"A Little History"
  • March / April 1995 (25 Years)
  • By Frances Rajkovich,
  • Director Probate Court Volunteers 1975 - 1989
About 25 years ago, newly appointed Judge Kenneth G. Mackness believed that assistance from citizens was much needed to enhance the efforts of Probate Court staff in their work with juveniles. He asked Ann Mapes, the County Juvenile Officer, to contact professor Walter Holland at Northwestern Michigan College to interest him in arranging his students to be Volunteer Probation Officers. Soon this became too much for Ann, so the 1st Volunteer Coordinator, Sandra Al-Shamma, was hired. After a couple of years, she was succeeded by Susan Dietrick. Susan was then made Girls Probation Officer after only a few months. Frances Rajkovich was appointed January 1975.

At that time, Clarence Clous was liaison from the County Board to Probate Court and was very supportive of the concept of adults volunteering their time and talents to work with young people.

Fueled by identified needs, the programs grew in spite of resistance from County Commissioners, staff Probation Officers, and other professional workers who had to be convinced that volunteers could and would perform valuable and needed services. Within a few years, our Volunteer Services was strongly supported by both county government and by most colleagues.

From the beginning, Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department provided support by allowing the volunteers to use their meeting rooms for orientations/training as well as Deputy Mike Imhoff preparing all identifications required.  

With strong support from Judge Mackness, we gave the Grand Traverse Area Literacy Council a home while we were still located in a small office on the 4th floor of the NBT Building, and we began a pilot program in collaboration with Child Guidance Clinic, which was the foundation for the Doula Teen Parent Program. Another "spinoff" is Citizens for Better Care, which began through the efforts of Helen Maitland, to assist with problems related to the long-term care of adults. This pertains to the court's guardianship responsibilities and was entirely volunteer in the early years.

As we developed, "prevention" was added to programs.  Specifically, "Learning Partners" and "Court Appointed Special Advocates" are examples of the intense involvements which have often led to long-term friendships.  "Learning Partners" was inspired by the volunteer "matches" that Frances made, such as when, consecutively, 2 little girls returned home from foster care but were far behind their grade levels. They were caught up by the end of their school year, with just a little help. The mother of 1 of these children still contacts Frances after 30 years! At about the same time, Court Appointed Special Advocates was added. In the beginning, CASA also met with resistance from outside agencies  However, under the leadership of Ann Mapes, became a much valued adjunct to those agencies.

Much effort was expended on obtaining the grant for a Youth Service Bureau, which did not make the transition from federal to local funding in Grand Traverse County, but is still thriving in Leelanau County's Probate Court.

There has been much fine tuning of probation programs, such as Community Service Work, transporting, etc.  Volunteer Services has also been responsible for the Consent Calendar, a juvenile diversion program, since 1981.

Linda Fawcett, who had been Administrative Assistant for 8 years, became Director of Volunteer Services in 1989.

Our Volunteer Services has been, and still is, regarded as a model throughout the State.