On a steamy, Saturday morning in early September, a group of people rendezvous in a parking lot on the edge of a small, residential neighborhood.
They shake hands and hug. Standing between two cars they pass white plastic bundles from one vehicle to another. Each bundle contains 100 copies of the Guardian newspaper, rolled and banded and ready to toss on lawns.
A white-haired man touches the hand of a woman in a pink tee shirt: “Are you nervous?”
“A little…” she answers, giving his hand a quick squeeze, and setting back to the work with the bundles.
Soon, two cars head into the little community, a cul-de-sac rectangle with a mix of mobile homes and wood frame houses. They turn down a street located near the middle of the enclave, and park in front of a neat, plainly-appointed unit.
“…This is it.” The lady gets out from behind the wheel and someone hands her a Guardian. “Just cock it back behind your ear like a catcher throwing to second. I’ll get the shot O.K.”
She rears back, launches the paper and it cartwheels through the wet air, coming to rest just short of the front steps.
“Cool, that’s it…let’s do the toss.”
The woman turns slowly, her body moving before her eyes break their gaze upon the front door. She looks at the others standing silently behind her. Tears inch their way down her cheeks.
“I feel like I’m finishing something…” she says.
Twenty-nine years ago she started something. She was twelve when she told police her stepfather had been sexually abusing her and her sister, for nearly five years. He admitted to the crimes and received a lengthy probation sentence. A few years later, he went to jail for abusing yet another young girl.
The woman in the pink shirt sighs as she slides behind the wheel of the aging S.U.V. Her husband is in the passenger’s seat, her teenaged son sits in back. One of the white packages is broken open beside him, and rolled papers are spilling out onto the seat.
Volunteers from Protect Our Children watch them move away. Black and white tubes fly from the rear window, landing on lawns cluttered with bicycles. The papers skid along driveways, over which battered basketball hoops preside. Two little girls stare wide-eyed, pressing their hands against the screen of an aluminum porch.
The three will work the streets to the south, volunteers will toss the homes to the north. In all, about 250 residents will be notified. They need to know, since their sex-offender neighbor is not on the state registry. Due to the age of his convictions, he is exempt from the requirement to report his address, and the police are not compelled to warn parents nearby. His home is located less than 300 yards from an elementary school.
Three days later, Protect Our Children received an anonymous letter in the mail. It was from the offender - the subject of our community alert. In angry tones, the hand-written note called down God Almighty on the little band of volunteers. He never mentions his victim who, by tossing a special newspaper on to his front lawn, began the finish of a mighty work.
See the note below: