Project Return Press
The mission of Project Return is to provide services and connect people with resources needed to return successfully to work and community after incarceration.
- News & Updates
- Day of Empathy
- Barnes Fund Housing
- SEA Visit
- Volunteer Appreciation
- Participant Spotlight
- Darlene Teague
- Staff Spotlight
- Moses Pettway,
- Sheila Washington, and
- Anthony Winston
- Volunteer Spotlight
- Mary Sneed
- In the Community
- United Way Panel
- Frist Museum Screening
- Edgehill United
- Methodist Church
- Inn of the Court
- Get Involved
Making Dreams A Reality
“I am proud that I had the ingenuity to chase my dreams.” – Terry
On Saturday, April 14th, five resilient and determined entrepreneurs graduated
from our Reentry Entrepreneurship Program (REP). In partnership with Stanford Law School and Vanderbilt Law School, we offer instruction and mentorship in entrepreneurship to people who’ve left prison behind and have a passion – and talent! – for starting their own companies. With each cohort of REP, an elite group of aspiring business owners gain their footing in the fundamentals, from accounting and marketing, to developing a strong business plan, to how to pitch to potential investors.
For many of our people, getting their lives back seems like a distant reality, let alone owning their own business. But one thing all five of our recent graduates have in common is the determination to overcome obstacles and fight for their dreams. “The world had given up on me, I was broken. But with relentless support of the team at Project Return, I not only got resources, I got my self-confidence back. I wasn’t going to settle for the status quo, I kept going,” says Constance.
The entrepreneurs in this latest REP cohort are building businesses in landscaping, housing, cleaning services, and moving and logistics. A heartfelt congratulations to our REP graduates, who are busy launching and growing their companies, and pursuing their dreams!
From the Executive Director
April is the Second Chance Month, and little has changed. The US still has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prison population. People are still being incarcerated at numbers that far outpace the rest of the world, and in ways that disproportionately plague our black and brown communities.
Come to the place where hope resides! The place where change is the order of the day! In fact, every day, motivated men and women at Project Return are scoring meaningful employment, and leaving prison behind. Chances—in the form of opportunity and new beginnings—are what we’re all about.
We are so grateful for everyone’s support of our work!
– Bettie Kirkland
News & Updates
We’re Grateful for Community Support!
Day of Empathy is a national effort to generate empathy on a massive scale for the millions of Americans who are impacted by the criminal justice system. On March 6th, Project Return brought the voice of experience to the Tennessee State House, in a full day of individual meetings with legislators, to whom we’re grateful for their interest in success after prison.
We are a proud recipient of the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing award. With the new grant, we will acquire and upgrade modest housing, which then becomes affordable homes for people who are otherwise excluded from the rental market due to their conviction histories. We are so very grateful!
We were thrilled to host the team from Social Enterprise Alliance – both the national and Nashville contingents – in their recent “field trip” to Project Return! We promptly boarded a Project Return van, and visited a local manufacturing facility where our transitional work crews are gaining real-world work experience and income….and are also referred to by that company as “our best employees”! Then we swung by our latest affordable housing project, where additional transitional employees are putting their construction skills to use and newly renovated homes are being created for people who need them. So grateful to SEA for its continued work in building a movement that supports social enterprises like ours!
We were so excited to have an amazing group of our volunteers join us in April for our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. We rely on our volunteers for key support—which includes mock interviewing, addressing postcards to people in prison, serving food, and everything in-between!—and we were so humbled to hear about the great experience they’ve had with our people. Thank you for all of your hard work and kind support!
Spotlight on Success: Darlene Teague
“I was alone. Nobody wanted to give me a chance, not even my own family.”
Like most people who come to Project Return, Darlene felt like the world had given up on her. She had been in and out of the system for a decade, and finally, she was done. “I was hungry for life. I was ready to change,” says Darlene.
But change didn’t come so easily for her. She struggled as she kept finding herself surrounded by circumstances that would’ve inevitably taken her back to prison. But Darlene was determined. “I knew I needed help, and I had heard of Project Return, so I came here. I still wasn’t sure…but as time went on, with all the help Project Return gave me, they gave me hope and I got a new perspective on life.”
Four years later, Darlene is a valued employee at a rehab facility helping women in need. She is pursuing certification to advance in her role and become a counselor. She is taking classes parttime and loves math. “I never thought I could be where I am today, but I love my job and I can’t wait to finish my certification.” Darlene will continue working at her current job, and aspires to further her education even more.
Darlene reflected on her journey, saying, “If I could say one thing to my old self, I would say, continue walking forward, through hurricane, tornado, or rain, because there is sunshine at the end of it.”
Staff Spotlight: Moses Pettway, Sheila Washington, and Anthony Winston
Moses, Sheila, and Anthony are our Transportation Coordinators. They work around the clock all throughout Nashville, and ensure that our people are getting to work on time and getting back home safely after each shift. They also provide invaluable life coaching for our participants during the ride to and from work. Sheila expressed her thoughts on what she enjoys the most about her job: “I admire the attitude that our people have. They are grateful to be working.”
Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Sneed
A retired entertainment promoter, Mary started volunteering with us after attending a movie screening at which Project Return shared stories of the harsh realities of prison, and the even greater challenges that men and women face when they return from prison. Mary said that she was moved by Project Return’s role in walking alongside people who have chosen to change the direction of their lives, and she quickly became involved with our work. For Mary, successes and failures in her own life inspire to her to give back: “If you can cite a moment in your life where someone made a difference for you, this is a place where you can return the favor.”
In The Community
Larry Craig, our Program Services Director, spoke at the United Way Communities of Practice event. He shared that people come to Project Return out of their own motivation for a better way of life, and that employment is the key to their successful new beginnings.
In March, the Frist Art Museum hosted a screening of 13th, the seminal film by Ava DuVernay that explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with AfricanAmericans. Project Return shared its viewpoints and expertise.
In April, Edgehill United Methodist Church brought in Project Return to speak about mass incarceration and the work we do to help people rebuild their lives after prison. It was especially meaningful being at the church home of Project Return’s co-founders, Don Beisswenger and Bill Barnes.
The focus of the April meeting of the Harry Phillips American Inn of Court was collateral consequences of incarceration. Thanks for inviting Project Return to make a presentation of the ways we work with people to overcome those consequences and gain new beginnings.
Thank you so much for your generosity and support!
May 2nd is The Big Payback!
Be a part of this enormous day of community giving, and donate to Project Return!