In Bobby’s early 20s, he was arrested and incarcerated for 10 years for breaking and entering in his hometown in McCreary County. When he was released, the only things he had to his name were his prison jumpsuit and $72 in commissary money.

“I missed out on both my kids’ lives,” he said. “I have two kids. I was just tired of that lifestyle. The reward wasn’t worth the risk anymore.”

Bobby moved to Louisville and began living in a halfway house. That’s when his roommate told him about our Reintegrating Individuals Successfully Every Day (RISE) program.

He enrolled in the two-week RISE program and was given tools to reintegrate back into the workforce. He said he learned skills he didn’t know before being locked up at a young age, such as financial and digital skills.

“I just learned a lot from that program. It really benefitted me majorly. I didn’t have much experience with banking or phones. I have an iPhone 13 and I’m still figuring out how to work it,” he joked.

After Bobby graduated the RISE program, he was hired full time as a contractor and began earning more money than he ever had. By himself, he was able to purchase a bike, scooter and eventually a car to get him to and from work.

Bobby used the $300 stipend he earned through RISE to buy commercial contracting insurance to begin his own business. He earned contracts with six of the area’s largest banks. While working with a third party, he left an impression on its CEO, which resulted in another job offer as a renovations manager – all just a year and a half after being released from prison.

“There’s only one person above me,” he said. “And I have 10 (general contractors). I have a pretty big outfit that I’m over. I do all the inspections and appraisals for these houses. So, I went from $72 to owning a place. I have a brand-new truck and still have my other car.”

More importantly, Bobby now lives with one of his two kids, his son.

“I get the chance to spend time with him now,” he said. “He saw the change in me and wanted to move up here. That was a big thing. … He goes to school up here; he gets to go work with me. It’s an amazing experience.”

Bobby uses the skills he learned during his two weeks in the RISE program every day of his new job. He’s required to use technology to log his contracting work and is responsible for multiple personal and business banking accounts.

“I have like six apps I have to use,” he said. “A year and a half ago, I didn’t even know what an app was. There’s so much knowledge packed into two weeks, that if someone really wants to utilize it, they could. …

“You all have everything to offer if I’m willing to come get it. You all made sure I had food when I didn’t have it. You all made sure I had transportation when I didn’t have it. You all gave me every resource I needed. … There’s no reason for failure in that program.”

Bobby said RISE Program Manager Tina Ashby went out of her way on several occasions to make sure he was cared for. To help participants with transportation, RISE provides bus passes. Bobby wasn’t able to obtain his bus pass from Tina due to scheduling conflicts, so Tina delivered it to him.

“It’s little things like that, that makes you see that someone really cares about you – they’re not just in it for a paycheck. She’s definitely in it to do some change,” he said. “I really am grateful. You kind of feel awkward going into stuff like that anyways. … She takes that discomfort away. She really is there to better a person’s life. They just have to be willing.”

Bobby used to think we were no more than a for-profit thrift store. But thanks to the RISE program, he knows we are so much more than that.

“A year and a half ago, I was inmate 288185,” he said. “Today, because of the RISE program, I’m a renovations manager for all of Louisville and southern Indiana.”