April is Second Chance Month, an annual celebration launched in 2017 that focuses on creating opportunities for those who face barriers because of mistakes they made in the past. And this year, three organizations – Prison Fellowship, the National Reentry Resource Center and Better Together – are providing ways to get involved.
Prison Fellowship, the faith-based nonprofit for prisoners and former prisoners and their families, launched the first Second Chance Month in 2017. Last year more than 736 businesses, churches and organizations partnered with Prison Fellowship to hold events to celebrate second chances. Twenty-six states and Washington, D.C. issued proclamations recognizing April as Second Chance Month.
If you sign up on the organization’s website, your business, church or organization will receive tools and resources to help you plan a Second Chances Month event and distribute social media messages. The toolkit includes social media posts and graphics to go along with them. Churches are encouraged to show Prison Fellowship’s new short film, “From Darkness to Light: A Story of Second Chances.” The film can start a discussion on second chances and offer church members a chance to share their own stories.
National Reentry Resource Center offers webinar series
Another organization, the National Reentry Resource Center, is hosting a series of live webinars on a variety of subjects related to reentry. These include:
- Listen to the Experts: Young People Tell Us What They Need for Successful Reentry on April 4.
- Housing Finance Basics for Criminal Justice Partners on April 5.
- Youth Reentry Work Matters: Comprehensive Youth Reentry Planning and Case Management on April 18.
- Preparing Justice-Impacted People for Infrastructure Jobs on April 19.
- Look Beyond Recidivism: How to Capture Your Reentry Program’s Impact on April 20.
The National Reentry Resource Center is funded and administered by the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Better Together helps churches produce job fairs
The Naples, Fla. headquartered nonprofit Better Together is coordinating a series of job fairs put on by churches on April 20, 2023, the Nationwide Day of Second Chances, a part of Second Chance Month. So far, job fairs are scheduled for Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami and St. Petersburg, Fla.; Washington, D.C.; Winterville, NC; and Lexington, Ky. It may be a bit late for your church to get involved this year, but a job fair doesn’t have to take place during Second Chance Month. In fact, Better Together works with churches to sponsor second chance job fairs throughout the year. It has helped produce job fairs in 23 states that have served 42,000 people since starting the venture five years ago.
If you’re a church leader whose congregation would like to provide a service to those in reentry, you can partner with Better Together on its Better Jobs initiative, which, as the organization says, “helps faith leaders live the parable of teaching men and women to fish.”
And its job fairs are quite unique, according to Pamela Hayford, the organization’s marketing and communications manager. “It’s so different from a typical job fair that you might see at a hotel,” she says. “There’s a lot of celebration. And when a job seeker walks in, they are greeted and paired with a job coach, who leads them through the process. There’s also an opportunity wall with all the jobs available.”
By sponsoring job fairs, churches can not only help those facing barriers find jobs but create community as well. Better Together provides the training, project management tools, resources, templates and support to accomplish that.
It takes about six to eight weeks to plan a job fair, according to Hayford. Better Together conducts training, either virtually or at its headquarters in Florida. If there are several churches in an area that are interested, the nonprofit’s trainers may travel to that location.
“The training is a daylong event. We have a workbook that guides them through the process. We talk about marketing the job fair and how to talk to the employers,” Hayford says. “Also how to find good partners in the community who can provide resources. Sometimes churches pair up with organizations like Dress for Success.”
Better Together also provides samples and templates to use, weekly open-forum Zoom calls, one-on-one phone calls and event details and registration forms that churches can use.
There’s a $1,000 lifetime membership fee that includes the initial training, ongoing support and supplies. Church leaders who travel to Florida for the training rather than participating in the Zoom option are responsible for transport, hotel and any meals beyond the lunch served during the training session. The only other costs are related to putting on the job fair.
Please take the opportunity to help spread the word with friends and colleagues and on social media about these events created by Prison Fellowship, the National Reentry Resource Center and Better Together in honor of Second Chance Month this April.
And also share your knowledge of the challenges faced by one-third of the U.S. population that has a misdemeanor or felony record. Bring attention to the need for second chances, so that people can find employment and get their lives back together. This will also support the U.S. economy by alerting employers about an untapped source of talent ready to fill the millions of current job openings.