Resolve to Serve Stories: Project Return

Ever felt nervous before a job interview? Imagine going into a prospective employer’s office after weeks, months, or even years of isolation from the world.

Project Return supports people returning from incarceration and reintegrating into our community. As the agency’s 2017 Annual Report notes, “Employment is the paramount predictor of their good future, and wraparound support is imperative.” With this in mind, Project Return delivers a holistic job-readiness program. The program emphasizes many facets of employment success and features classes on financial literacy, body language during interviews, and best practices for discussing one’s conviction history with potential employers. The agency also hosts mock interviews.

Mock interviews have become one of the program’s most valuable services, and they’re powered by volunteers. Participants meet with their assigned volunteer interviewers, discuss potential job types, and practice the skills they’ve learned in class.

Many of these volunteers are full-time employees themselves. Project Return boasts an extensive corporate volunteer résumé, with companies like IQ Talent Partners and Eventbrite channeling their social responsibility programs through the agency. Corporate volunteers find that Project Return offers flexible schedules without a huge time commitment. Some volunteers even come in on their lunch breaks! Since December, volunteer participation has doubled.

Christine Meyer, Volunteer and Events Coordinator at Project Return, hypothesized that volunteer interest stems from the opportunities for proximity and connection: “The interesting thing about [Project Return] is that volunteers are really engaging with participants. One on one, they make an impact – they see the progress participants are making and share stories. John that you mock interviewed two weeks ago got a job and he’s really excited!”

As volunteer numbers continue to increase, so does Project Return’s outreach. Many volunteers return on a weekly basis, and new volunteers reach out to Project Return through HON each month. In 2017, Project Return provided its signature services to nearly 1,000 men and women who were starting their lives over after prison.

Project Return’s return on investment in its clients is high: the agency consistently achieves a less-than 15% re-incarceration rate (as compared to 47% statewide and 57% nationwide). As for employment outcomes, research shows that 60-75% of people coming out of prison will remain unemployed for the first 12 months of freedom; however, the employment rate at Project Return exceeds 80%.

Project Return provides services and connects people with resources needed to return successfully to work and community after incarceration. Browse all volunteer opportunities with Project Return here.

Photos courtesy of Project Return.

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