Being an employee at Coastal Community Foundation allows me a perfect “bird’s eye view” of what is happening in our local area and part of that information stream comes from my coworkers and I being out in the community. We all interact with various organizations and people, then return back to the “nest” with insight into the current goings on here in the Charleston region and beyond.
Several months ago, my participation in a book discussion around racial/social justice hosted by my church, Grace Church Cathedral, drew my attention more sharply to one of our CCF grant recipients; Turning Leaf Project. Spearheaded by Amy Barch, TLP is the only local nonprofit that specifically targets men recently released from prison who have been assessed at a medium to high risk of re-arrest. They reserve their services for those who need it the most, and focus on long-term behavior change through intensive cognitive behavioral treatment. Partnering with the City of Charleston, Charleston Police Department and many others, TLP has pulled a very unlikely group of people together, all with a shared goal of real rehabilitation and positive re-entry for incarcerated individuals back into the Charleston community.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an Open House celebration for Turning Leaf. They have recently moved into the former Coastal Pre-Release Center on Leeds Avenue, a building owned by the South Carolina Department of Corrections and formerly used as a transitional space for job training and education for inmates to improve their skills for life outside of prison. The Turning Leaf folks have worked hard to freshen it up and made it their own – new paint, artwork and inspirational quotes are on the walls, there is a classroom for education, a screen printing shop for career training, and a gathering space for recreation and discussion just to name a few highlights.
But the most amazing part about the Open House was the people. Judges, mayors, attorneys, community and faith leaders, law enforcement, nonprofits, probation officers and more all gathered to celebrate and honor the hard work of this small team and their students. The students were and are the real stars – their lives were on display for a crowded room of strangers and they were wonderfully open in sharing their personal stories of change. All in all, it was a great evening, not just because of the new digs, but again because of the people. The leadership, the supporters and the students are all amazing and I sincerely hope that this program continues to grow and fill such a tremendous need.
To learn more about Turning Leaf Project, please visit www.turningleafproject.org.