Police departments in Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood refer to the program teens who have been arrested on drug or alcohol charges. While with Reach, they’re taught how to make smarter decisions and plan for the future.
Some quit the program and become reoffenders. Many more graduate and turn their lives around.
It’s for this success rate that Reach Co-founder Shirley Marchetti was recently honored as a Comcast Hometown Hero. Several other East County residents were selected as Hometown Heroes this year, including Josie Monaghan and John Farman of Antioch, Pamela and Bill Doheney of Brentwood, and Fred Schau of Oakley.
“It’s an honor to be placed in with people who are going out and they’ve done things on their own and started some wonderful projects,” Marchetti said. “I didn’t do it alone. Throughout the years, I’ve had a lot of help.”
Shirley Marchetti, sister-in-law of football star Gino, founded the Reach Project on April 1, 1970 with Antioch Police Sgt. Leon LeRoy. She felt the need to do something in response to the offer of drugs to her son, a junior high student at the time. When the Antioch City Council appointed her to a committee to curb youth drug use, Marchetti and LeRoy started Reach.
She figured she’d just help it get started and work on it for about a month. Forty-two years later, Marchetti is still involved, serving as the program’s assistant director. In 2004, she handed over the executive directorship to her son, Mickey.
The Reach Project helps about 2,000 people annually – not all of whom are kids. The program augments its youth services by offering classes and help for parents who are struggling to communicate with their children. In Brentwood, Reach also offers support to grandparents raising kids. The program provides services for alcohol and drug abuse treatment, tailored to kids, families and adults.
Oakley Police Officer Lance Morrison, who handles juvenile cases, considers Reach a valuable crime-fighting asset. “If we feel like they’re going to stick to that commitment and they’re going to obey the law and abstain from drugs, then we’ll give them a shot,” Morrison said. “It’s amazing how many kids complete the program. It becomes kind of a safe haven to talk about life’s problems.”
One of the major programs offered by Reach is the Juvenile Diversion Program, where Reach partners with local police departments to help young people arrested on drug or alcohol charges. For many, it’s their last hope before a trip to juvenile hall or the Byron Boys Ranch.
Reach also accepts referrals from parents worried that their child might be heading down the wrong path.
One young man who battled drug problems was admitted to the program for a few months, quit, but then returned earlier this year for a second chance. Since he’s returned to Reach, he’s doing better in school and hasn’t touched drugs. After he finishes high school, he’s hoping to go to film school.
“Since I haven’t been using, my whole attitude has changed,” he said. “I’ve got faith I’m doing to complete it. I appreciate (Reach) a lot. It’s helping me stay out of trouble.”
Marchetti estimated that roughly 90 percent of those who enter the program change for the better. She truly loves the young people who come through Reach and it warms her heart when they finally learn how to make better decisions, even if it’s a rough process.
“I like these kids – somebody has to like them,” Marchetti said. “You have to like people enough to hold them accountable. Sometimes that’s hard.”