Event encourages businesses to give a second chance

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – It took at least 20 no’s before William Valentine finally got a job after prison.

“Keep fighting. Keep your head up. Someone will eventually hire you. Just keep pushing. It’s not going to be easy I can guarantee you that, but it’s worth it,” he said.

Valentine shared his story at the “Power of Hope Reception” Thursday night at the Family Justice Center.

The event was for business owners to hear the impacts they can make by giving ex-convicts a second chance.

“You want to bring crime down, economics does that. So we’re asking businesses to give our young people a wage that would be able to help them take care of their families,” Chattanooga Public Safety Coordinator Troy Rogers said.

Neidlov’s Breadworks makes efforts to hire people coming out of incarceration.

Owner Erik Zilen said the challenges he sees aren’t with motivation, training or work ethic.

“The issues I have faced the last four years and continue to face is the lack of support, specifically in navigating the criminal justice system,” Zilen said.

Tony Oliver had been to prison multiple times.

After being unemployed, he started his own business, TNT Cleaning.

And while he said his family helped after incarceration, the transition wasn’t always easy.

“When someone is telling you for years and years what to do everyday and then you launched out into this big old world that’s moving at an alarming rate, you need some help, some consulting. I mean just some kind people, some kind words some love and when you get out here and you don’t get it you start to fall back into those same old characteristics,” Oliver said.

“It’s going to get better. It’s going to get better, but sometimes, I’ve got a shirt at home that says that ‘you are the change.’ So, you just be the change.”

If you are a business owner and want more information on how you can help people getting out of prison contact Rogers at 423-305-2707.

Categories: Chattanooga, Featured, Local News

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