Judge honored for commitment to community

LEWISTOWN – Mifflin County Communities That Care held its annual meeting Friday at the courthouse annex in Lewistown.

Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Rick Williams was among those who attended the event. Williams is one of the founding members of the organization and is preparing to step down as judge this coming fall.

Jennifer Hepner. President of CTC, announced there will be a tree planted in honor of Williams’ contributions to the community.

Williams has served as a judge for over 30 years, first as a magisterial district judge and then on the court of common pleas.

“Back in the mid 1990s, Rick Williams learned about the CTC model and saw it as a way to address our local heroin epidemic which at that time was causing the loss of young people’s lives. He convinced a core group of community leaders to take the CTC training. Happily for all of us, Rick and several other leaders succeeded in establishing a community-wide prevention effort known as Mifflin County Communities That Care in 2000,” Hepner said.

“Thanks to Judge Williams’ continued support, and with the hard work of many dedicated volunteers through the past 13 years, CTC continues to focus on prevention of negative behaviors among youth,” she added.

Although he was not in attendance at the meeting, President Judge Timothy S. Searer provided a letter for Hepner to read on his behalf.

In the letter, Searer said it was a “privilege” to serve along side Williams in the court.

“He is an outstanding judge and citizen,” Searer wrote.

Williams thanked everyone in attendance for their praises and pointed out that it takes a whole community standing together to make a difference.

“Can’t have a tug of war with a gorilla by yourself,” he said.

Williams said he always viewed his role in CTC as the person who “lit the match” and watched as others fueled the fire over the years.

“The community is so much better today in my view, because of Communities That Care,” Williams said.

CTC’s Facilitator Nancy Records went over some of the areas in which the organization has pulled some data. These “Protective Factors” measure four domains, community, family, school and peers.

Records said the strongest Protective Factor for Mifflin County turns out to be the school system.

Records said children were asked a series of questions about their school in the last Youth Survey in 2011 and the results reflected well on the districts teachers.

Other parts of that particular survey focused on drugs and alcohol use among teens and young adults.

Records said the perception amongst teens in particular, is that a lot of people drink alcohol. The data says otherwise and states over 90 percent of teens in Mifflin County do not drink alcohol.

“Most kids do not engage in negative behavior,” she said.

Records also spoke about another hot button issue affecting children today, that of bullying. As part of an anti-bullying campaign, posters will be put up throughout the schools in the district this Fall. The posters were designed by a handful of students.

“The power of the positive is huge … fighting negative and boasting the positive is what we are all about,” Records said.

Records also thanked all the volunteers that CTC has and said the organization could not function without them.