Local non-profit restores hope to community, partners with Church

KINSTON, Lenoir County – Four years ago, Chris Jenkins, the founder of Hope Restorations, lost his son to suicide.

He battled an addiction with prescription pain pills. While dealing with the loss, Jenkins needed something to keep him busy.

“I just really needed something meaningful and productive to do,” said Jenkins.

That’s how Hope Restorations began.

The non-profit, based out of Kinston, rebuilds beaten down homes, and works with members of the community to rebuild lives as well.

“Our very first house was one that needed to be bull dozed over, but as one of our guys said, we actually brought that house back to life and in doing so we’re bringing these guys back to life,” said Tim Chase, Project Coordinator for Hope Restorations.

So far the organization has rebuilt 6 homes, and owns over two dozen properties. As they continue to grow, they need more space.

That’s where Queen Street Memorial Church comes in.

Through a partnership with the church, Hope Restorations now has office space to be able to get paperwork done, apply for grants, and meet with clients.

The goal for Hope Restorations is to rebuild 45 homes by the year 2020. If they meet that goal, they will be able to sustain themselves as a non-profit and no longer rely on grant money.

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Lending a helping hand

A prison sentence doesn’t always end when a person is released. Offenders often face an uphill battle when it comes to finding housing and employment, often to the detriment to themselves and others.

A 2008 study by the Urban Institute revealed that eight months after being released from prison, barely more than half of surveyed felons were employed. Felon or no, that many out of work adults can have as much as a $67 billion impact on the U.S. Economy, according to a 2010 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research

Some of the difficulty in finding employment after prison comes in a variety of ways. People coming out of prison often have long gaps in their work history, low education and literacy rates. A lack of housing and transportation also create issues. The title of convicted felon also brings some baggage to the table. In an effort to make job finding easier for some felons, nine states have removed the conviction history question on job applications for private employers; 29 others have adopted measures that delay inquiries about convictions until later in the employment process to better give ex-offenders a chance to get hired based on their merits.

In Kinston, one organization actually uses that box to figure out exactly who to hire.

“The ones working with us are the ones are really good deep down. They want to be good parents to their children, they want to be good spouses to their mate, they want to be productive members of society and they, because of previous mistakes have just got themselves trapped,” said Chris Jenkins, founder of Hope Restorations. “Nobody will give them a shot.”

Nobody, except Jenkins.

Hope Restorations is a 501 c(3) nonprofit that aims to provide employment, training and support to adults recovering from addiction or recently released from incarceration.

Hope Restorations was officially founded in 2015, but the concept dates back to 2013. After losing his son to a combination of mental illness and substance abuse, Jenkins said he bought a house near Rochelle Middle School to restore as a way to keep himself busy on his days off.

While working on that house he met two men who were out of work and in need of work so he gave them a job working on the house.

“They needed a good honest way to feed their families. So I put those two men together in that house and I worked with them on my day off but the rest of the week let them work basically unsupervised,” he said.

Collectively the three men replaced the siding, roof, heating and air conditioning and added insulation to the house. It was then rented to a low-income family.

After that house was completed, Jenkins mortgaged it to buy another and set to work on that.

“I still needed that creative outlet and something to do and I had seen so many great benefits from me doing those houses. It was helping the communities, it was a family a good place to live, I was giving employment to folks that were otherwise hard to employ and I didn’t want to give that up,” he said.

Two years later, after some meetings with what would become the board of directors for Hope Restorations and some brainstorming, Hope Restorations was formed. The organization has begun taking properties that are in need of repair and renovating them.

The organization currently owns about 24 houses, most of which are being rented while the others are being worked on.

“There’s lots of these houses in Kinston that are abandoned or in such disrepair that are owned by people doing just enough upkeep to keep them rented. There’s lots that are abandoned, lots that are just starting to deteriorate because they’ve been inherited maybe by someone who has moved away from Kinston and they don’t have any desire to spend any money to fix it and then contract a real estate agent who is going to take a percent of the money they make on it,” Jenkins said.

Some of those houses ended up being donated to Hope Restorations, the rest the organization has bought outright using grant money.

