The Year in Review

The successes and forward momentum of 2019, our most effective year so far, couldn’t have happened without you. Your gifts of financial assistance, introductions to new donors and friends, and contributions of your time make Project 180 the valued and successful program it is today.

Nationally, more citizens are recognizing that it’s not only socially responsible to ease the transition from jail and prison to life on the outside, it’s also financially prudent. The link between incarceration and the costly social ills of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment has been firmly established. When we help formerly incarcerated citizens, we reduce financial burdens on our communities, helping them to become stronger and more economically vibrant.
Read on  to find out how you make positive changes in people’s lives every day by partnering in Project 180’s five initiatives and how you can double your impact through a matching grant.

 

Residential Program
Nik’s House: comprehensive assistance, whole-life impact
Your greatest impact occurs at Nik’s House, Project 180’s Residential Program, where we reduce the small stressors of transitioning back into the community so residents can focus on recovery from addictive disease, maintaining full-time employment, restoring relationships with loved ones, financial stabilization, and learning to live as a mainstream citizen.
We’re halfway there! We’ve raised over 50% of the funds needed to receive a $20,000 match from the Imagine Foundation and Olivia Weinberger. You can help open a second Residential Program home and double your impact by designating your gift for the Gloria Schwartz Matching Fund.
Dinners with mainstream citizens and local leaders, opening bank accounts, saving for an emergency fund, restoring one’s right to drive, and stabilizing one’s life. These are all part of the Residential Program’s design as it  provides a safe place to make and learn from mistakes without resorting to drug use or other harmful behavior. To date, 20 me,n and indirectly their families, have benefited from the program.
Thanks to a grant from The Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Project 180 purchased our Residential Program home in May, 2019 which provides us the stability to continue services for years to come. Visit the Barancik Foundation to learn about their great work.
A grant from the Candlish-Cresswell Fund provides the means for Project 180 to partner with three women’s programs–Purpose House, Courage to Change, and Bridge to Life–to help their residents restore their right to drive.

Strong Voices Lecture Series
2020: “Celebrating Second Chance Employers”
Project 180’s annual lecture series continues in 2020 in Bradenton and Sarasota as we explore the benefits, challenges and incentives of hiring formerly incarcerated citizens
A pre-series panel discussion with Second Chance Employers will be held on February 7th at Pier 22 in Bradenton. Tickets for this event, which must be purchased separately from the Sarasota series, are $35 and include lunch. Secure your tickets here.
The Sarasota series begins March 6.  New this year is networking at 11:00 with the luncheon beginning at 11:30. Kicking off the series,  Felix Massey of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), Alexandria, VA will discuss barriers to employment including employment prohibitions, the effects of the current labor market on Second Chance employment, best practices among Second Chance employers, incentives to hire, and more.
On April 3, Judge Charles Williams will moderate a panel discussion by Second Chance employers and employees. Panelists Adam Sulimirski from Cruise Car International, Chris Harris from All Glass & Windows, and Steve Lagasse of Lagasse Pools & Service  will share  anecdotes illustrating the benefits and challenges of hiring formerly incarcerated citizens.
On May 8, we look forward to keynote speaker  Dave Dahl, co-founder, former owner, and namesake of Dave’s Killer Bread. A formerly incarcerated citizen, Dave is an iconic figure in the reentry world, having become a Second Chance employer and avid advocate for hiring justice-involved citizens.
Secure your tickets now for one lecture or the series by clicking here. Please note that the Sarasota series tickets do not include admission to the Bradenton luncheon lecture on February 7th. Tickets for that event may be purchased separately at the same link.

 

CEO Program and Financial Literacy Course
The CEO Program 
The CEO Workforce Education Program was our very first program. It’s a two-hour class filled with helpful hints and insider tips on finding and keeping work in felon-friendly industries.
CEO Program at the County Jail
Delivered by local CEOs, it’s a win-win-win. Inmates receive invaluable advice on procuring employment; CEOs share their expertise with citizens who need it the most while learning about inmates’ lives; and b usinesses that desperately need workers benefit from hiring people who are prepared to work hard and show their worth. Since its inception, this program has educated over 1100 inmates and dozens of CEOs.
Click here for more information on this practical, well-received program. Want to become one of our CEOs? Contact Barbara at barbara@project180reentry.org.

