Project offers hope for a new beginning
Goal is to improve participants’ lives and neighborhoods
By DAN PARSONS
Ashley Wilson, 28, used to have dreadlocks. Wilson believes those dreadlocks were part of an “image” that kept him from finding a job.
Unable to find a job, he would return to the streets a disappointed man, Wilson said Friday.
When Wilson heard about Project New Hope, he wanted to participate, but he knew that meant cutting his hair. The outreach program, founded by Bishop Samuel Jones and his wife, Mother Regina Jones, works with local businesses to place people with checkered pasts into jobs.
The Joneses are founders of the Purpose of God Annex Outreach Center in Washington.
With his hair sheared short, Wilson presents a different “image” these days. Wilson said having a job has changed the course of his life. He has been working as a maintenance man for the Washington Housing Authority for a month. The loss of his dreadlocks, required by the program, has made all the difference, Wilson said.
Marc Recko, executive director of the housing authority, hired Wilson based on the Joneses’ recommendation. Recko sees Project New Hope as a community-based initiative to fight crime in Washington.
The housing authority manages 383 apartments in five developments in and around Washington. Recko said Project New Hope is the sort of program that would make those areas less dangerous and more appealing by providing people with criminal records opportunities to reform by offering them jobs and holding them accountable for decisions they make regarding their lives.
Stephanie Dixon, 17, got her chance when the program placed her in a job at McDonald’s in Washington. She is pursuing a GED with help of the Joneses.
Gloria Moore, the restaurant’s manager, hired Dixon.
Clint Bray, manager of Andy’s Cheesesteaks in Washington, said he is “100 percent on board” with the program. He hired 17-year-old Shenice Ambrose.
The Joneses continue to seek area businesses willing to provide jobs for program participants. In the Washington area, Wal-Mart, J.H. Cuthrell Metal Builders, Carver Machine Works, Rick Stevens Builders, Liberty Tax Services and the Washington Police Department are program partners. In Greenville, Miracle Worker’s Janitorial Service and Sphendol Tool Company are part of the program.