The Fair Chance Project initiated the Brush of Kindness (BoK) mentoring and community service program with a dual purpose.
- There are many people in the inner cities in need of help that they are unable to pay for or likewise unable to do on their own.
- Many men and women coming home are seeking to give back to their communities, communities that they may have wished to destroy in prior years. Through the BoK program, we enable them to give back to their communities while helping those in need.
- In addition, BoK coordinators will recruit youth from other Fair Chance Project programs to work on community projects. Through this process, former prisoners can mentor the youth who might require discipline and something to fill their time. As they collaborate with the elderly and those in need of assistance, both communities will collectively come to a better understanding of the other.
- Former prisoners will be recruited from FCP Welcome Home Resource Fairs, transitional houses, probation, parole, shelters.
- Former prisoners are given an orientation regarding the program’s goals
- A BoK coordinator will:
- identify locations in the community where there is a need.
- Secure tools needed (e.g., landscaping, handymen, contractors).
- Secure transportation.
- Youth can be recruited:
- From basketball programs (Old School-New School)
- From Fair Chance Project’s youth programs
- From Juvenile lockups
- Probation sources
In 2009, during the developmental stages of Fair Chance Project, the founders, all returning citizens, discussed the kind of organization they wanted to build. Each person was clear on two things: They wanted to rebuild communities they destroyed 25-35 years before and above all they wanted to see to it that the youth in their communities did not follow the road they took. The idea for the Brush of Kindness (BoK) program was born.
BoK is a program where the formerly incarcerated provide a service to community members in cases where folks are older, sick, poor and incapable of doing minor clean-up and repair jobs. During the pandemic, we discussed expanding it into a mentorship program, where returning citizens would train and mentor youth in the skills they acquired while in prison, all in the process of helping community members with needed repairs and other assistance.
We were seeking to utilize the many skills folk attain while in prison while providing a means for them to both “give back” to communities and fulfill their most ardent desire of working with youth. We have many community members in need of services that they are incapable of doing on their own and/or unable to afford. In some cases, these will be folk where there is a disconnect between themselves and community youth. The program will begin to create a bridge of understanding. Additionally, the program will make contact with city, county and state representatives from the area with the proposal to do community clean-up in their districts.
The mentoring will take place both informally during work on a project and more formally. Returning citizens and youth (mentors and mentees) will meet bi-weekly over a meal in sessions where issues leading to violence and prison will be addressed. Many formerly incarcerated persons have completed the Alternatives to Violence, CGA, and mentorship programs while inside and are well suited to lead the discussions. FCP staff will educate all the participants on the workings of city/state government.
It is clear that folk coming home from prison are in need of a means to survive. We believe that the success of our program will depend on being able to offer them some remuneration for their work. We coordinate three sessions a year; each two-month session includes four formerly incarcerated community members and six community youth.