Spotlight on Blue Jacket and it’s beauty (part two of two)

| June 8, 2016
Jeanie Summerville

Jeanie Summerville

By Jeanie Summerville

What’s up, babies?

Are you enjoying this awesome weather we’re having?  Of course you are and it feels so good.  On that note, we recap part one of our visit with Blue Jacket. You met Tony Hudson who’s the Executive Director of Blue Jacket that’s located at 2826 S. Calhoun St., here in Fort Wayne and, you learned that Blue Jacket was created in 2003 to provide education, training and opportunities to any disadvantaged person who is striving to earn a second chance at gainful employment—because a second chance is everybody’s business.  And, you also learned that within the first module at Career Academy, they spend a lot of time training people to be the best job seekers and to be the best employee as well.  So at this time all we’d like for you to do is just enjoy as you learn more about the uniqueness of Blue Jacket from Tony including the organization’s garden project, and meet two Blue Jacket graduates:

Kevin Kelly on left and Jonta Powell stand in Blue Jacket's clothing store.

Kevin Kelly on left and Jonta Powell stand in Blue Jacket’s
clothing store.

“Hello, Frost Illustrated readers.  My name is Tony Hudson and the garden like everything else, was inherited on this one acre campus when it was donated to us from the AWS Foundation and the gardens have been very productive the last four years that we’ve been here.  We’ve had garden markets, we’ve had farmers markets where people actually sell the produce and this year is a low maintenance rebuilding year and we’re just going to harvest gourds and pumpkins and we hope to give them away to the community at harvest time in late August or late September.  The gardens have been open to some high school students and there are homeless veterans that want to work in the gardens because of its therapeutic value and it’s always been part of our desire to make those gardens beautiful.  Also, it provides a good therapeutic release for not only someone from the community but for our students, graduates and staff.  

Our Clothing Company has well over 25,000 items right now and we primarily moved from our old location because we ran out of space for our clothing bank.  Ten or 11 years ago, part of our design was to provide free clothes to the men and women who came to our training.We always have and always will.  The sales of the clothes, which primarily are professional business casual clothes, pays for two things—the employment training for our Blue Jacket graduates and our free clothing bank to our Blue Jacket students.  We are open to the public Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday’s from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  

“And, now I’d like to share why the Art Gallery showcased Second Chances at Artlink was necessary.  I serve on Artlink’s board of directors and we we’re looking for a way to partner and I realized that our biggest deficit at Blue Jacket was telling stories and I thought there’s no better way to tell a story of redemption than through the eyes of an artist.  So, I worked with Artlink staff, we formed a sub committee and had a gorgeous exhibit on March 11, 2016.  There were 13 local artist and 13 graduates of Blue Jacket that were divinely matched to exhibit their stories of heartbreak, heartache and how they gained it back.  But, the artist found that their biggest barrier was for them to quickly learn the graduates at Blue Jacket story in the amount of time they had because it was some pretty deep material that they had to exhibit on a painting, drawing or on a sculpture.  The most exciting thing for the artist was to be able to overcome the amount of time they had to get to know someone relatively different.  So, I think some of them still have really unique bonds to this day and the students were very proud of being able to exhibit the fact that they made some mistakes in the past and here’s what they’ve  done to make themselves whole again, which is awesome. We hope to do this every year as one of our fundraisers.

“Blue jacket went through a difficult financial time like with most nonprofits do and we’re still not out of the woods.  But, I think we’re resolved to the fact that we’re doing the right thing, we are headed in the right direction. We won’t get distracted as easily. God has blessed this organization and we know it, so we don’t have fear or worry.  The neat thing is, we are fundraising to fund our Career Academy because we don’t charge anyone at all and at this time we’re also serving more homeless, more mentally ill and younger individuals.  We also have the highest employment rate we’ve ever had since we started because, by faith, we stepped out and said, ‘We’re not going to be government-funded, we’re going to do this on our own.’  That was a very hard decisions but it’s going to pay benefits to this community in the next 10 to 15 years.  Because the staff, we are strong and the majority of the staff have been here at least 75 percent of its life and the board is strong and they understand their role and they are very committed to the cause.”                                 

