Clifton Street on Indianapolis’ Near Northwestside is not the most exciting or picturesque street, but once you hit the 2800 block, you can’t help but see a bright yellow building.
This is no ordinary building – but one that promotes education, accountability and most importantly, opportunity. This building is the home of New Life Development Ministries, a unique nonprofit program for ex-offenders that is blossoming due to its “show and prove” attitude.
“What God has done, a little at a time, has given us an opportunity. And those opportunities were stepping stones to other opportunities,” said Rev. Eugene Potter, founder and president of the 20-year-old ministry.
Once released from prison, male and female ex-offenders are accepted into the program and are able to learn construction related trades such as millwork, carpentry, plumbing, flooring and painting.
They are able to get hands-on experience by working on New Life’s building, including the bright yellow paint, and homes purchased by the program. Some participants are even able to rent the homes, mostly located on Udell Street, once construction is complete.
“Construction is probably the most forgiving industry for re-entrants,” explained Potter, who is also a licensed contractor and associate minister at Mt. Zion Apostolic Church. “If you can put a roof on, they’ll say ‘go at it.’ But if an ex offender walks into a bank, that may not work out for them.”
About 35 ex-offenders are currently in the program.
Only those who have proven themselves worthy, excel in the trade and have also mastered soft skills such as grooming and effective communication, can go on to work for other construction companies or find employment at NLDM Enterprises LLC, the ministry’s for-profit construction firm. Re-entrants can make anywhere from $9 to $20 per hour.
The “teach a man to fish” concept of New Life Development Ministries is simple yet profound. Participants are able to earn an honest paycheck and continue to develop their skill while putting the pieces back to their lives. They are also given access to supplemental help, such as clothing, food, housing and treatment programs if needed. These opportunities also give ex-offenders a chance to prove to their families they are changed and work on rebuilding those bonds.
Potter said his program’s recidivism rate is only about 10 percent because they help ex-offenders help themselves – program participants have no good reason to go back to prison.
People in the community have also taken notice of New Life Development Ministry’s mission and quality work. The ministry has provided work opportunities for ex-offenders through collaborations with local homeowners, Mt. Zion Apostolic Church, the City of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Urban League, Martindale-Brightwood Weed and Seed and the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis and Crown Hill Cemetery among others.
New Life Development Ministry’s current partnership with Crown Hill Cemetery, the nation’s third largest privately owned cemetery, includes painting and landscaping work on its extensive property.
Participants of the program have also done wall papering and painting inside of Crown Hill’s main facility. Because of their strong partnership, Potter said the funeral home gave the ministry the finances to purchase the Udell Street homes that participants are able to practice their skills on.
Another crew is also working at the historic Flanner House, which is also on the Near Northwestside.
“This is a population that many people don’t pay attention to and when they do, they push them off in a corner. We want to provide opportunities. If (Potter) can help them find employment, the least we can do is help them with housing or life skills,” said Wilbert Buckner, deputy director and Skills to Success Coach at Flanner House. “It’s been an outstanding partnership.”
“They come to us and contract us because we have the ability and have proven we can do quality work,” added Potter.
In addition to contracting work, donations and grants have also helped sustain and grow New Life Development Ministries. To expand his vision and teach ex-offenders about other job fields, Potter, with the assistance of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, has future plans to create The College of Great Men, a vocational college.
New Life Development Ministries has redefined the concept of providing second chances for ex-offenders. The ministry allows participants a way out of crime and a chance at a trade that can last them a lifetime.
Next week, readers will be able to read the stories of ex-offenders and how New Life Development Ministries has changed their life.
For more information on New Life Development Ministries or subcontracting opportunities with NLDM Enterprises LLC, call (317) 921-5433.