• Area nonprofits partner to help ex-offenders rebuild lives

    Goodwill Manasota vice presidents Veronica Brandon Miller (left) and Margie Genter (right) with Barbara Richards, executive director of Project 180

    SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the inaugural “National Reentry Week” from April 24-30, sponsoring hundreds of events designed to improve reentry outcomes and raise awareness of the importance of successful reentry. This year, Goodwill Manasota and Project 180 celebrate National Reentry Week together: the organizations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to solidify their partnership, to help individuals with criminal histories find employment and break the cycle of recidivism.

    As the nation’s largest provider of job-training services, Goodwill is a leader in the successful reintegration of former offenders into mainstream society. Locally, 12% of Goodwill Manasota’s workforce self-identifies as having a criminal history. Project 180 is a local prisoner reentry nonprofit that offers workforce education and financial literacy courses to inmates in six Gulf Coast prisons and jails, and an annual lecture series on prisoner reentry for the general public. The organizations are collaborating to provide workforce education, job skill training, and job placement so that former offenders have an opportunity to achieve success. Additionally, to show a commitment to the partnership, Veronica Brandon Miller, vice president of the Goodwill Foundation, will serve on the Project 180 board of directors.

    More than 30,000 Florida prisoners are released annually and reenter our communities. Former offenders are often released from prison with little more than the clothes on their backs, a bus ticket home, and a mandate to report to the local parole office the next business day.

    Many of the people leaving prison wish to become law-abiding citizens and have the best intentions of living a conventional life yet most lack job skills and a formal education, and experience discrimination in housing and job markets because of their felony records. As a result, they become our saddest local statistics: the homeless, the unemployed, the under-educated, the impoverished. Unable to make it in the conventional world, over 75% are arrested for a new crime within five years, causing further victimization and a drain on community resources.

    “Reconnecting with the labor force can be challenging for anyone,” said Margie Genter, vice president of mission services for Goodwill Manasota. “Add a criminal history to the scenario and it can seem impossible. At Goodwill, individuals with a criminal history who want to work are assisted with the preparations to secure and maintain regular employment. Our joint program provides a road map for participants to achieve the long-term goal of remaining attached to the legitimate workforce and maintaining their freedom.”

    “Project 180 seeks to build community, not more prisons,” added Barbara Richards, founder and executive director of Project 180. “Employment is a critical factor in ensuring success as a mainstream citizen and Project 180 is grateful to Goodwill for helping to create opportunities that give people a second chance. This partnership will offer former offenders structure, dignity and a new social network, in addition to a paycheck.”

    To learn more, please visit www.experiencegoodwill.org/project180.

    About Goodwill Manasota
    Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With the sales of donated goods and philanthropic donations, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities and other barriers to employment by providing job skills training and employment opportunities. In 2016, Goodwill Manasota served 28,207 people, placed 755 people in jobs and assisted 240 veterans as they reintegrated back into the civilian workforce. Goodwill Manasota’s economic impact back to the community is worth $92.1 million. Goodwill is one of the pioneers of the reduce-reuse-recycle movement and this past year diverted more than 40 million pounds out of the landfill. We accomplish our mission through a network of Good Neighbor Centers in Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties and our Mission Development Services (MDS) around North America. Goodwill Manasota is accountable to a local Board of Directors. Goodwill Manasota, in essence, belongs to this community and is not owned by any individual or company. For more information, visit www.experiencegoodwill.org.