ST. JOHNSBURY-Every Monday through Friday, the Saint Johnsbury Community Restorative Justice Center provides assistance and opportuinties for those who have broken the law. People who are charged with crimes have the opportunity to repair the harm that was done by their actions, both to the community, and to themselves. For the Executive Director of the Justice Center, this 8:30 AM - 4:30 job of helping the community isn't work; it's fun.
Susan Cherry worked as a choir teacher at the Saint Johnsbury School for 35 years. During this time, she got to really know the community, and realized her love for bringing people together. After retiring as a teacher, she still had the desire to help others. "Let's get these people together, let's talk, let's figure this out, let's do this together," Cherry says.
After retiring from teaching, she had the option of either becoming the prinicpal of the school or working at the Justice Center. "There was a lot of parallel," Cherry explains. Ultimately, she chose the Justice Center as it gave her a more direct chance to help others. "Helping people to know what is needed when they've done wrong."
The Justice Center is just one of 21 locations across Vermont where people can atone for their crimes. Cases handled by these centers are usually referred by police departments, states attorneys, or court-ordered conditions of probation.
To Cherry's coworkers like Tune Faulkner, having someone who knows the people in the area is a big advantage for provide assistance to them. "She's out there, advocating for us, spreading the work for restorative justice, so it's good to have someone who's so familiar with the community."
The Restorative Justice Center isn't the only place you can find Cherry; she also works for the Drug Abuse Resistance Team (DART 2.0), as well as the Saint Johnsbury Planning Commission. This is Cherry's fifth year working for the Justice Center, and although she still loves her work, her coworkers know when all the community involvement starts to get overwhelming.
"If she starts getting a little burnt out, I tell her, 'I think it's time for a vacation,'" says Front Office Administrator Assistant Sharon Walker.
Knowing the community as well as she does, Cherry occasionally meets the people she has helped, who thank her for her work, but these gifts of kindness aren't what drive her to keep working. "I have had that gift given to me a couple of times, it is a gift. You don't do it expecting anyone to come back to you ... but you hope there is some good that comes out of all that work you do," Cherry explains.
If you are further interested in the work that the Justice Center does, click here.