Valerie Balleck

Valerie Balleck, a Union Snyder Treatment Court graduate, accepts a handshake, certificate and commemorative coin from Judge Harold Woelfel. Balleck nearly wept as she told fellow gradates, friends family members and the court team of how the rigorous program helped her change her life.

LEWISBURG — Society is obligated to extend a welcome to faithful graduates of the Union and Snyder County Treatment Court Programs. Such were the thoughts of Judge Harold Woelfel at graduation Wednesday morning at the Union County Courthouse.

The day was marked by expressions of gratitude and optimism for productive lives among fellow citizens.

Treatment Court requires qualifying non-violent drug and alcohol offenders in the 17th Judicial District to follow a rigorous regimen. It includes keeping employed, getting therapy, maintaining court appearances and probation department appointments to avoid jail time.

Five men and two women addressed the courtroom during the proceedings, each expressing thanks in their own way.

“I hurt a lot of people, and I can’t change my past,” said Jordan Mace. “But I don’t have to live like that any more.”

Woelfel credited Mace’s perseverance and noted that Mace rode a bicycle from Beaver Springs to Middleburg, to catch a ride to work for many months.

Lighter moments included a musical presentation by Zack Merrick, a singer-songwriter. He performed “Court,” a song he’d written that described the legal events that led to his entry into the program, and how tools for living he’d received would come in handy in a new sober life.

“The party king has put down his crown,” was a line from the song that Woelfel found noteworthy enough to mention to Merrick and the group.

Some graduates, such as James Haas, were glad that they had been caught doing what landed them in trouble.

“I was on a one way street with a dead end, and I emphasize dead,” he said.

Haas said with over a year of continuous sobriety, things that were once only dreams can now become goals.

Valerie Balleck said friends discouraged her entering Treatment Court, citing people who had failed and ended up back in jail.

“My life has changed so much,” she added. “I can do basically everything I need to do or anything I want to do. It’s my choice as to how I do it and where I do it.”

Balleck credited Treatment Court for introducing her to places she could continue to get support for her sobriety, but now it was up to her to follow through.

Jane Cilvcik thanked all who’d helped, including her probation officer. As she did, supporters rang bells and displayed signs with the words “You rock, Jane” printed on them.

Andrew Shaffer noted that he became willing to learn things from people.

“I am a productive member of society again,” noted John Black, a military veteran who served in Iraq who noted that prior to his sobriety he was conflicted by both self-pity and a sense of entitlement.

Woelfel, who had recently acknowledged his own alcohol problem and treatment, only noted it in a cursory way. He said he was reluctant to accept overseeing Treatment Court when it was introduced to the district, but working with the people in it eventually served to help him.

Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at matt@standard-journal.com.

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