Leaving a positive mark on Quincy
Police Chief Bob Heimbach compares graffiti to weeds on your lawn. If you don’t get on them, they soon multiply.
By pulling up the weeds – or painting over the graffiti in this case – there’s less of a chance it will spread, Heimbach said. And you’re showing that you won’t stand for such growth.
“If a community allows itself to become rundown, we will start to behave like we fit in that environment,” Heimbach said. “If we have a nice city, we start to act like we deserve that nice city. By staying ahead of the graffiti, we send the message that we want and owe it to ourselves to have a nice community.”
That’s where Sergio Castillo, the city’s community service coordinator, comes in.
Castillo is Quincy’s town gardener, so to speak, charged with keeping the ugly at bay while also planting a seed in young people, teaching them what it means to be a part of a community.
As the community service coordinator for the police department, Castillo covers graffiti around town and makes sure trash is picked up in the alleyways and on city property.
Often working alongside him are teenagers and adults sentenced to community service or youth volunteers from the Quincy schools. For example, students in the G.R.E.A.T. program, taught by officers in the schools, must do a project to make their community better. Many volunteer to work with Castillo.
Castillo, who has been working as the community service coordinator for more than five years, doesn’t always view his position as a job. To him, it’s about giving back to his community and the people in it.
“I see it more like an opportunity to help people,” he said. “I feel a part of this community.”
Castillo and his wife, Edna, moved to the area from Sunnyside because they wanted a more peaceful, quieter community to raise their three children. They found that in Quincy, he said.
However, before he took the position in the police department, he was like most people when it came to graffiti, Castillo said. Oftentimes, he just didn’t pay much attention to it.
But such vandalism sends a bad message to not only people living here but also those who pass through town, he said. Graffiti gives people a bad impression of the town he calls home.
“That graffiti makes a huge difference on the perspective of the town,” he said.
Castillo, who also works for the school district’s food services and as a pastor for the Iglesia Cristiana Reformada, spends much time with children throughout the community, coming in contact with them in both good and bad situations.
“Pretty much, all the kids know me,” he joked.
When working with young people, Castillo takes time to talk with them about how they can better their lives. He encourages them to stay in school and pursue a college degree. He tells young people not to “conform” by only looking to work in the fields or local warehouses, he said.
“I tell them to make their own future,” said Castillo, who came to the country when he was 17 years old.
It’s that connection to the young people in town where Castillo shines, Heimbach said.
“He’s not judgmental,” Heimbach said of Castillo. “He doesn’t worry about why they are doing community service, only that they become responsible and get it done. He isn’t a pushover either.”
And Castillo truly has a “servant’s heart,” Heimbach added.
“He is here because he wants to be part of the solution and to help,” the chief said. “And he is always in a good mood. He reminds me that we can and should be joyful about the positive impact we can have on our community no matter what title we have.”
— By Jill FitzSimmons, firstname.lastname@example.org