In early September, Brian was referred to the 49-9 Project by the Lorain County Job and Family Services Office. He had just been released from Toledo Correctional Institution after serving over 20 years and was completely overwhelmed by his new freedom. As is typical for newly released individuals, he felt as though he had to do everything immediately to try to blend back into society. We counseled him to take a “deep breath” and become acclimated to life on the outside while prioritizing his steps to successful reintegration. Together we created such a list, and Brian left the office with that list, a voucher for groceries and a voucher to The Salvation Army Thrift Store in Avon, OH for clothing and household items. He also left with a promise to stay in contact and we agreed to meet in two weeks to follow up.
Brian came to the follow up meeting with good news in that he had purchased clothing and food with the vouchers, and was working through his list. He also came with frustration because his job search was being hindered by a lack of transportation. As we talked, he mentioned that while many prospective employers were not in walking distance, they could be reached with a bicycle. We took Brian to a local discount store and purchased him a mountain bike to help in his job search. One of the most meaningful moments in the first year of The 49-9 Project was watching Brian drive the bike in circles in the driveway of the friends’ home where he was staying. He had the smile of a little child at Christmas. At that moment we realized we had not only given him hope, but happiness that had been missing for the past 20 plus years.
Within a week, Brian had used the bicycle to find seasonal employment at a local orchard and rode it there every day to pick apples. During this time, we also purchased him a prepaid cell phone and one month’s service so he could continue to look for more stable employment. He found a temporary job at a steel plant in Mansfield, OH and moved there with another friend, riding his bike to and from the job. As that position wound down, he was able to find a full time position at an auto body shop in Lakewood, OH. He had saved enough money to find an apartment within walking/riding distance of the shop and has established himself in that community.
Brian is doing well, but still has moments of doubt and stress. He will sometimes contact me for reassurance, or just to stay in touch. He regularly tells me I am his “angel” and made sure to call and wish me a Merry Christmas.