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Pueblo program helps ex-prisoners, others rejoin workforce

December 29, 2018

PUEBLO, Colo. (AP) — After leaving the correctional system, Alexander Guytan said being accepted into a local halfway house was the first step to a new life.

“I didn’t know anybody out here in Colorado but it was something new,” Guytan said. “A chance for me to start over.”

A critical part of beginning anew, however, is securing stable employment with a living wage.

And with a criminal record, Guytan quickly discovered the challenge he was facing wasn’t going to be an inconsequential one.

“I was having real difficulty finding a job,” Guytan explained. “There’s not a lot of people willing to give someone with a record another chance.”

Grady’s Food Service and Equipment and Supplies, and Colorado ReHire, however, are.

Colorado ReHire is a transitional employment program that assists those with barriers to employment re-enter the workforce and in turn, become productive and contributing members of society, the Pueblo Chieftain reported .

Administered locally by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pueblo, the grant-funded endeavor subsidizes the first three months’ wages for each client placed with an employer partner. After this trial period, an employer has the option of bringing the worker on board for full-time employment.

Since August 2017, when the recently expanded Grady’s Food Service and Equipment and Supplies agreed to be a host site for ReHire, owners Paul and Luke Gradishar and Jamie Arguello have accepted 14 clients, nine of whom eventually earned a spot on Grady’s payroll at an average wage of $13 per hour.

Today, six of those men and women are grateful and productive full-time members of Grady’s expansive team.

In appreciation of Grady’s commitment to the program, Pam Barola, ReHire coach, and Evie Harris, business liaison, recently presented the owners with a plaque of appreciation for the invaluable role the business continues to play in offering the difficult-to-employ a chance to prove themselves in the workplace and in turn, life.

It is, according to Arguello, a mutually beneficial partnership.

“When we discovered the ReHire program, we immediately wanted to become involved in hopes of providing great jobs to community members in need,” Arguello said. “To give back to a community that’s given us so much. And the men and women we have brought on board through ReHire have given us as much as we give them, if not more.

“I think sometimes people have unfortunate things that happen in their life, and they might be overlooked for some opportunities. Or they just might be down on their luck and might need a chance. And these ReHire participants have shown me just how blessed I am. They are amazing people, incredibly hard workers. And they inspire me every day and motivate the rest of the staff to work even harder, because they are so driven and grateful for everything.”

Kimberly Drew, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities, said Grady’s has readily, and without judgment, allowed ReHire clients to prove their worth and value.

“Grady’s has been exceptionally supportive of providing work experiences to Catholic Charities participants who are single parents, as well as participants who are felons,” Drew explained. “Many business won’t give felons a chance. But given the opportunity to prove they want to better their lives, full-time employment greatly improves their self-esteem and reduces recidivism.”

Guytan learned of ReHire through the Pueblo Workforce Center. There, he met and was eventually interviewed by Pam Barola before being accepted into the program and placed at Grady’s.

It’s an open door Guytan has made the most of.

“I’ve been here at Grady’s since July,” Guytan said. “I submit bids through the office, hopefully getting us business from throughout the country and soon, internationally. This opportunity is the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time.

“It’s completely turned my life around. I’m out of the halfway house. I’ve got a house. And it’s been a couple years since I’ve had my kids but I’m getting them back in May. And that’s as a result of my employment here and all the help I’ve received from Jaime and Catholic Charities.”

Like Guytan, Reese Davis ran afoul of the law and was in a halfway house when he learned about ReHire.

“I knew I had messed up but I still had hope,” said Davis, who works in Grady’s voluminous warehouse. “My case manager told me about Catholic Charities and here I am today. Absolutely, they’ve given me a second chance, because it’s very difficult for someone coming out of incarceration to find a job. Without ReHire and Grady’s, I’d probably still be struggling, maybe working fast food or something.

“This is a lot better for me. And I’m very thankful for Catholic Charities and Grady’s and appreciate everything they do for me. And I’ll keep working hard for them.”

Not all ReHire clients have a criminal background. Some are simply having difficulty finding employment, whether because of age, physical challenges, custodial issues or other circumstances.

In Anthony Patterson’s case, it’s a facial tattoo he says has absolutely nothing to do with the gang life.

“Because of my whole tattoo thing, I was having problems finding a good job,” Patterson said. “There’s a lot of discrimination. I did it (facial tattoo) a couple years ago because of my music — it stands for Abandon Records — and a lot of people think it’s gang-related and what not.”

There was, however, no judgment or profiling on the part of both Catholic Charities and Grady’s.

“They just told me to stay busy and don’t mess up,” Patterson said. “And it’s been non-stop work, which is good. They keep me busy in the warehouse all the time. Because of ReHire and Grady’s, I know have some hope, and I’m going to work hard to show that they made the right choice in hiring me.”

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Information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, http://www.chieftain.com

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