Last updated: August 25. 2013 7:59AM - 76 Views

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LIMA — Stand on any street long enough with Matt Romick and someone's going to recognize him. A 20-something man strolls by and gives him a friendly wave. An older woman shouts his name across the street.“He worked with my grandson,” she says with a smile.Romick has worked with a lot of grandsons through the years. He's worked with his share of sons and daughters and other children who find themselves in trouble. Enough of them to make him a bit of a celebrity in town. “I know a lot of people. Anywhere I go, I know people. It's kind of part of the job,” he said.Romick's official job title is Community Outreach Coordinator for Allen County Juvenile Court. As the title implies, he coordinates the programs through which young people work off court-ordered community service and restitution. But in Romick's world, coordinate means do. He single-handedly takes six young people at a time to a job site and puts them to work. In some cases, that means mowing the lawn at Juvenile Court or one of the local nonprofits. Other times, it's less glamorous work, everything from spreading mulch to shoveling horse manure. The teens aren't always thrilled with the job, but Romick has keen persuasion skills.“At the end of the day, we shovel poop because that's what we're doing that day,” Romick said.The latest project for Romick's crew will be to paint fire hydrants around town. The Lima Fire Department has been looking for youth groups to volunteer to do the work, and Romick has plenty of volunteers. “We get the supplies from the Fire Department, they give us a list of 10 hydrants and we go paint them, either all yellow, all red or red and white. As soon as we turn around those 10, they'll give us 10 more,” Romick said. Later this spring, the crew will tackle the community garden in front of Liberty Arts Magnet. Romick has been studying up on how to create a no-till garden, which means getting the kids to haul loads of soil and mulch and their favorite, horse manure.As much as he enjoys working with young people, Romick is realistic about the effect he is having on their lives.“Long-term, that's a hard question to answer,” Romick said. “The good thing is, I get to see, every day, the best the kid has to offer. Sometimes, that's not very good, but some days, it's amazing.”


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