Every year, the Delaware County Probate/Juvenile Court hosts a picnic for the participants in its sponsored mentoring programs — Moms Offering Mentoring Support (MOMS) and Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM) — at Blue Limestone Park.
However, on May 31, as the group gathered, the usual happy tone was replaced with a more solemn one.
“It’s a bit of a sad occasion — it’s a mixed bag,” said Director of Court Services Lisa Williamson. “We’re very happy about the programs and finishing up the year strong and serving more folks, but today, obviously, we have to recognize that Miss Patty (Cram, mentoring coordinator) is no longer with us. It has been very difficult for all of us in the last two months.”
Cram unexpectedly passed away in her sleep on March 29.
“We come together every year for this picnic, and this year we’ve turned it into a memorial service also,” Williamson said.
Williamson added Cram was appointed to start the MOMS program in 2003 under Judge Kenneth J. Spicer, Delaware County Probate/Juvenile Court.
At that time, Williamson said when the court started to see an influx of pregnant girls, a little research was conducted, and the MOMS program was born.
“We gave her (Cram) a concept, and she ran with it,” Williamson said. “Patty had a passion for it as a teenage mother herself. She was the perfect fit for the program, and she really created it into what it is today.”
According to Williamson, Megan Dillman, victim services/restitution specialist mentoring assistant, has helped oversee the programs over the past several months.
“She has been filling in the shoes of Patty for the past three months,” Williamson said. “The program didn’t miss a beat. She did a wonderful job.”
When Dillman learned of Cram’s passing, she said she jumped on the phone to call 300 people.
“I didn’t want them to find out on social media,” she said. “Patty was like a mother and a grandmother to all the people that are here.”
One of those individuals Dillman called was Melanie Bange of the county’s Head Start program.
“I kept getting text messages, email, and I’m sitting here going it’s 8:30 in the morning on a Friday, what is going on?” she said. “Megan (Dillman) was the one that texted me saying I need you now.”
Bange said Dillman was the first call she returned.
Dillman said that Bange has been appointed by the court to take Cram’s old position as the mentoring coordinator.
“Melanie worked really close with Patty, that’s why I’m really glad she is taking her role because we already get along,” Dillman said.
Judge David Hejmanowski, Delaware County Probate/Juvenile Court, said the programs were Cram’s creations, growing from their “infancy into the success they are now.”
“We think of her daily, remembering her daily,” he said. “Most importantly, these programs are going to live on, get stronger and better, and continue the good work that Patty started and keep it going.”
Hejmanowski said a Prairie Dream birch tree has been planted in Blue Limestone Park in Cram’s memory.
“We wanted something very concrete to remember her, and this seemed like the place to do it,” he said. “It will draw us back here for this picnic every year, and we’ll remember Patty every year when we do that.”
The tree, which could grow 50 feet in height, was purchased through donations collected by the two groups.
“I picked it because it had the word dream in it,” Dillman said.
The MOMS program matches experienced mothers with young moms to teach them how to care for children by connecting them to community agencies and helping them to develop life-coping skills.
The TEAM Program pairs at-risk youth with adults to cultivate a friendship with the primary goal of educating the youth about the risky behaviors related to smoking and substance abuse.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.