PEORIA, Ill. — Nearly three in four people who have served time in prison and were released are searching for work, but struggling to secure a job.
Two men in Peoria created a business where ex-offenders won’t be judged by their background, but by their actions, dedication and ability to work.
Bishop John Wright and Ron Valle founded a non-profit called Helping Hand Resource Center in 2013. The organization offers in-house drug and alcohol classes, anger management, life skills, and job placement.
They realized that people with criminal records were not being afforded fair chances at well-paying jobs.
Bishop Wright and Valle made it their mission to help ex-offenders reintegrate themselves into society and the workforce.
They created Central Illinois Awning and business that manufactures and installs awnings. This was an opportunity for them to break the stigma and higher people who’ve made mistakes in their past.
They’re not judged upon their background, they’re judged upon their ability to work.Ron Valle, Central Illinois Awning
Individuals who sign up for this program and are hired in at Central Illinois Awning are expected to put their best foot forward and work hard, as they would at any other job.
Valle said he cannot force anyone to change, but he can provide opportunities in the hope that people are willing to change and grow.
Joshua Patterson is one of the employees with a criminal background. He’s enthusiastic about coming to and grateful that Bishop Wright and Valle took a chance on him.
“I love the fact that I’ve been given a second chance and I’ve been welcomed with open arms, not looked at sideways,” Patterson said.
He said in the past he struggled to find steady work. After Patterson began working at one corporation he was instantly fired after management received his background check.
“I felt humiliated you know. I felt like I already did my time…paid my debt to society, [why can’t] I can’t just move on,” Patterson said.
He said many people who were released from prison have a lot to offer.
Just because we got records [doesn’t] mean we [are] dumb. [It doesn’t] mean we slaughter. Don’t treat us like animals. It’s a lot of highly intelligent and talented people that just need a second chance.Joshua Patterson, Central Illinois Awning
“Sometimes you’re not what you do, it could have been environmental, it could’ve been situational, I believe everyone deserves a second chance,” Bishop Wright said.
This program provides ex-offender with a livable wage and an opportunity to attend school in order to branch out into their desired fields.
Valle and Bishop Wright’s major goal is to reduce recidivism.
” If we had more employers like that, of course, I think we’d see less crime,” Valle said.
“It’s kind of amazing if you ask me because it actually helps people and gives them hope instead of…just kicking them while they’re down, you’re giving them an opportunity to do better and be better for other people,” Tyson Parks IV an employee with Central Illinois Awning said.
Bishop Wright said it’s emotional to see his client transform, immerse themselves in the community and help break the stigma.
“Most people look at them as being bad, but I look at them as being treasures because treasure you have to form and you have to grow and you have to mold it to be what it needs to be,” he said.
If you or someone you know is looking for a fresh start and is interested in entering the program you can call this number: (309) 580-2727
Click here for more information about the Helping Hand Resource Center.