-- A Kansas woodworking shop offers hope to felons, recovering addicts and the homeless by giving them work when no one else in the community would hire them.
Sun Cedar started in the wood-shop garage of Shine Adams, the founder and CEO, when he hired a friend who has had trouble with the law in the past and found that no one would hire him because of his record.
"When he got out of prison, he called me up and he told me he was having a hard time getting work because of his recent prison experience, so I told him that he could come work for me," Adams told ABC News today. "That's the beginning of a beautiful story. Then he had me as a reference, and he had some extra confidence when he went out to speak to prospective employers."
Sun Cedar's mission for criminal justice reform has recently gained a lot of attention on social media, and it has launched a GoFundMe page to support its rapid growth with the hope of expanding its training and counseling programs.
Workers are treated with dignity, offered fair wages, and equipped with skills to get them back on their feet, Adams said.
Finding a job after coming out of prison can prove extremely difficult, and a lack of work opportunity can result in people heading back to jail. In a survey taken across 15 states, over two-thirds of released prisoners were re-arrested within three years, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Sun Cedar has hired about 20 at-risk individuals since it began almost two years ago, Adams said. "Most people stay for about 3 months and then that is all they really need on their resume in order to go forward in their life."
Sun Cedar has also partnered with community groups, including the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, and offers support such as 12-step programs and GED tutoring.
Abraham White Weasel, the shop superintendent at Sun Cedar, said he was formerly homeless and struggled with alcoholism before he started working at Sun Cedar about a year and a half ago. Weasel grew up mostly in foster care and on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. In the past, his alcohol addiction has landed him in jail, and when he got out of jail, he applied to countless jobs but no one called him back, he said.
"Sun Cedar helped me get out of being homeless. It helped me pay off all of my legal fines," Weasel told ABC News. "It gave me another chance. ... Nobody was going to give me a chance at all."