Second Chance Employer Profile
RecycleForce, a nonprofit business, was created to help build a stronger workforce and create a cleaner environment. It hires those who’ve had justice system involvement and recycles just about anything that has a cord, from computers and printers to refrigerators and microwaves.
It began rather serendipitously in 2006, when founder Gregg Keesling returned to Indianapolis from living in Jamaica and started a filter business to employ workers in reentry. That business never took off, but his landlord asked him to deal with some old computer equipment. And WorkForce, now RecycleForce, was born. In the past decade and a half, the business has grown from two workers processing 600,000 pounds of material to 30 full-time employees processing 6 million pounds.
RecycleForce hosts quarterly recycling drives with the city of Indianapolis. There are also two drop-off points, but the organization plans to expand that number, including one at its new headquarters building.
Located on the site of the old RCA plant, the 102,000 square-foot $9.1 million headquarters is expected to open in early 2023. The headquarters will not only include the recycling facility but classrooms, computer labs and places where employees can meet with people such as their parole and probation officers and legal support services. The new building will allow RecycleForce to double the amount of waste it can recycle to 12 million pounds.
The headquarters construction is being funded by a variety of sources, including tax breaks for locating in the new Indy East Promise Zone and $2.2 million raised over the next several years from foundations and individual donors. The organization’s building campaign will offer naming rights – ranging from $25,000 to $500,000 – on everything from the elevator to the exterior of the building.
RecycleForce has also been awarded a series of training grants. Most recently it was one of 19 organizations to receive a $200,000 Brownfield Job Training Grants administered by the EPA and announced in early 2022. Participants can gain certifications that will ensure employment opportunities in local environmental work. In 2021 It received a $4.5 million grant from the US Department of Labor Young Adult Reentry Partnership to offer employment training and job opportunities to justice involved youth.
Second chance hiring practices
RecycleForce accepts 10 to 20 people each week to work the recycling floor. These workers are actively involved in the criminal justice system. They have been referred and are out on work release programs.
It has a 120-day transitional job training program of up to six months of hourly work on the recycling production floor to help those in reentry get their lives back together. A few of those in the program are hired full time by RecycleForce, while another Indianapolis nonprofit, Keys2Work, helps many of the others develop career opportunities. Its philosophy is ABC (any job, a better job, a career).
RecycleForce partners with the Warren Township school district adult education program to provide a chance for employees to gain a high school equivalency certificate. It also offers opportunities to gain several workforce development training certifications including forklift training Certified Logistics Associate and hazardous waste protection, all on company time.
It has created partnerships with a local organization known as Trusted to teach leadership and soft skills and with financial institutions to teach financial literacy and personal financial management. RecycleForce helps workers set up a checking account and ensure that their checks are direct deposited.
Each day at RecycleForce begins with the circle of trust. It’s sort of like an all-staff meeting or a huddle. Employees show up and talk about what they need or the challenges they’re facing and receive immediate support.
And the organization’s efforts seem to work. The recidivism rate for those who have completed its program is between 20% and 30%, compared to the 50% average in Marion County, where Indianapolis is located.