 

Financial Literacy Course 
Once you’re making money, you need to know how to manage it. Project 180’s eight-hour Financial Literacy Course is taught by bank managers, wealth advisers, and other finance industry professionals and covers credit, borrowing, managing debt, building a financial future, budgeting, and more.
Financial Literacy Course at the Bradenton Bridge women’s prison
The course, which began at Hardee State Prison in 2014, has provided financial education for over 1,000 inmates and has impassioned numerous instructors as they help inmates prepare for reentry.
If you’re a finance industry professional (working or retired) and would like to teach with us in Tampa, Sarasota, Bradenton, or Bowling Green, please contact Emily at emily.project180@gmail.com. You can learn more about the program here.

 

Information & Referrals (I & R)
I & R by County
Programs, housing, and employment are at the top of every reentering citizen’s “Most-Needed” list. Several years ago w e enlisted a number of volunteers who painstakingly researched each Florida county and compiled lists of the resources they found.
Office Administrator, Emily Rickerson, sending out I & R letters
Project 180 distributes these lists freely and receives back letters like this one:
“Words can’t explain how grateful I am for your help in finding transitional housing and other programs that will help me transition back into society a lot better. 
 
“Your time and patience is greatly appreciated amongst me and fellow inmates here with me as well. Without you it’s very difficult to get the information we need that can help us with our transition back out there in society. A lot of us have lost family members during our long prison sentence who were our main support system who we no longer have that could help us adjust to life once we are released so Project 180 is a true blessing to us. May God’s grace be with you all at Project 180.”
 
If you’d like to volunteer to update and distribute our resource lists, we could use your help! Please contact Barbara or Emily at 941-677-2281.

 

With warmest thanks to our generous 2020 Strong Voices Lecture Series Sponsors
BREAKER of CHAINS  SPONSORS
The Palm Avenue Wealth Advisory Group 
with Raymond James
CHANGE AGENT  SPONSORS
Robert C. and Pamela Gore Meade and Family
 
Tim and Myrna Murphy
INNOVATOR  SPONSORS
Paula Fishman and Jeff Sindelar
MEDIA  SPONSORS
Thank you! We’re so grateful for your support!
Want to become a sponsor? Contact Barbara at 850-445-5682 or at barbara@project180reentry.org

We wish you a Happy New Year and send you a thousand thanks for your vision and support. Thank you for being our partners in this important work that saves lives, heals wounds, and reunites families.

With warmest good wishes,
Barbara Richards
Project 180

Change for Good One Person At A Time

Back to School

Ruslan

Jon Thaxton, Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice and The Honorable Andy Owens with Ruslan at Strong Voices in April

Stability makes a profound difference in anyone’s ability to move forward yet it’s especially important for formerly incarcerated citizens as they attempt to put their lives back together after release.

Ruslan, who has gained stability as a Project 180 resident, is on his way to realizing his long-term dream of opening a videography business. A couple of months ago, he started school at Suncoast Technical College where he’s already produced a short video as part of his homework.
Ruslan is gifted in languages, mathematics, and music, is kind-hearted, soft-spoken, and working hard on his recovery. He expects to graduate in March or April, 2020.
When asked what he’d like readers to know about him, he replied, “Thanks to  Karina Clarke at Drug Court and Project 180, I’ve discovered there’s a different way to live after having chased an illusion [drugs] for so many years. Having people there who will support me and being part of Narcotics Anonymous have drastically changed my life. Now I have goals. I’m a full-time student, am working, just got a vehicle, and will soon be driving. I had to change everything about myself. And it’s working.”
Ruslan is also the recipient of a local dentist’s generosity. Thanks to volunteer Olivia Weinberger and her dentist (who wishes to remain anonymous), Ruslan is receiving full dental care including 17 extractions, two bridges, and dentures.
You’re doing a great job, Ruslan! We love having you in the program!

Read more

A Look Behind the Scenes, Our Latest News

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

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