2004-08-18 / Front Page
A lot of heart went into home for police horses
BY ELAINE VAN DEVELDE
EDISON — Blue, the stunning, stubborn white Mounted Police horse, dug in his heels. He knew he was home, and he wasn’t about to let anyone, animal or human, ruin his moment showing off his new digs.
His new home is the Edison Mounted Police Headquarters on the property of the Job Corps Academy on Plainfield Avenue. The facility was unveiled to the public last week.
"He was jealous," said Tashie Prince, 25, one of the Job Corps students who helped build the new stables. "He wanted to go eat hay with the other two (police horses Magnum and Buddy). Blue is the stubborn one. He just makes us laugh. We’re getting to know the horses. It’s fun to understand their personalities and have them and the police here at the center."
It was that kind of bonding, coupled with an enormous sense of pride that made this two-year job so special for the corps students and their community, corps Director Lee Mathews said.
The students had the skills and the will, and the township had the $100,000 worth of materials and the land. Those things together with a lot of heart and a strong spirit of cooperation, are all it took to make a home for the horses.
Of the 119 federal Job Corps academies across the country, the Edison facility is the only one of its kind in New Jersey. Its administrators are proud to call it a community resource for not only the police force’s horses, but other organizations as well, Mathews said.
The new stables will provide a home for five horses in the community they serve. The horses were housed miles outside of Edison before the stables were built.
This project also struck a perfect balance for the students, Mathews added. That is because they are not only trained to develop skills for the workforce, but social interaction is an integral part of the program.
Started in 1964, the federally funded national Job Corps comes under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Labor. Its purpose is to educate the "undereducated and uneducated and employ the unemployed and underemployed," Mathews said.
The students range in age from about 16 to 26. While some students could be at the Edison Corps, which has the capacity for about 500 students, for a stay of three years, most accomplish what they need to in two.
Some come to the corps just shy of getting their high school diploma. Others have some college education.
Tashie Prince, the 25-year-old who got a giggle out of the horses’ personalities, laid tile in the wash room and office of the barn. She came to the corps in need of a high school diploma. The former Virgin Islands resident was one of several who put the stables together.
With only two months left at the corps, Prince could not be prouder of the work she has done and the skills she has acquired. "I liked it," she said. "It’s good to be able to create stuff in your mind and see it built. It’s even better that it’s useful to the community."
Prince is now designing a flag for the Virgin Islands and would like to work for a union when she leaves the corps in two months.
Lee Lopez, 24, came from Idaho to a corps in Oregon, then to the Edison corps for advanced training in plumbing. He also helped with the stables.
"I learned how to solder," he said. "I never did that before, and now I’m actually good at it. I really felt good about the work we did. The chance to get to know the police, the horses and the people I worked with was great."
But he won’t be staying in New Jersey when his training is done.
"It’s too expensive to live here," Lopez said. "I’ll finish in about six months, and then I don’t know where I’ll go, but I’ll have the training."
College was too expensive for Luis Morales, 20, a native of Puerto Rico, who came to the corps from Camden.
"I came here in March, and they put me to work wiring electricity," he said. "I really loved the hands-on training. This was my first big project. Seeing it done — I’m very proud."
Working on the stables also gave Morales a new perspective on police officers.
"I talked to them and ate with them," he said. "Just communicating like that changed my point of view toward police. I felt like I was accepted by them doing the work. Now I know that when they do their job, they’re doing what they have to do for the people. I also love the horses. I plan to hang out with them more."
Sauron Benton, 20, a carpentry student from Buffalo, N.Y., came to the corps nine months ago after seeing a commercial about it.
He arrived ready to frame, shingle and install soffits, fascia boards and drywall in the barn. The trade wasn’t new to him. But the occupants of the stable were.
"I never saw a horse before," he said. "They’re real brutes. But I was very proud of the work I did and wanted to get to know who it was for. The cops seemed like nice guys and the horses were cool after I got used to them. I wanted to ride them, but I’ll have to wait on that. They wouldn’t let me yet."
Patrick Lawler, 24, of Atlantic City, was not thrown by the enormity of the horses. It was his task at the corps that made him beam. "I was really impressed with myself, I have to say," he said. "I installed 1,800 feet of fencing, 2,500 square feet of sod and a lot of other things. This was the first time I had gotten involved with a big project from beginning to end."
Horsing around with the police just added to the fun, he said.
"I got to work with the chief," he said. "I liked to pull his leg. I always had a positive view of the police. It was nice to work with them and feel like a part of them — like friends."
Though many of the students who worked on the barn will soon move on, Mathews said the experience will stay with them for a lifetime.
"One of the kids was so filled with pride about the job he had done," Mathews said. "He stood back, looked at the barn and said, ‘I’m going to bring my kids back here some day to see what I did.’ "