A fresh start for Project New Hope grads

Published 7:50 pm Friday, May 25, 2012

Linda Logan speaks to graduates of Project New Hope at First Presbyterian Church in Washington on Friday. Logan discussed the origin of Project New Hope. (WDN Photo/ Sara Cowell)

Fourteen men and women in the Project New Hope: Refuge Intervention program received their graduation certificates Friday at First Presbyterian Church in Washington.

“We have worked hard with the help of God to come to this point in our life,” program participant Ardo Garvin said in his welcoming remarks to the graduates.

“Allow us to close the doors of our old life as we open the doors of our new life,” said program participant Xavier Clodfelter in his opening prayer.

“This program teaches you respect, discipline and responsibility. Thank you for allowing me a second chance in my life,” said graduate Shoquanda Dixon during her remarks.

Graduate Juan Perez shared the story of his journey.

“I was watching (television) and saw Project New Hope. People kept saying Mr. Jones, Mr. Jones, go see Mr. Jones. I made my way to Mr. Jones and it’s the best thing I did in my life. He not only opened the door, but gave me the key to the spiritual world. He saw a lot of potential in me … more than I thought I had,” he said.

Bishop Samuel Jones Jr., along with his wife, Mother Jones, are the founders of Project New Hope, a job-training, life-altering program offered through the Purpose of God Annex Outreach Center in Washington.

The program’s purpose is to help recurring criminals and others who have difficulty finding work upgrade their skills and their “marketability” to enable them to succeed in finding and keeping jobs, said Sharon Jones, director of the outreach center.

“It is a big support system for individuals that find themselves in the court system over and over. It’s hard for them to get back into the workplace,” she said.

“(Project New Hope) has done a lot for me. It helped me in a big way. I probably would be in prison right now,” said graduate James Martin Jr., who currently holds a job at Impressions Marketing through the help of the program.

“It’s changed my life. It got me out of my (criminal) charges and taught me to feel more comfortable with myself,” said graduate Crystal Wilson, who now has a job with Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Along with Dixon, Martin and Wilson, the other graduates on Friday were James Alligood, Tabitha Blount, Charles Daniels, Herbert Davis, Lonnie Hansley, Ricardo Hopkins, Antwan McCuller, Phillip Moore, John Perez, Clifton Smith and Stevie Young.

Founded by Jones in 2007, Project New Hope has helped approximately 700 men and women find jobs and has assisted about 1,500 total with job training, education and improving their marketability, Jones said.

“We give them six months to learn communication skills, how to dress themselves (professionally), how to go online and fill out applications, to complete job training and provide job opportunities as well as represent them in the courtroom if needed,” Jones said.

“That is the second major piece (to our program). We stand before the judge, act as their liaison to let the judge know they are following the rules and regulations. We have a strong relationship with law enforcement, parole, judicial. We hold (those we help) accountable. We are all tied in here together,” Jones said.