As usual, there’s a lot going on at Project 180! Residents are doing well, we’re partnering on an exciting new initiative, and preparing for Strong Voices, Dining With Friends, and the Giving Challenge which will be held again next April.

Read on to find out who’s doing what, when things are happening, and how you can stay involved.

Back to School!

Michael joined Nik’s House just before Christmas, 2018 and has been steadily putting his life back together. Homeless for four years prior to being accepted into Project 180’s Residential Program, he’s grateful every day for a new beginning.

Each resident is provided the means to ascertain his personal leadership style through the Gallup Strengths-Based Leadership 2.0 survey and Michael took the assessment. He’s an Achiever whose world view is, “No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement…you will feel dissatisfied.” The assessment fits; Michael’s accomplished a lot since coming into the program.

Upon entering Nik’s House, Michael set goals for himself. Get a job. Restore his driver’s license. Buy a car. Go back to school. He got a job within his first few weeks at Nik’s and has worked as a line cook and roofer on his way to accomplishing his other goals.

Transportation is one of the biggest roadblocks for recently released citizens. With help from Project 180’s Fee & Fine Assistance Program,** Michael regained his license to drive in July. He purchased a car with his savings, applied for Financial Aid, and received a grant to go back to school at Suncoast Technical College where he’s studying to become an electrician.

Michael still has months to go before he’s a full-fledged electrician but is working hard to achieve his dream. What’s more, he’s inspiring others in the program to think about obtaining a career rather than just working a job. We’re proud of you, Michael!

**In Project 180’s Fee & Fine Assistance Program, Project 180 matches a resident’s payments up to $1,000 to clear fees and fines that prevent him from restoring his right to drive.

“Book ‘Em”
Judy Gee

Last year, Project 180 introduced Literacy Council of Sarasota volunteer Judy Gee to DeSoto CI State Prison in Arcadia. Almost 40% of state prisoners have a literacy level of fifth grade or lower and Judy wanted to help turn that figure around. She formed Individual Literacy Training which uses a practical approach to raising the literacy levels of extremely low-literate individuals.

While delivering her program at DeSoto, she decided to launch an initiative to buy a book for every inmate who wanted one because, “everyone should have his or her very own, brand new book.” She worked diligently with three inmates–Mr. Solomon, Mr. Tennity, and Mr. White–who took the project and ran with it. In a stroke of brilliance, one of the men named the book distribution project “Book ‘Em.”

Judy found funding, enlisted Project 180 as a fiscal agent, haggled prices with booksellers and, with her three compatriots, comprised a list of 68 books from which each inmate could select his own book. Mr. Solomon, Mr. Tennity, and Mr. White posted flyers and sign-up sheets in the dorms with descriptions of each book. Poignantly, the flyer and sign-up sheet included the following statement and poem:

“If you did not grow up in a world where reading was encouraged, now’s your chance to start catching up! If you need help reading the book you choose, let us know. We can help.”

I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.
I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.
I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.
I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.
–Julia Donaldson

Project 180 is proud to be associated with this wonderful initiative. Abiding thanks to Judy, Messrs. Tennity, Solomon and White, and DeSoto Annex Assistant Warden of Programs Lori Norwood.

Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Community Foundation of Sarasota County (CFSC) is not only gearing up for the Giving Challenge on April 28-29, 2020 but also helping Project 180 prepare for the seventh season of its Strong Voices lecture series through a $5,000 “Breaker of Chains” sponsorship.

CFSC is showing its support for our 2020 topic, “Celebrating Second Chance Employers,” an exploration of the benefits, challenges, and incentives in hiring formerly incarcerated citizens. Mark your calendars now for March 6, April 3, and May 8, 2020 at Michael’s on East in Sarasota, and a pre-series panel discussion at Pier 22 in Bradenton on February 7.

New this year! Networking from 11:00 to 11:30 at each luncheon. Tickets and sponsorships are available now by clicking here.

Read about Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s current areas of impact here: Season of Sharing, the Two-Generation Approach to reducing poverty, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, and The Giving Partner.

Many, many thanks to the CFSC Board of Directors, Roxie, and staff for partnering with Project 180 once again in the Strong Voices lecture series!

A Note From the CEO
Thank you for being a part of the Project 180 family and supporting educational programs for incarcerated citizens, the Strong Voices lecture series, our Information & Referral system for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated citizens, and Nik’s House Residential Program.

You’ve brought Project 180 a long way. We’re proud of our progress and hope you are, too.

With sincere thanks,
Barbara Richards
Project 180