program will take offenders who owe both community service and restitution for five weeks and have them restore furniture that will be sold through Westmoreland Community Action's American Architectural Salvage store in Mt. Pleasant . Most of the proceeds from each sale will go toward a restitution fund that can pay back the victims of crime.

“The objective revolves around restorative justice, giving back to the community and restoring the victims of Westmoreland County,” said Anthony Cremonese, community service work coordinator for juvenile probation for the county.

Because the program is called “CHANGE,” participants so far have marked each piece of restored furniture with a quote about what “change” means to them.

“It's therapeutic, and it's a way to earn community service hours for a court order,” said Addie Beighley, the county's juvenile probation director.

Cremonese said the first week of the program is used to teach participants the ground rules, basic techniques and tools. Neither he nor another official currently helping with the program had previous experience working with furniture, but that could be an asset as it made challenges more relatable.

“We just learn on the fly,” he said. “YouTube is a wonderful thing. We look up stuff and we go from there. ... If they say, ‘I don't know how to do this,' we can say, ‘We're learning, too.' ”

The program started as a pilot in February 2016 and won formal approval from the courts this year. Work is currently suspended because of short-staffing and a large caseload in the probation office.

Working in secure but temporary spaces, participants so far have sanded, stained, painted and decorated tables and dressers, and reupholstered a rocking chair, Cremonese said. Most of the furniture is stuck in storage until he gets nonprofit status for the program or starts selling it through Westmoreland Community Action.

Westmoreland County Commissioners last month approved a lease for a more permanent home base for the program at American Architectural Salvage, which they hope to move into in October. Cremonese said he was looking for additional workshop spaces to make it easier for participants than shuttling everyone from across the county to Mt. Pleasant and would need people to serve on a board of directors once it's established as a nonprofit.

Volunteers or furniture donors can reach Cremonese at 724-244-9569 or acremone@co.westmoreland.pa.us.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660, msantoni@tribweb.com or via Twitter @msantoni.

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