“Hello, Frost Illustrated readers.  My name is Kevin Kelly. I’m a 2012 graduate and I think Blue Jacket is a phenomenal program.  It’s a group of people that are genuinely interested in helping others and everybody here is willing to go the extra mile to help you do whatever your willing to do and I think that’s a great benefit.  I also think it’s a great benefit because they helped me with humility.  Having a criminal background, was something I had to deal with and I had to learn to take everything one step at a time, put it all together and present myself the best way possible.  

“And, I recommend people to come here if they have a criminal background or if they’re having any type of trouble trying to gain employment because there’s probably something that they’re missing and Blue Jacket has a lot of different tools and possibly the right key to help them get over that hump.  I was in the older program that lasted a month and I got placed pretty quickly and I’m on my third job now.  Each job has gotten better with more responsibility, more pay, more knowledge and more skill sets.  

“The advice I’d like to give to our youth is, take those three seconds and not do whatever stupid thing you were thinking about doing and then you won’t have to be put in a situation where you have to deal with a background.  But, as far as Blue Jacket is concerned, if anybody crosses that bridge and you do have a background or employment issues, then come here with an open mind because this place is what you put into it is what you get out of it. They have a great support network with a lot of people.  So, if you have your head on right and you want to reach for the stars, they may have the rocket ship to back you up and get you there.  I still come back to volunteer sometimes when I can because that’s how much I believe in Blue Jacket and the group of people here.”

“Hello, Frost Illustrated readers.  My name is Jonta Powell. I’m also a 2012 graduate and I think Blue Jacket has a nice impact on the community and the impact it has done in my life, as well as, people that I know that came through Blue Jacket has been very positive.  I watched everybody that actually came through this program change in significant ways for the better and we didn’t go back to doing the same things we were doing before we came to this program. So, this program was a blessing in our lives—in mine’s especially because I was bad but now I hear from friends and people who are actually still doing the things I use to do, that they’re proud of me and how I’ve changed because the person I am today, you would never thought I would be some six or seven years ago.  I graduated four years ago and I’m entirely different.

“Actually, going through the program and getting the tools that they were giving me convinced me, that maybe, I can be different and change a little bit. And then about two weeks into it, I was all the way committed and I wanted to actually do something different and try that for a change instead of getting back out and doing the same thing.  Because, I have kids and I knew I needed something to change for me and my teachers here at Blue Jacket were always there in the classroom hands on, helping me and it gave me a comfortable feeling because they understood what I was going through, they understood my background and they wanted me to overcome.  They showed me how to be different in the world and they didn’t look at me different.  They didn’t judge me at all and they looked at me as if I was one of them.  So, being comfortable turned me in a different direction and I wanted to see things through their eyes and see how life is on the other side of the tunnel and I changed.

“The advice I’d like to give to our youth is, I’ve been down that criminal road, I’ve been to places and kept bumping my head and I don’t want anybody to go down that road.  I took the harder road and when I say it’s hard, it really is hard but it may look easy and fun. But when you get caught and go to prison or something like that, it’s not fun anymore.  It’s actually real and I would encourage people to go to school and try to get the education they deserve and need to get out here and don’t take the hard way and bump your head.  Don’t take the road that I had to go through to meet somebody like Tony to change me into this direction.  You got free will to do it on your own.  I feel like everybody need to just take the world that they have and choose the right way.”                     

Tony also had this to say:

“This program works for the best when they’re convicted in their own heart that they want to do what is right for themselves, what’s right for their families and what’s right for their employer.  If they’re not convicted, this program doesn’t matter so, they have to have the mindset going into it, that ‘I want to do it!’  They may have a few hiccups along the way and stumble a few times but we’re with you for life.  We’re not with you for a program for a few—weeks we’re with you for life.  So if they stumble, we’re here; if they need help, we’re here—for life.”

Now in closing I say, fantastic job, everybody.  To Kevin and Jonta, I’m so proud of you guys and to Tony and Blue Jacket, thank you for changing lives for the betterment of mankind.  So until next week, you’ve been Up Close with Jeanie.  Bye bye, babies.  

P.S.  If you’d like The Spotlight shined upon you or someone you know, all in the name of love,  just send me an e-mail to upclosewithjeanie@yahoo.com.  I’d love to hear from you.

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Category: Community, Consumer, Features, Local, People, Spiritual Matters

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