Darlene Lewis Helped 2,000 Ex-Felons Find Full-Time Jobs In One Year
Darlene Lewis helps people find jobs. Her non-profit, Lewis-Burnett Employment Finders, will help anyone who shows up, but since 1994, Lewis has been particularly focused on linking employers with parolees and ex-convicts.
“Helping others is just something I’ve always been good at,” said Lewis, 59. Her office in the Willie Hinton Resource Center bursts with framed photos of her four kids, 19 grandkids and three great-grandkids. She even looks like a nurturer — no-fuss hairstyle, bright blouse and an easy grin.
Lewis-Burnett is a nonprofit in the purest sense. Sometimes it receives grant money, but usually it runs on donations and willpower. It’s staffed by five full-time volunteers and a couple of part-time instructors. No one gets paid, and no one pays for services, which include employer referrals, basic computer classes, help with job applications, G.E.D. classes and legal aid.
“People with a felony background have such a hard time finding jobs. If it was a drug crime they can’t even get food stamps,” said Lewis. “You have fines and fees to pay, you have child support. People who can’t find a job go back to crime, because that’s what they know.”
She Gives Former Inmates The Chance and Change They Need In Order To Change Their Lives
(NationsWell) Finding employment after being in prison can be next to impossible. Not only do these people have to battle the stigma of a criminal record, they are also barred from some types of jobs entirely, including those in the childcare, education and healthcare fields. It’s no wonder that so many ex-felons turn back to a life of crime just to get by; two-thirds are re-arrested within three years of their release.
But in Little Rock, Ark., one woman has given thousands of former inmates a second chance to contribute to society, local station THV11 reports. For the past three decades, Darlene Lewis’s nonprofit organization, the Lewis-Burnett Employment Finders Inc., has helped ex-offenders prepare for interviews, assisted with job placement and provided help with resume writing and GED prep all at no cost.
Last year alone, the nonprofit aided 2,000 men and women find full-time jobs, reports say. The organization also helps with housing and advocates for offenders in court. Yes, it costs a lot of money to help a former felon find gainful employment, but reducing the rate of recidivism ultimately saves the country even more. According to Lewis-Burnett, about $3.6 million in taxpayer money is saved for every 100 ex-offenders who avoid rearrest or living on welfare.
Lewis started her nonprofit in 1987 for very personal reasons. “I had a son go to prison many years ago and when he got out of prison it was so difficult for him to get a job,” she tells the station. In a touching radio broadcast, former inmate James Taylor (who served seven years for weapons possession and drug charges) describes the “almost impossible” task of finding jobs.
After getting in touch with Lewis, she was able to help him find a job at a local McDonalds as a manager. Although he lost the job and admits he could have easily found “quick money” by going back on the streets, he went back to Lewis, who was right there to help him back on track. Taylor now works as a videographer and a youth mentor and also volunteers at the nonprofit.
“She saves people, she need a cape,” Taylor tells THV11. “I’ma get her one, one day.”
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