Big Island Drug Court recognizes employers who give clients a chance

  • Hawaii Island Lawns owner Joe Perreira and his staff of drug court graduates are pictured. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Dependable Roofing owners Lance Mccracken and John Gallagher stand with Big Island Drug Court graduate Rick Clevenger and another drug court client. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Big Island Drug Court Judge Wendy DeWeese speaks with Subway owner Amber Alvarez-Torres on Monday. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Big Island Drug Court participant and soon-to-be-graduate Luke Wong (left) watches as Big Island Drug Court Judge Wendy DeWeese presents Pacific Waste General Manager Matt Lynch with a certificate of appreciation. Pacific Waste was among a handful of businesses recognized Monday by Big Island Drug Court for giving the program’s clients a second chance. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

  • Big Island Drug Court participant and soon-to-be-graduate Luke Wong (center) tells Big Island Drug Court Judge Wendy DeWeese about his job driving for Pacific Waste. Pacific Waste was among a handful of businesses recognized Monday by Big Island Drug Court for giving the program’s clients a second chance. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

A handful of businesses were recognized Monday by Big Island Drug Court for giving the program’s clients a second chance.

“Recovery is so challenging and difficult. It’s really important for these people to be employed and be part of a job site,” said Drug Court Coordinator Grayson Hashida. “It’s much more than just a job and more than just a paycheck. Those human connections — connections with employers, connections with coworkers, feeling good about their job — those are all really important things for someone in recovery.”

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Normally, Big Island Drug Court would have an appreciation event at the courthouse amid National Drug Court Month to thank employers for hiring drug court participants; however, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, plans had to change.

“So we thought, ‘hey, why don’t we go out to the people that employ them and say thank you to them for giving them a chance?’” Hashida said.

On Monday, a caravan of drug court staff, including judges, public defenders, attorneys and support workers, traveled to five sites in Kona to express their appreciation. First was Subway for employing Tawnee Lee followed by Hawaii Island Lawns for hiring Alan Minamishin.

Next, the crew hit Pacific Waste, which employs soon-to-be graduate Luke Wong. Wong, a parolee who relapsed after a few years out and was accepted into in the Drug Court program, has a commercial driver’s license and has put more than 50,000 miles on the Peterbilt semi-truck he drives each day.

“This is probably in the top three best jobs I ever had,” said Wong, who noted being a “trashman” comes with some prestige. “It allowed me to be who I was.”

Pacific Waste general manager Matt Lynch said Wong is “everything that you could ask for in an employee.”

“He has done a great job and really is a good guy,” Lynch said after being presented with a certificate of appreciation. “I’ll hire anybody like Luke out of the system.”

Since hiring Wong, Pacific Waste has hired three more Drug Court participants.

“They’re all really good guys and really hardworking,” Lynch said. “It’s a win-win.”

After taking a tour of the facility and seeing the rig Wong drives each day, the crew headed to Dependable Roofing, where Rick Clevenger, is employed before wrapping up the day at Umekes Fish Market Bar and Grill, which brought Brandon Harrison onto the crew.

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Employers interested in hiring a Big Island Drug Court participant should contact Hashida via email at grayson.k.hashida@courts.hawaii.gov.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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