Restorative justice program needs community service opportunities

By LEE J. KAHRS

BRANDON — The Brandon Restorative Action for Victims and Offenders program (Bravo) has the participants it needs to volunteer for local projects to make amends. What it needs now is more opportunities to do so.

Brandon Selectman Tim Guiles chairs the BRAVO board and told the select board at the Aug. 24 meeting that the COVID-19 pandemic has made those volunteer opportunities harder to find.

“Part of our process is to figure out how to fix the harm done,” Guiles said. “Sometimes that takes the form of community service. It’s been challenging to find those opportunities to volunteer with COVID-19.”

BRAVO was formed years ago to help redirect young people who may have made a mistake and gotten into trouble with the law. Often first offenders under 18, BRAVO offers the chance to repair or restore whatever damage may have been done, or to simply give back to the community. In exchange, the participant avoids having a criminal record as long as they complete the BRAVO program and do not re-offend.

The BRAVO Board carefully considers each applicant before deciding whether or not they can participate in the program, but right now there are more participants than volunteer opportunities, which is what led Guiles to speak up at the last select board meeting.

Guiles said BRAVO has a participant who likes to work with his hands outdoors, and he wondered if he could volunteer with the town Buildings and Grounds Department.

“I know this is a really litigious society, but I wondered if there’s a creative way to have a young person work with the grounds department,” he said.

Town Manager Dave Atherton said that the town has used BRAVO volunteers in the past, but mostly with the recreation department because there is an issue with non-employees operating heavy equipment.

“But if someone needs to do that, (Recreation Director) Bill Moore and I can meet with them,” Atherton said.

Guiles thanked Atherton, and then put out a call to the public.

“And if anyone knows of any volunteer opportunities, please contact me,” he said. “It’s challenging to match the skills of the participants with the needs of our community.” For more information on how you can help, contact Tim Guiles at 802-279-2168 or timothyguiles@gmail.com.