Operation Helps Ex-Offenders Find Work

Ready 4 Work Program Gives Ex-Offenders Second Chance

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local nonprofit organization is offering to do all the legwork ahead of time on job applicants, like background checks and drug testing. All it asks for in return is a job interview for its members.

Operation New Hope helps ex-offenders find work, and some might argue its program called Ready 4 Work is too good for businesses to pass up.

Marvin Williams has been working for Jiffy Lube for the last eight months.

"He's never late, always on time," said Williams' boss Ronnie Bertka, district manager for Jiffy Lube. "He's grown into our company. I've never had any problems out of him. It's been a really good experience."

Williams said when he got the job he couldn't believe it.

"I said, 'I'm on my way,'" Williams said. "I was blessed cause I didn't think I was going to get a job that soon."

Williams didn't think he'd get a second chance from any business because he has a criminal record. He was released from prison in January for selling drugs.

"I went to Operation New Hope four days after I got out, and they prepared me for everything that leads me to stand here today," Williams said.

Operation New Hope helps ex-offenders like Williams start a new life, and the key to that is finding a job.

Founder Kevin Gay said the organization gets ex-offenders exactly what the program promises -- Ready 4 Work.

"Bring people who want to be on time, a willingness to learn, attitude, dress properly," Gay said. "Those are things employers are looking for, and at the end of the day they want someone who's going to contribute to their bottom line."

Gay said Operation New Hope takes away all the guesswork when it comes to finding a good employee.

He said ex-offenders in the program receive drug and alcohol counseling and if needed, a mental health evaluation.

They take a six- to seven-week class on career training. The ex-offender's last charge cannot be a violent offense.

They also undergo random drug testing while they're in the program. They're assigned a case manager, a job coach and a mentor.

Gay said it's a win-win for businesses.

"They really like that we can bring somebody to them that we've really had a chance to kick the tires over four to five weeks, because over that period of time if you've got an issue, it's going to rise," Gay said.

Jiffy Lube has hired six ex-offenders through Operation New Hope.

"You've got to take a chance on somebody," Bertka said. "At least you know what you have up front when the person comes on."

For Williams, he has something other job applicants might not appreciate -- a second chance.

"I'm very happy," he said. "I'm very proud to be part of Jiffy Lube. I go to work to do a job and a job well done."

After an ex-offender is hired, Operation New Hope follows them for a year, even going to their job to check on them.

Gay said businesses who hire workers from the program can receive up to a $9,000 tax credit. He said the program has a 96 percent success rate.