LANCASTER – Having spent more than half his life behind bars, 58-year-old parolee Richard Washington said he was committed to making a positive change.
“I used to not know how to be free, but now I like being free and I don’t want to go back,” he said.
Ryan Henry, a recovering substance abuser, said he too was committed to turning things around.
“I have not had a drink of alcohol since December 28,” Henry said. “I need to start my life over and become a person of society, to be a better person all around.”
Washington and Henry took important steps toward their goals Tuesday morning. The men were among the hundreds of attendees who took advantage of a Community Resource Fair in Lancaster sponsored by Paving the Way Foundation.
“The people who are here are either on parole, probation, out of work, or [have had problems with] drugs and alcohol,” said Janie Hodge, Executive Director at Paving the Way Foundation. “This is a reentry environment. Our focus is on helping people get back into society.”
Tuesday’s Community Resource Fair featured about 20 organizations and government agencies offering information on everything from expungement assistance and job training to housing assistance and social service programs. The idea was to offer a one-stop shop for ex-offenders looking to reintegrate into society or for residents simply looking to get back on their feet, Hodge said.
“Unfortunately, in the times that we live, you don’t have to have been in prison to need to get back,” Hodge said. “You might have lost your job and couldn’t find one for the last two years… We’re giving everyone an opportunity to get some help.”
The Fair was the first of its kind for Paving the Way, and the event drew an estimated 300 attendees, Hodge said.
“I did not have a clue that it was going to be this kind of turnout,” she added. “We hope to be doing this at least once a month.”
For more information on Paving the Way Foundation or if you would like to be notified about the next Community Resource Fair, contact 661-339-2733 or visit www.pavingthewayfd.com.