[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 10, 2009

Berne’s summer program gives local kids a paycheck

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — A group of kids is back in school after cleaning up parks and cemeteries this summer. This year, six were selected by a set of income-based criteria to be part of the Berne Summer Youth Program.

“I took a flying lesson,” explained Sara Hallenbeck, 19, who told The Enterprise this week that she has participated in the program for the past three years. A failed attempt at breaking a stick off a large stump resulted in her being catapulted. Lesson learned.

“I think it’s an excellent job,” she said. “It’s part-time, so it’s pocket money, but you’ve still got time to be a kid, so it’s great.”

The program was created in 2002, during Supervisor Kevin Crosier’s first year in office, and kept these kids busy during July and August.

“I saw a need for kids to have jobs for the summer,” Crosier said. “Every year, I work together with the school, we find the kids for the program, and then we find work for them through the school and the town.”

Funding for the Berne Summer Youth Program comes from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF). Created under the welfare reform legislation of 1996 — the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act — TANF became effective in July of 1997, replacing previous welfare programs and ending federal entitlement to assistance. TANF was created as a block grant that provides annual funds to states, territories, and tribes.

This year, the kids in the program had a chance to restore pieces of Berne’s history.

Saving cemeteries

“The town has over 70 cemeteries,” Crosier said. “Most of them are abandoned, but they belong to the town, and there’s a lot of rich heritage. And the headstones — some of them are people who settled Berne. What we found was, when they get in disrepair, people vandalize them, so we decided to try and bring back some of these cemeteries.”

This year, six young residents of Berne participated in the program: Ashley Leno, Elizabeth Hallenbeck, Sara Hallenbeck, Zach Hallenbeck, Cody Locci, and Harry Albright.

“Those kids did a wonderful job,” said Jeff Alexander, a Berne highway worker who supervised the kids this summer. “I kind of miss them; they were a nice bunch.”

Alexander’s work includes caring for the town’s parks and cemeteries, so, when the six kids were assigned to help with this kind of work, Alexander took charge.

“The program is a great way to give local kids a paycheck, and teach them some work ethic,” he said. “I found it rewarding.”

One main project of the summer was fixing up the Peasley Road Cemetery.

“The cemetery was really quite a mess,” Alexander explained. “Six of seven trees were down, and some had been rotting for several years. A lot of brush grows up along the stone walls, and once we got all the dead trees and fallen limbs all cleaned up, we said, ‘Let’s build some stone wall.’ So, we built it right where it was.” he said.

He and the kids built stone walls, about 18 inches high, around all four sides of the cemetery, laying the stones on their original base.

“Over the years, they’ve done road work and knocked into the walls and knocked them over moving snow around, and probably just careless people knocking stones off,” said Alexander. “It had pretty much all fallen down on two of the four sides.”

The kids, Alexander, and highway worker Justin Ward also cleared out brush, trees, and weeds at Cole Hill Cemetery and North Road Cemetery.

“A good atmosphere”

Elizabeth Hallenbeck, 19, told The Enterprise this week that she first took part in the Berne Summer Youth Program in the summer after 10th grade, and recommends the program to anyone who likes to work outside.

“It taught us a lot about being on time for work, and responsibility,” Hallenbeck said. “Going into the job, no one really explains to you what you’re going to be doing; they just told us we’d be working outside. For the first two years of the program, I worked as a janitor at the school, and then, since last summer, I worked in parks.”

While cemeteries have played starring roles in many horror stories, Hallenbeck enjoyed her work on these sites.

“I love working outside,” said Hallenbeck. “Even though they were cemeteries, I liked going around reading the gravestones; they each had little detailed pieces of history. There was one that was a monument to this family, and it explains how the family records had been destroyed in a fire, so this was put there as a monument to the family,” she said.

Hallenbeck now attends the State University of New York at Cobleskill.

Her sister, Sara, who is also 19 and goes to the same school, shares her sentiment, as does their brother, Zach, who is 17 and a senior at Berne-Knox-Westerlo High School.

“Even working at the school — it’s just a good atmosphere, it’s an upbeat environment — it’s good for a kid,” Sara said.

“The people you work for are pretty fun,” said Zach, who participated in the program once before. “They’re not really hard on you, and it’s a great way to stay in shape.”

[Return to Home Page]