Friday, August 22, 2014

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South End Community Outreach Office reopens

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Albany/HV: South End Community Outreach Office reopens
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A community outreach office holds a grand reopening in Albany. Our Erin Connolly has more on what the center means to the South End of the city.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- And with the cutting of a ribbon, the newly renovated South End Community Outreach Office reopens. A staple in the community for years, some say it's a necessity for the City of Albany.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings said, ''Really it's a place for people to go and feel comfortable talking to others, and that's what it's all about.''

Located on Clinton Street in the South End, the office was headed by Pastor John Miller - until he passed away in 2010. Now that torch of leadership is being passed on to Leslie Phelan.

Director Leslie Phelan said, ''He was such a wonderful person. There wasn't an hour of the day he didn't spend on this ministry. I don't know if he ever slept.''

Jennings said, ''It's very important we reopen this. Not only in memory of John Miller who did such a great job when he was here but to continue the mission he started years ago.''

And that mission is threefold: to help people navigate the criminal justice system, to coordinate jail visits for families of people who are incarcerated, and to help find others employment.

Phelan said, ''They come here. They're really lost. They're told by their probation officer they must do this, they must do that. They say they don't know how to do that. So I walk them through this process.''

Albany County District Attorney David Soares said, ''It's crucial they have a place to go to where there's someone with knowledge to help ease their minds and bring them to the court and orient them into the process.''

And officials hope the center will help those leaving jail get back on their feet quickly and become productive members of the community.

Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff said, ''Without these resources, these people are much more likely to commit crimes again and I as a Police Chief have a vested interest in their successful reintegration."

And supporting people on both sides of the criminal justice system not only keeps Miller's legacy alive, but also keeps the South End moving in the right direction.

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