Thumbs up: DUI Court
The first three graduates of Thurston County’s inaugural DUI Court recently recounted stories of their struggles with addictions and how the county program has helped them turn their lives around. Patterned after the popular — and highly successful Drug Court — the new DUI Court is aimed at changing lifestyles and choices so that criminal defendants break their addictions and lead sober and lawful lives. Frank Lilly was the first person to enter the program, and he’s now the first graduate. “I believed in myself enough and was willing in my heart to be a better person and straighten out my life,” he told those assembled for the emotional graduation ceremony. Graduate Tino Campos entered DUI Court after his third conviction for driving under the influence, which came after he crashed his vehicle in Rochester. Campos said DUI Court has “helped me to see the truth of my disease.” The third DUI Court graduate, Thomas O’Bray, 56, said he was ready to get sober after his fifth DUI in July 2008. “I believed I had two options — prison or suicide,” he said, adding that DUI Court “literally saved my life.” Thurston County is fortunate to have two specialized treatment courts that transform lives.
Thumbs up: Donors
For 12 years, Curves, a national exercise chain for women, has waived the joining fee during the month of March for women who bring in food for area food banks. The annual food drive has been a rousing success. But the women at the west Olympia Curves set a new standard this year. In 2009, west-side Curves women — in competition with Shelton — donated 3,806 pounds of food. This year, when the last can of vegetables was counted, the scales tipped at 4,500 pounds of food. Kim Miller, owner of the west-side Curves, said, “A huge thanks to all of our members for their generosity. Not only are they making themselves stronger by working out, but they are strengthening our community by supporting our local food banks.” The real beneficiaries, of course, are the ever-increasing number of clients at the Thurston County Food Bank who are the recipients of the generous donations.
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Thumbs down: DNR
An audit has found that the state Department of Natural Resources overpaid for automotive equipment by at least $57,000 over 21/2 years at its Tumwater maintenance shop. The agency’s response was appropriate. Three employees were fired and the state auditor was summoned. The internal audit found that employees at the shop just south of Olympia Airport disregarded state law and department policy. In some cases, large purchases such as engines were made without getting required estimates from competitors. In other cases, it was small price tags that added up. The purchaser and the shop’s supervisor lost their jobs in early 2009. So did the fleet manager, who was supposed to make sure policies were followed at the Tumwater shop and eight smaller shops statewide that maintain and repair the agency’s cars, wildfire-fighting trucks and other vehicles, with a supplies budget of nearly $1.7 million. The wrongdoing has been exposed and the message here for all purchasing agents and supervisors is to follow bidding and purchasing laws.
Thumbs up: Crop Walk
For 30 years, advocates for those without sufficient food, have walked through the streets of Olympia raising money for national and local hunger relief organizations. Last weekend’s CROP Walk drew hundreds of walkers including Kia Juarez who celebrated her 17th birthday with the backing of more than 80 fellow students who raised more than $1,300. Some walked, some raised money. Since its inception in Olympia in 1981, the CROP Walk has generated more than a million dollars in donations. About 75 percent of the money collected from the Thurston County walk goes to Church World Service’s international anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs, which includes building utilities such as wells, creating and planting farms and helping refugees return home or relocate. Twenty-five percent of the Thurston County collections stay in the community going to such organizations as The Salvation Army and Senior Services for South Sound. What a great response for a great cause.