TAMPA (FOX 13) - A home-grown nonprofit is helping those exiting the prison system land on their feet for good.
Since 1976, Abe Brown Ministries has worked to help those looking to move past a life of crime. Almost every weekend, a team from the ministry is in one of Florida's 135 correctional institutions spreading the gospel to inmates.
"When we started out, people were going to prison for the first time. Now, there's a fancy term called recidivism. With the recidivism rates, more and more people are going to prison, some for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th times," Abe Brown Ministries' President Robert Blount said.
To combat that, Abe Brown has evolved to help people once they exit prison. In 2014, they launched their Ready 4 Work program. Clients enrolled spend 12 months honing in on interviewing techniques, job skills, and self improvement with individual caseworkers.
They get a hand in looking the part of a professional, too. Staff members help outfit them head-to-toe for interviews. Students are sent home with groceries for their families from Abe Brown's community food bank.
Some of the students in need of housing find refuge in one of their three transitional homes, where chores, curfews, and faith-based programming are mandatory.
"We want to keep them busy. We want to keep them engaged. We want to pour into them to help them establish themselves back," Blount said.
Michael Reid is one of Abe Brown Ministries' success stories. He credits the program for saving his life. He now works for the non-profit as their property manager.
"They keep you focused. A lot of times, we lose focus. We still got our personal life. But it reminds us that we're here to serve. That's basically what I do every day," Reid said.
It's a value system critical to a true turnaround, according to Abe Brown Ministries. They equip clients with the skills, but a true transformation requires strength of mind and heart.
"At the end of the day, nobody owes you anything. Nobody owes you a job. But we're going to show you how you can earn that job. Get a better job. And get a life," Blount said.
Abe Brown Ministries is always looking for the community's support. If you're interested in donating your time, talent, or treasure visit their website at www.Abebrown.org.