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Local jurors get to rule on per diem donations

Centre County Judge Thomas King Kistler announces the creation of a program Wednesday that lets jurors donate their pay to charity. The money can be given back to the county or donated to the Centre County Child Access Center, the Centre County Child Advocacy Center, the Ethel Beaver Children’s Fund or the Centre Crest Resident Fund.
Centre County Judge Thomas King Kistler announces the creation of a program Wednesday that lets jurors donate their pay to charity. The money can be given back to the county or donated to the Centre County Child Access Center, the Centre County Child Advocacy Center, the Ethel Beaver Children’s Fund or the Centre Crest Resident Fund. CDT photo

What do you do with a check for $9?

For many, it doesn’t make up for a lost hour at work, much less a lost day. However, that’s what the county pays residents for one day in the jury box.

After three days, the per diem goes up to $25, but trials like that aren’t common in Bellefonte.

County Commissioner Steve Dershem served on a Centre County jury. He was among those who never cashed his $9 check. That happens often, leading people in the courthouse to wonder how the money could be put to work.

The answer, according to President Judge Tom Kistler, is a juror donation program.

“We’ve spent 10 years trying to put this together,” he said at a news conference Friday.

What made it work was a new juror-management program put into place in May. The system will let the jurors pick from a number of donation options if they opt to not keep the token payment. They can return the money to the county or they can direct it to one of four programs: the Centre County Child Access Center, the Centre County Children’s Advocacy Center, the Ethel Beaver Fund for Centre County Children and Youth Services or the Centre Crest Residents Fund.

Last year, Kistler said, the county paid out $16,000 to jurors. This year is on track for $21,000. A portion of that money could make a big difference to the organizations on the list.

“We love the opportunity to collect some extra money for activities,” Centre Crest Director of Care Management Dana Keeler said. “This will really give us a boost.”

The Ethel Beaver Fund helps kids in CYS custody do normal kid things like take dance lessons, go to camp or get birthday presents. The Children’s Advocacy Center opened this year and helps coordinate interviews and fact-finding in a single location to ease the effect on traumatized child victims. The Child Access Center has provided a safe haven for more than 5,500 custody exchanges and 600 supervised visits over the past six years.

Jurors will have the opportunity to direct a donation to one of the organizations for the first time at the next jury selection on Dec. 8.

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