Jenkins wants to see the number of houses managed by Hope Restorations to reach 45 in the future. At that point, the organization would become self-sustaining and be able to purchase all of it’s materials and equipment without relying on grants or donations.

For the men working inside the homes owned by Hope Restorations, the chance to get to work is a valuable one. The organization only has enough money to keep about 15 people on payroll at one time and has a waiting list for new hires.

Employees are overseen by volunteers with experience in electrical, HVAC, plumbing and other types of work on job sites. For those who find they enjoy the type of work they do for Hope Restorations, Jenkins wants to help find education and certification programs to help them be more marketable in specialized fields.

Rather than provide long term employment, the goal of the program is to give ex-offenders a chance to learn new skills and prove to other potential employers they can be reliable.

After an ex-offender leaves Hope Restorations to find a new job, Jenkins said he is happy to serve as a reference for them, but his reviews will be “brutally honest” with employers.

“I’m happy to tell an employer that this person is a good worker, he is ready for that chance, but I’m also willing to say this person isn’t quite ready yet,” he said.

Jenkins said his honesty is more about making sure employers know that when a new hire comes from Hope Restorations, they’ve proven they can work.

For Jacob Fleming, who has been with Hope Restorations for the last six months, the opportunity has been an enlightening one. Fleming was told about Hope Restorations by his parole officer the week after he got out of prison, and was excited to have a job.

“That was my number one most important task to accomplish. Get a job, two if possible, come home and stay out of trouble,” he said.

While working with Hope Restorations Fleming said he has discovered that he enjoys working on electrical systems, and wants to become a certified electrician.

“It means a lot to me. When you in a certain situation, it feels like everyone is against you, but it seems like this company just sees the good or the potential in you.”

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Local organization helps ex-cons build a better future

KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Once you are convicted as a felon, it can be hard to find a job.

One organization in Kinston doesn’t care what the charges was — for those who want to better their lives, they are there to help.

Gregory Dunk has had a rough road to recovery.

“Unfortunately, through my drug usage I did some things I shouldn’t have done. I got myself into trouble and in some bad situations and so therefore I picked up some felonies along the way,” said Dunk.

He prefers to keep how he got to this point in his life in the past.

“You know it went from the beer and then it went to marijuana and then escalated to heroin,” said Dunk. “I was looking for jobs and looking for jobs, and one of the treatment facilities I went through they told me about this program, Hope Restorations.”

Hope Restorations gives opportunities to felons who lack job offer but desire a better life.

“It’s given me a sense of purpose again, you know, when I wasn’t working I didn’t have a job and I wasn’t feeling too good about myself,” he said.

Now he works with drive, and with others like him

“I had a lot of support and love that was shown to me but it’s that bottom that we all have to reach before we get it,” said Dunk.

Dunk knows without this opportunity life would be very different

“I know that if I use again, not just the tangible things, I could lose my life,” Dunk said.

So for the time being, he’ll be here roughing it out.

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Hope Restoration project changing lives on multiple fronts

KINSTON, Lenoir County – The Hope Restoration project, which started in 2016 by giving those having a hard time finding jobs a chance to work on home for those in need, has expanded exponentially sine then.

Last spring, the project had four homes slated for restoration. Now, they’ve restored 25, with more on the way.

Lawrence Wilson, who works for the project, said this job has been all about second chances.

“I started doing drugs, I didn’t have a place to stay, they gave me a place to stay at the Flint home to live in a fellowship program, the same as the church,” Wilson said.

Hope Restoration founder Chris Jenkins said stories like Wilson’s are why he started the program in the first place.

“We are trying to give employment support to folks who really need and have a hard a time being hired elsewhere,” he said.

It’s been a life-changer for those that end up living in the homes, too, like Jeff Richardson, who was one of the first to get a Hope Restoration home last year.

“That’s the American Dream – you raise your family, and you know you own a house and you know that is one of big goals you know to own a house,” Richardson said.

Jenkins started buying and restoring old homes in low-income neighborhoods in 2014 as a way of healing after his son’s death. The 17-year-old committed suicide after battling a substance abuse addiction.

