VOL. 127 | NO. 153 | Tuesday, August 7, 2012
By Jeremy Park
Last week we discussed the Family Safety Center, which is focused on providing one location that effectively combines civil, criminal, health and social services for victims of domestic violence. This week let us share a story that was submitted by reader and LPBC partner, Mike Bowen, CEO and President of Champion Awards & Apparel. The story is about “late bloomers” and is a testament for how businesses can play an active role in the community and how someone’s past does not have to predict his or her future.
Mike Bowen: “Not long ago, a customer (let’s call him John) asked me to interview a man who we will call ‘Sam.’ John allows Sam to live in one of his rental houses, rent-free. John pays Sam’s utilities because he has no job or means to obtain one. You see, Sam is a felon. Champion hired Sam because we believe felons are people too. Sam has successfully completed a month of learning how to print T-shirts. He gets up every morning at 4 a.m. and rides the bus to our factory.
“John asked me, ‘Why do you think we help people who sometimes can’t help themselves?’ I thought about it before responding, ‘We help because it makes us feel good to do what our parents or grandparents did. They gave us a chance to fail and still loved us. Most of these folks didn’t have that.’
“When my mom called four years ago and asked me to consider hiring felons right out of prison, I thought she was crazy. She had begun teaching business skills to prisoners. Yes, at almost 72 years young, each month, she drives to a high security prison in Whiteville, Tenn., Forrest City, Ark., or Tiptonville, Tenn., at 6 a.m. She is escorted through a maze of security checkpoints to a room of up to 80 felons, all trying to get parole. She teaches each class for at least four hours. She began this program through her association with SCORE and is changing lives.
“Through her teachings, Mom met Patrick and asked me to hire him. I was extremely skeptical, but she explained the Transitions Ministries program. Men with certain felonies must qualify for parole by living in a halfway program for a minimum amount of time. This program transports late bloomers to and from work. If a particular late bloomer doesn’t bloom, they are not asked back. Champion now has six successful, fulltime late bloomers.
“Oh, and for Patrick, he’s my hero! He has been with us for over three years. He is our Warehouse Manager and a real leader. He has a beautiful daughter, girlfriend, home, and car and is a proud late bloomer.
“There are thousands of late bloomers in this community just looking for chance. Consider giving Transition Ministries a call at 414-9267 or visiting their website, www.forgivenesshouse.org.”
Jeremy Park, director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter (@lpbreakfastclub) and Facebook (facebook.com/lpbreakfastclub).