Charles was just 17 when he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. When he was released after 31 years, his felony record and lack of experience were both obstacles as he tried to find work. As someone with a criminal record, many people wouldn’t give him a chance, and Charles remembers that “a lot of doors get slammed in your face.” He eventually found a position in the painter’s union, but had to leave after a few months due to a knee injury. Charles then had to work part time while caring for his mother, who had recently had a stroke and been diagnosed with dementia.

However, his life changed when he heard of Constructing Hope. He graduated Tier 1 and immediately entered the carpenter’s union, getting dispatched to multiple construction firms and most recently Bremik. Though the COVID-19 pandemic forced Charles to take some time off, he did not let that slow him down. In the past year, he volunteered to take extra courses on welding, foreman’s leadership, and rigging and signaling. Inspired by his work remodeling Birch Community Services, Charles hopes to one day start his own business that caters specifically on non-profit contracting. He hopes to give back to his community, and “give other people the second chance that I got.” He continues to be engaged with Constructing Hope as an instructor and mentor, and hopes to hire directly from the program once he gets his new business off the ground. He says that graduates of the program “look out for one another” and give each other a leg up.

To Charles, Constructing Hope truly changed his life. “It’s huge. It gave me an in. It gave me an opportunity.” The program instilled a sense of work ethic, consistency, and competence that prepared Charles for his current career as a 7th term carpenter’s apprentice. He says that as a graduate of the program, he “has a lot of tools in my toolbox” and is grateful for all the support and training that Constructing Hope provided him.