Pubdate: Sat, 24 Jan 2004
Source: Fort Pierce Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2004 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Jason Geary


FORT PIERCE -- They knew it was a long shot and didn't want to get their 
hopes up.

But supporters of Weed & Seed of St. Lucie County had their prayers 
answered Friday.

The local crime-fighting and social service initiative received a $175,000 
grant from the United States Department of Justice.

"It will give us that boost we needed desperately to move forward," said 
Executive Director Mary Alice Bennett.

The federal funding will serve a variety of purposes: Paying overtime for 
law enforcement officers, creating prevention programs for youths, offering 
vocational training and hiring a person to perform community outreach to 
promote Weed & Seed of St. Lucie County's efforts.

Initially, the local program was denied funding. Statewide, only one such 
program in north Miami received any federal funding.

"Although we were really disappointed, we weren't surprised," said 
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim McAdams, a member of the Weed & Seed steering 

After reviewing a miscalculation, the U.S. Department of Justice, which 
oversees the Weed & Seed programs, determined the St. Lucie County 
affiliate does match the criteria for a site that could receive federal 

"I have been writing grants for 25 years and never seen anything like 
this," Bennett said.

Weed & Seed of St. Lucie received extra points because it will hire a site 
coordinator to oversee various programs and activities at its "Safe Haven" 
sites. The City Commission approved a $50,000 grant to help fill the position.

The $175,000 federal grant is renewable annually provided the program shows 
results, McAdams said.

There might also be bonus funds available if legislators don't cut the Weed 
& Seed program, Bennett said.

The goal of a Weed & Seed program is to "weed" out violent or habitual 
offenders and plant the "seeds" of social services.

The local program seeks to reclaim neighborhoods with high crime rates and 
low incomes covering roughly two square miles. The boundaries are from 
Orange Avenue in the south to 17th Street in the east, 33rd Street in the 
west and reaching into the northern part of the county.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman