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Progress 2018

Goldsboro News Argus - Progress Edition

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left him feeling like he was on the outside. "Part of my passion with MPI comes from my personal experi- ence," he said. "A big piece of it is trying to fit in. That's what this population does in certain instances — they're trying to fit in, and they're trying to belong. "I can relate to that." The Mephibosheth Project, also known as MPI, is an organization that works to help people coming out of prison and others on proba- tion or parole build a successful and stable life. Most of the people who go through the program have high- level misdemeanors or felonies on their record, he said. The program offers help in a variety of ways and in a varied effort to match the needs of each person, whether it be learning how to live in society again or have the confidence that they can finish school and find a good job. When offenders go to prison, their life stops and reintroducing men and women back into society can take some work, he said. "Their life has stopped," Alexan- der said. "When they go in, time stops and (they are) programmed to survive. It's got to be addressed to help them be reprogrammed." Some people can have multiple challenges, like not having a sup- port system, work or reliable transportation. "You'd be surprised how many people are living in the woods and how many are homeless," he said. "I think it correlates back to crime in our community. We try to help them navigate those things." The Mephibosheth Project pro- vides people with a host of resources and help, including a support network, social skill train- ing, opportunities for education and job preparation and help in finding stable work. Participants can also benefit from a mentor, goal assessments, parenting skill train- ing and career readiness. MPI, located at 200 W. Ash St., recently launched a new program, an eight-week, faith-based curricu- lum, Jobs 4 Life, that helps with job readiness, self-esteem, developing the right perception of living in the community and developing a posi- tive role in the family. "This curriculum — it pushes you to dream again to have visions of success," Alexander said. MPI, which carries the motto "The Mission is Possible," is a non- profit organization that started in December 2015 and opened its office on West Ash Street in 2017. Since its start, 23 people have gone through the MPI program and 14 are employed. Alexander has watched people struggle, sometimes fail but also succeed, even though many have a criminal record that could prevent or discourage them from rebuilding their lives. "The system and society makes them think it's harder than it is because we have a stigma," he said. "Just their legal issues, there are companies that won't touch (them), but there are several around here that will. "So, we are in a fortunate place that if I see you really want a job and are willing to make that effort, we won't stop until we find it. Your record is not something that just takes you off the market." One of the program benefits is the chance for participants to be directly connected to area employ- ers that are willing to offer the for- mer offenders a second chance. MPI partners with other agencies in the Wayne County area, includ- ing the Salvation Army, the Soup Kitchen, the N.C. Works Career Cen- ter and Wayne Commu- nity College. Alexander, who pro- vides most of the finan- cial support for the pro- gram, also receives about 5 percent in indi- vidual and church donations to operate the nonprofit. In the future, he would like to see the program become man- dated for people coming out of prison. He also wants to eventually have an MPI campus, with offices and a transitional housing facility. People who have been successful in rebuilding their lives with the help of MPI benefits the communi- ty and can serve to reduce crime, Alexander said. "Will everybody come in and give 100 percent?" he said. "No. But if we can save one out of 10, then doesn't that make a difference? "Doesn't that address our crime rate? Doesn't that address our abil- ity to make someone gainfully employed and, in turn, add a posi- tive side to our tax revenue? "Doesn't that make our city a safer place, if we can get one out of 10?" The name of his nonprofit, comes from the biblical story of Mephi- bosheth, the grandson of King Saul who was dropped by a nurse when he was young and became lame in both feet. Years later, after the death of Saul and ascension of King David, Mephibosheth was brought to Jerusalem where the king pro- vided him with an inheritance and a place at the king's table. Alexander sees the story in rela- tion to the people he's helping, peo- ple who have struggled but who have the potential to create a bet- ter life. "Truly, the population that we work with here have been dropped, stigmatized, ostracized and a lot of them have a very low self-esteem, a very low sense of believing in them- selves because, for the most part, nobody believes in them," Alexander said. "The majority can pay their debt to society and still end up paying for the rest of their life, depending on what their infrac- tion was." MPI exists to show former offenders and others on proba- tion or parole that there is hope. "The real mission here and the vision is to be an organiza- tion that will be that delegation that will help to reintroduce former offenders back into their local community and to help them to regain some self- esteem," he said. "That's the premise of this program, is to help them maneuver coming back to the real community, coming back and learning social skills or reemphasizing social skills." MPI is the designated com- munity resource organization for Goldsboro Partners Against Crime, a program that offers violent offenders a last-chance opportunity to straighten up or face harsher sentencing on their next criminal conviction. Alexander — "Pastor A" — is also the pastor of New Spirit Church Ministries on William Street. MPI can be reached at 919-648-9983. The nonprofit also has a website and Face- book page. Friday, February 23, 2018 Goldsboro News-Argus — 7C CLASSES START SOON. 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Marvin Alexan- der, founder and executive director of the Mephibosheth Project, a nonprofit that works to help former offenders successfully transition back into socie- ty. The program offered him support, direction, mentorship and advice that resulted in Sutton breaking off ties with some of his former friends. "He told me to leave certain people alone," Sutton said. "He told me to cut ties with certain people to have suc- cess." Sutton followed the advice and worked with Alexander to find a more stable job. He was hired by Case Farms and continues in the full-time job where he's been employed for the past six or seven months. The work has provided him with the ability to buy a car and rebuild his life. In addition to his family, his fiancée also offered support and encouraged him to stay on track. "Every step of the way, she's been there," he said. "Since I came home, she's been there the whole time and she still is." Sutton shared his story with area attorneys, probation officers and oth- ers during a meeting in January at Wayne Community College. He also used the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend. "Everything's good right now," he said. "I can't complain." Sutton has future goals and plans to attend college to prepare for a career, possibly in business. Alexander has also asked Sutton to become a mentor in the MPI program. "I always kind of felt like things would work out," Sutton said. "You've just got to want it bad enough. What I've been through, what I made it through, I see myself doing pretty good right now, but things could have been a whole lot worse. "Anybody that was in my shoes, I highly recommend them getting in contact with Mr. Marvin. The pro- gram can do so much for you, help you get back on your feet. "I can understand it being hard when you first come home, especially if you don't have family or anybody to help you. So being with the program, it's like he's right there with you, going along with the stuff that you normally would go through by your- self, you've got him." The Mephibosheth Project, known as MPI, provides help to people com- ing out of prison and others on proba- tion or parole build a successful and stable life. MPI provides people with resources and help, including a sup- port network, social-skill training, opportunities for education and job preparation and help in finding stable grace Continued from page 6 Derrell Sutton sits in on the first day of class at MPI Project. At the table Continued from page 6

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