Change through community service - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Change through community service

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Community service may be a requirement of the courts for certain offenses, but one organization is using it to change offenders' lives.

A unique café in Eau Claire takes something as simple as a cup of coffee and uses it to transform.

"You see their attitude change.  That first day they walk in you can see they're kind of begrudgingly walking in, 'I don't wanna do this'," says operator, Pastor Russ Atter.

Because they are court ordered to community service and some serve their hours at the 420 Cafe in Eau Claire.

It's a place where some have found the boost needed to get back on their feet.

"When he was doing his community service hours, he was living on the streets.  Now he has a job, place to live and is going to school," says Atter.

Not all the volunteers at 420 are performing community service, but the extra help is always welcome.

"Then if we have a project like the remodeling that we did, I can call community service and say, 'Hey we've got a big job' and they'll send us extra people to help with that," says Atter.

Here sentences aren't served behind bars, they begin instead with service and positive goals.

"That environment doesn't help people, if anything it makes them worse.  So getting them out working in the community instead of putting them in a jail makes them contributors and helps them learn healthy behaviors," says Atter.

Which often start with the simplest gestures.

420 cafe also offers counseling services, help with job placement and substance abuse assistance. They operate solely through volunteers, if you'd like more information, follow this link.

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