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SOAR aims to help former inmates

SOAR aims to help former inmates
November 06
00:00 2014
(pictured above: Dave Moore (left) stands with Charles Hall outside of Southside Rides.)

The city has made a $100,000 investment in Successful Outcomes After Release (SOAR), a program that mostly focuses on helping ex-offenders find gainful employment.

Half of the funds will be used to launch a temporary jobs program that will begin next spring.The other half has been used to give grants to programs and agencies that assist the formerly incarcerated.

Southeast Ward City Council member James Taylor has championed and spearheaded SOAR, which he said was inspired by residents’ suggestions at the “Stop the Violence Rally” he held in February. Many said the answer to ending violence is giving those with criminal records the opportunity to make a living legally. Taylor said the program is a good investment.

Taylor

Taylor

“I want this thing to get as big as it can get because, again, we’re reducing crime and providing opportunities for those who need it the most,” said Taylor, who also led the charge to bring YouthBuild, which helps young people earn a GED while receiving construction training, to Winston-Salem last year.

SOAR funds are already being used to effect change. The Southside Rides Foundation has been granted a $10,000 grant. Dave Moore founded Southside Rides in 2004, after his own drug-related stint in prison, to teach ex-offenders and wayward youth the lucrative auto-body repair trade. He teaches and inspires at his Waughtown Street area shop and during the classes he leads at the Forsyth Correctional Center, a prison off Cherry Street.

Moore’s program has been praised for changing the fortunes of many young men, but adulation has not translated into funding. He said he will use the SOAR grant to pay stipends to students who work on cars at his shop, where customers who allow supervised students to perform their repairs receive discounted rates.

(From left) Charles Hall, Dave Moore, Chris Edwards, Eric Stewart, Michael Page, Dominic Moore and Eric Murden Jr., with his son, Eric Murden III, pose outside of Southside Rides earlier this week.

(From left) Charles Hall, Dave Moore, Chris Edwards, Eric Stewart, Michael Page, Dominic Moore and Eric Murden Jr., with his son, Eric Murden III, pose outside of Southside Rides earlier this week.

Southside Rides alumni say the city made a sound choice with its grant to the program. Charles Hall first took Moore’s classes while serving a 13-year prison sentence for fraud. He already had some experience in the field, but credits Moore’s tutelage – and his own desire to change – with his change in fortune: Hall now transports and details cars at an area dealership.

“I feel very fortunate to have been able to increase my skill set in prison. It has allowed me to be more marketable and allowed me to be an asset to my employer,” he said.
Hall is enjoying freedom again and being a productive member of society.

“I was able to vote; I was able to get a paycheck; I was able to take care of my daughters,” he said. “Now, I feel like a man with a purpose. It feels great to be able to be an asset to the community rather than a liability.”

Hall is glad that the city is supporting programs for ex-offenders. He said rehabilitating ex-offenders should be as much of a priority as rehabbing shabby neighborhoods and properties.

Eric Stewart works on a car at Southside Rides.

Eric Stewart works on a car at Southside Rides.

“The impact that the city can make on ex-offenders is so great. I’m just a drop in the bucket, a percentage of what the city can do (by) investing in these types of programs,” he said.

A SOAR grant for $5,000 was awarded to the Piedmont Triad Regional Council of Government’s Project Re-entry, which plans to use the money for scholarships and to purchase bus passes for ex-offenders. The Salvation Army will use its $5,000 grant to offer extended training to ex-offenders who leave its Residential Re-entry Center.

Eureka House, a transitional facility for ex-offenders, will use its $10,000 grant to help its clients secure permanent housing. Beating Bad Habits, a boxing program for at-risk youth, received $10,000 to help cover operating costs, which include transporting young boxers to and from competitions around the country.

Self Empowerment Lasts Forever (SELF), which is administering the Southside Rides and Beating Bad Habits grants, received a $10,000 grant of its own to use as seed money to launch services for ex-offenders, veterans and the under-employed. The services are expected to launch in mid-December and will include job advocacy and classes to help participants find jobs and excel in their careers.

SOAR’s temporary jobs program will be administered through a new Workforce Development wing. Participants will be required to have a certificate from a certified job skills training program like those offered by the Salvation Army and Piedmont Triad Regional Council of Governments.

Jobs for ex-offenders in the program will include graffiti removal, maintenance and tasks in the city’s Community and Business Development Department. They will work 30 hours a week for 16 weeks at a rate of $10.10 an hour. Those who perform well, will have opportunities for permanent city jobs, Taylor said.

To learn more about the program, call James Taylor at 336-757-2110.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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