(T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons) [Order this photo]
Jay Pope's dream, which began about seven years ago, has indeed been fulfilled. Yet, "Brother Jay" as he's affectionately known, continues to strive for more. When he opened his transitional home for men, he was thankful to have a tiny run-down city house in which his men could live.
Years later, Fresh Start Ministries lies on a gorgeous farm on which the men work as part of their rent. In addition, residents also take on various odd jobs for anyone who'll hire them, and spend many hours a day building beautiful wood art.
(T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)
Their latest mission is to raise enough funds to build a shop where they can build items for interested buyers. In turn, the program will earn the resources it needs to thrive.
"The wood work is really, really going good, but we need a shop," Pope said. "We make things like picnic tables, porch swings, picture frames, cornhold boards, custom furniture. Anything anyone wants, these guys can make."
Fresh Start Ministries is part of why Bro. Jay was placed on this Earth.
Only about seven out of 60 men who've passed through have true success stories, but that realism is OK with Bro. Jay.
"I'm not going to lie, those are the true numbers," he said. "But I love this ministry. It has changed my life, and that is what Fresh Start is about -- transforming lives."
Just one life transformed is enough.
When young men are released from jail or prison, they often have nowhere to go and end up in a cycle of addiction; more time in jail. Fresh Start is aimed to give these men a place to go; a place to change. All they have to do is pay a $150 entry fee and be willing to work, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Their days begin and end with Bible study, and in between, there's lots of work.
"I keep them very busy," Pope says. "I'm with them every step of the way."
Fresh Start is now an 18-month program. Currently, 11 men are in the program and Pope is happy to report two men are about to graduate.
(T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)
During their first 90 days in the program, the men work, but are not paid. Each day, one of these newbies is hooked up with Floyd. The products they make are sold with some of the profit being used to pay Floyd.
Once the guys are beyond 90 days, they've acquired a skill. They'll continue making wood art but will also do various other odd jobs, including: Firewood, small remodeling, yard work, gutter cleaning, day labor, pressure washing, landscaping and more.
When they get beyond 90 days, the men are paid, but they also have to pay rent.
Times are tight, Pope said, but the main thing is the program is still going, and it's working.
"God will bless us with what we need," Pope said. "We always get what we need. And if we're doing this for the money we're doing this for the wrong reason."
Pope is working to spread the word about what his men do. He insists his men are clean, and always supervised by a Fresh Start manager. Only those ready and appropriate are put on private jobs.
"This is my reputation on the line," said Pope.
At the forefront, Pope wants the community to know how well the woodwork business is going and how much the group needs a shop so they can expand.
Other sources of funding for Fresh Start comes from the annual Empty Bowls event, private donations and a small amount of state funding. The majority of funding comes from the work they do, Pope said.
The Fresh Start board is made of Pope, Bill Hornaday, Barnett Payne, Josh Young and Paul Demblow. Ron Obenauf and Frank Pagello.
Need firewood? The men at Fresh Start can help you stay warm. They take on various other odd jobs as well, in addition to building wood products to sell to community members.