CEO and Founder of Operation New Hope Kevin Gay started the organization in 1999 with a vision of revitalizing and remodeling communities throughout Jacksonville.
What began as a project to provide affordable housing, became a platform to reduce recidivism and give ex-offenders a shot at leading fulfilling and productive lives after incarceration.
“I wanted to start a new design on community development by building quality affordable housing. In the same instance, I used the building of those houses as an opportunity to create jobs,” Gay said.
ONH has revamped community service into a new avenue; welcoming ex-offenders and giving them insight on the value of channeling negative past experiences into service among their communities, families and themselves.
“Back when we started with housing, we were helping people get jobs and realized about 80 percent of them were struggling with the fact they had been arrested and couldn’t get employment,” Gay said.
ONH has partnered with about 300 companies in Jacksonville including banks, hotels, warehouses, restaurants and more to hire participants from their financial-literate workforce readiness program.
The organization has a mission that stems from case management, life coaching, job training and job placement assistance. Gay believes focusing on these four areas is sure to help participants lead normal lives.
The Operation New Hope Boutique offers clothing, hygiene products and more to ex-offenders who are in need.
“We`ve designed a model that has allowed us to wrap as many great resources as we can,” Gay said. “Every one of our clients end up having a team of a case manager, job coach and life coach to help them navigate after coming out of jail or prison.”
ONH has also started a Break the Cycle program for the children of ex-offenders; projecting growth of families affected.
“The program was an idea that came from some of our staff being children of ex-offenders themselves. It became evident to me that a lot of the challenges that the young people are having are from their parents being incarcerated,” Gay said.
Participants of the Ready4Work program are expected to complete an assessment. The study provides information and feedback on what assets need to be rebuilt.
Qualifications for entry into the Ready4Work program include for applicants to be at least 16-years-old with no habitual violent or sexual charges. If admitted into the program, participants need to be available for a four to five-week training period Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Daily lunch and weekly stipends are provided for all participants. Those who are interested in enrolling in the program can find information at www.operationnewhope.org or by calling 904-354-4673. Donations and volunteers are welcomed to utilize the same contact information.
“Our success has been remarkable. We have been able to reduce recidivism. Being able to build a picture of what hope looks like is very important to us,” Gay said.