You would think managing a criminal probation program would be a job for some young hot shot. After all, the program deals with people who have committed misdemeanor offenses and are being given a second chance. That's not the case in Lapeer County. The Citizens Probation Council is directed by an 88-year old great grandmother volunteer.
Alma Hadley may be older, but she spends two-to five days a week administering her 77 member volunteer force to stop small criminals from growing into big ones. You've got to hand it to energetic Alma, who lives in Dryden with her 91 year old husband, Larry. The couple has 11 children and 27 grandkids. She hasn't counted the number of great grandkids lately.
The Lapeer Program started in 1970. It took eight years to work out a formula that would work well with the court system as well as clients it administered. That's when Alma was asked by the prosecutor to take the "job" as Director . . . Oops! She calls her job a "Vocation."
The council handles people from 17 to 92 years of age who've been put on probation by Lapeer courts for misdemeanors – smoking or having small amounts of marijuana in their possession, minors found with liquor, petty retail fraud including shoplifting, embezzlement or small spousal abuse.
The program, which does not handle felonies or persons with violent histories, receives no tax support. It is funded by a $250 service fee paid by client. When court orders probation for an offender Alma appoints a volunteer to work with him or her. As part of probation most violators take a 16-session alcohol and drug abuse class similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, at old Clover School, west of Lapeer. Alma said more than 5,000 people have participated in the program since its inception.
"In our 36 years we have an 80 percent success rate," Alma said. "Some who've gone through the program return for a second time because they want to, not because they are forced to." "it's said to see some of these kids with problems. We treat them like our own sons and daughters." Alma is anxious to recruit more volunteers. "Our volunteers are the heart of the program," she said. "They range in age from 25 to 92. Maybe a dozen have been with me for 25 years."