He’s hopeful that this project can provide more stability for families and jobs for those on the path to recovery as a means of combating substance abuse. The goal is to be able to get to 45 homes and make the program financially self-sufficient.

“The more in the neighborhood that own their home the better things are like crime rates and health rates and scholastic and performance and performance of their children,” Jenkins said.

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Father of Addict Calls for Opioid Addiction Prevention, Treatment

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The opioid epidemic is not slowing down in eastern Carolina and now several agencies are coming together to find out how to stop it.

9 On Your Side talked with the father of an addict to find out what he think needs to change to potentially save lives.

“it was a long, long battle trying to save our son from the struggles of substance abuse,” said Chris Jenkins, Hope Restorations. “We had some successes and we had some failures.”

Jenkins lost his son after he battled an addiction to prescription medications.

“We spent a lot of time in emergency rooms and he would overdose and then we would be in the emergency room trying to find somewhere to send him to get some meaningful counseling or rehabilitation,” he explained, telling his story at a collaborative drug conference on Monday to dozens of people trying to end the opioid epidemic. “We ran into some good resources and we ran into some walls.”

Those walls are commonplace for many.

Jenkins said one of the biggest problems in North Carolina is not having enough resources for those who need them.

“We definitely need to get more services available and get education out to the community about what is available for treatment options,” explained Nikki Lewis, Program Supervisor, Port Human Services, who works with those battling drug addiction. She said things need to change.

According to the state Division of Public Health, a thousand people die each year in North Carolina from a prescription drug overdose.

One of the main issues is not enough resources are available for treatment and prevention.

“The one thing that would really be helpful is if there were enough people who knew about the system who could plug people with what they need into where the resources are,” said Jenkins, who’s now using his story to help others in similar situations.

Through Hope Restorations, he provides support to others recovering from addictions.

Port Human Services is working on getting more resources out into the community for those struggling with drug addiction. To find a location near you, click here.

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Group Seeks to Help Addicts Develop Trade Skills

KINSTON, NC (WITN) – Members of a ministry outreach program hosted a neighborhood cookout Saturday afternoon to meet and greet withe the community.

Sharon United Methodist Church Pastor Chris Jenkins founded “Hope Restorations” in 2015.

The program aims to restore the lives of men who have struggled with addiction by offering them a job restoring old houses.

The group held a social event outside the house they are currently rebuilding in Kinston.

Jenkins says the property was donated by a local doctor. The men have fixed the roof, floorboards, and several windows. He believes this provides the men with trade skills and work experience while also improving neighborhoods.

“They’re willing and eager to work, they’re great guys, they’ve just got a past…and we’ve all have a past we’d like to forget and so we’re trying to focus on who they’re becoming instead of what’s in their past and we need help getting that done,” Jenkins said.

The program was able to get off the ground thanks to a grant from the Duke Endowment.

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Kinston’s Hope Restorations Helps Recovering Addicts Develop New Skills

KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – One organization is all about giving back to the community. Hope Restorations gives former addicts a way to earn money and it also gives low-income families the opportunity to live out of government housing.

Larry Driver is one of those people who say he’s lucky that he has an opportunity at a second chance

“I got in a car wreck in 2007, and I was put on pain pills and it goes downhill from there,” Larry Driver said.

After being addicted to pain killers for years, Driver said he’s finally back on track.

“I’m waking up in the morning with a purpose,” said Driver. “I’m coming to help someone in the future with a great home and a great energy bill and all of that.”

Thanks to Hope Restorations, Driver now has a full-time job working on remodeling a home.

“We are all just trying to invest in them and begin to open doors for them and, in the process, they are learning how to help others,” explained board member Chris Jenkins. He said the organization receives funding through the Duke Endowment grant.

Jenkins said it’s important to keep the men working when the grant is completed, “We hope to over the next few years to require about 30 houses so that would be our way to sustain revenue.”

Lenoir Community College is also assisting the organization with training. Driver said, after this house is completed in the next month or so, he’s looking for other opportunities to work in construction. He hopes others will give him a second chance as well.

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