Originally created 07/14/97

Police offer more than enforcing the law

Richmond County Sheriff's Deputy Jimmy Holmes loves his full-time job in the department's civil division. He likes his part-time job as a security guard at a local apartment complex. He relishes his sometime job of baby-sitting his grandchild.

But the 44-year-old veteran officer's passion is basketball. He uses his love for the hoops to reach out to community youth.

"The team is a way for me to reach out to the community. Some youth may not need discipline. Some may need an adult male figure to talk to. Some just need some direction," said Deputy Holmes. "Either myself or the college or professional athletes that work with me can help them get into college- and show the importance of books coming before sports."

Despite having little spare time, officers like Deputy Holmes go beyond the call of duty, volunteering as mentors, working with local athletic leagues, even founding their own outreach groups.

James Reed isn't just an officer with the Augusta-Richmond County Marshal Department, he is also a minster at Eastland Baptist Church and president of One In A Million Incorporated. The group assists families financially, provides bereavement assistance and offers mentor services and guidance services to youth.

"What motivates me to serve is my compassion to help those who are in need," said the Rev. Reed. "It gives me the opportunity to steer young people in the right direction- guidance is what young people today need."

"Knowing role models like Rev. Reed helps me to see that I don't have to sell drugs, like so many of my friends do, in order to be successful in life," said Mario Anderson, an upcoming junior at T. W. Josey High School. "I'm from a single-parent home and he helps my mom out a lot. He's more than a police officer, he's someone I can turn to when I need to talk, he's more like a father figure to me."

Thanks to One In A Million, Mario, who plays varsity baseball at his school, will compete in a baseball tournament next month in New Zealand. The group raised more than $1,800 so the youth could play in the competition.

"A lot of law enforcement officers are of the lock 'em up, cuss and fuss mentality," said Sgt. Osborn Nesbitt of the U.S. Marshal Service. "But the problem with juveniles and domestic crime is not just with the children. It's an adult problem.

"We'll have to find different ways, different strategies, and positive activities to provide for our children. We need positive, creative alternatives to what the streets are offering to them."

Sgt. Nesbitt, a former teacher's assistant, started the Male Room Foundation Inc., a non-profit affiliate of the Richmond County Board of Education. A collection of business people, teachers and community leaders - the group has created programs for boys ages 8-18 and recently opened the program to girls, although they retained the name.

Projects include a workshop on building relationships between parents and teachers and a middle-school "Career Cruise," a bus tour of area businesses such as Proctor & Gamble, Savannah River Site and Federal Paper. The group follows the Career Cruise with workshops on preparing resumes, filling out job applications and personal presentation.

"I think there aren't as many law enforcement personnel who are actively involved in the community due to their work environments, their working hours, demands of family time. Then to supplement their incomes, and many have to, they have to work a lot of specials (second jobs) to keep the fires burning at home, said Sgt. Nesbitt.

"The officers' own children grow up without their police moms or dads," said Sgt. Nesbitt. "I take it personally. It's my personal responsibility to give back to the Augusta community. I'm from the streets. I was born right here in Augusta in Sunset Homes, the projects. It took my parents, church folks, teachers and community people to produce what I am today.

"Kids today look up to the Michael Jordans and the (Evander) Holyfields." But the real role models are your everyday people - parents, teachers, nurses, policemen and the corner grocer. These are people kids can touch and feel. I'll live my whole life and probably never see Michael Jordan, he's untouchable."

But sports has long been a way to capture the attention of local youth. Law enforcement departments are capitalizing on athletics as a means to direct energy - which often gets youth in trouble - into more positive channels.

Deputy Holmes works with two basketball leagues, a mixed team of high school students and young adults and a second team for men 30 years and older. Both recently won championships, he said.

Visiting stars who've worked with youth on Deputy Holmes' teams include such players as Mike Curry of the Detroit Pistons; Gerald White, a former Dallas Maverick who's now assistant coach for Georgia State University; and Robert Rhodes, a former Boston Celtic.

"I don't have a try-out camp or anything like that," said Deputy Holmes of his 17-year effort. "I meet guys during pick-up games, and I run newspaper ads. I try to get guys who have a future and who I can discipline."

Local high-school standouts such as Ricky Moore, now at the University of Connecticut, and William Avery, who was just recruited by Duke University, played on Deputy Holmes' teams.

"You always get a few who won't amount to anything and won't do anything," he said. "They wind up being a thug on the street or whatever, but I accept that - you can't reach everybody."

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office recently formed two basketball leagues through it's DARE program - one composed of 13- to 15-year-old boys, the other of 11- and 12-year-old boys, said Deputy Windy Vest.

"It's something to give kids something positive to do," she said. "And it's strictly for fun, meaning that if one team doesn't have enough players at game time, they'll usually pick up players from the opposing team."

The league had its first game July 7, and games are scheduled every day through August, except Fridays, Deputy Vest said.

Wanting to spend more time with his own son and to work with at-risk youth, Lt. Jimmy Young found a way to accomplish both, coaching Dixie League youth baseball teams through the Richmond County Recreation Department. Lt. Young serves on the league's advisory board, which is responsible for uniform and travel expenses for league-wide, post-season play.

He admits he sometimes foregoes lunch breaks at work to get things done.

"I started when my son was 6 years old, and I've been going from there," he said. "My son, James is now 16, and we're still with it."


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