Henrico job skills program needs help staying alive - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Henrico job skills program needs help staying alive

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A Henrico-based program to help non-violent offenders re-enter society is at risk of shutting down. Another Chance to Excel (ACE) teaches farming and job skills to offenders released from custody so they won't return to crime. Now, organizers are calling on the community to help keep it alive.

For the past year and a half, ACE has helped non violent offenders re-start their lives and organizers are hoping this won't be the end.

"It's a whole new year and they're still growing," Joshua Walker says pointing blooming plants.

He will be the first to tell you he wasn't a saint.

"I was still stuck out there on the streets," he said.

Walker sold drugs - and even went to jail but after serving time, he wanted to take back his life.

"I'm done with that. I'm done with drugs," he said.

In part, because of ACE. Walker and his counterparts have learned agriculture skills on 5 acres of land St. Paul's Baptist church donated.

"When you see these little flowers, that's where the tomato will be," said participant Justin Dockery.

"I had so many young people coming into my office and all they wanted was a job," explained organizer Billie Brown.

But it was hard for the staffing agent to help many of them.

"Marijuana or getting in a fight with their girlfriend, they end up with a felony record," she explained.

So she created the farming program to teach job skills to offenders released from custody. Ten have gone through it, but now money is running out and neither organizers nor participants want to see it go.

"You get a good peace of mind out here," Dockery said.

"You shouldn't have to pay for the rest of your life for one mistake, especially when you're as young as some of these kids are," Brown added.

Businesses and community partners like Commonwealth Construction and the Water Well Association have donated resources, supplies, and their time to keep the program running. Organizers say what they really need at this point is money to let those who have had run-ins with the law realize there is an alternative.

The non-profit is reaching out to prosecutors to consider the program as an alternative to incarceration, which could help keep it alive.

If you'd like to donate, visit Another Chance to Excel's website.

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