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Anti-Drug Program Puts Youngsters to Work


Instead of spending part of his summer vacation "hanging out," Eric Brown, 11, helped paint four houses for elderly, disabled and low-income San Dimas residents.

The Lone Hill School seventh-grader was one of about 60 San Dimas students who participated in a pilot program created by the Walnut/San Dimas sheriff's substation as an offshoot of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Substance Abuse Narcotics Education program.

The children, ages 10-15, "showed up in their dirty clothes ready to work," said Deputy Ella Cooks.

They met each day in Pioneer Park, then went out in groups of 10 to pick up trash, plant flowers, cut bushes and paint houses. After lunch, they heard speakers talk about gangs, drugs, values and career development.

But it wasn't all work. Afternoons were filled with sports and games and the children were taken to Raging Waters and a California Angels baseball game and toured the battleship Missouri and the McDonnell Douglas mock space station in Long Beach.

The aim of the program was to keep children out of trouble and involve them in community service, Cooks said. Organized by Cooks and Deputy Ed Stewart, the five-week program ended Friday.

The deputies worked with the city, the Bonita Unified School District, local businesses and volunteers who donated food and supplies.

"The kids were adorable," said Charliene Todd, 81, who has lived for 74 years in the white house the children painted.

"Painting was fun because we could get dirty, and the paint wouldn't come off," said Jazmin Escobar, 13.

"And we could tell our moms we needed new clothes."

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