Giving back this time of year is prolific – and there are so many people, organizations, and non-profits that welcome your time, energy, support and dedication to their cause. This season I have been privileged, honored and humbled by joining HSBC Bank (Los Angeles office) on Friday, November 30, 2018 at Homeboy Industries. This organization, started thirty years ago by Father Greg Boyle, provides hope, training and support to former gang members and previously incarcerated men and women striving to reintegrate themselves into the community. Their journey isn’t an easy one. However, the love and kindness coupled with the training offered at Homeboy Industries strives to bolster their journey with the tools needed for success. As Father G has shared in his writings, society often labels these individuals as “demonized”, yet getting to know these men and women, I didn’t feel that way at all. I was moved by their candor, honesty and struggles to want a better life, a safe place to call home and a job as a contributing member of society. They are inspiring young people in my eyes and I am a better human being for meeting and spending the day with them. Walking in their shoes is difficult, for they are fighting battles daily and working hard to train, educate and reshape how they respond to triggers that were destructive for them in the past.
Listening to their personal stories, the odds stacked against them and the progress they continue to make with training, education, jobs and lots of kindness is a testament to each and every person I met on Friday. It is also a testament to the Homeboy Industries program designed by Father G and his team. The training curriculum offered to all members is comprehensive. Courses such as anger management, art therapy, parenting, legal support, education, yoga, mindfulness, job training, etc. continue to prove the model works.
HSBC Bank (Los Angeles office) spent half a day at Homeboy Industries headquarters, located in downtown Los Angeles. The day started off with Father G. speaking to us, a tour of the organization by the community members, decoration of a 15 ft. holiday tree and culminated with a lunch prepared by the Homegirl Catering team members on location.
Our guides gave us a tour of the facility, an overview of the training provided on-site, and resources provided to folks working to turn their life around. Our tour guides, both named Ricardo, shared their personal stories, their struggles and commitment to becoming contributing members of the community, again. Personally, I was humbled by their honesty and at times moved to tears understanding the harrowing experiences they shared with our group.
Father G, founded this organization approximately 30 years ago, with the purpose of providing a safe place for these folks to redirect their lives. In my words, giving these folks a second, third or fourth chance to get on the right track!
Known by his community as Father G, this remarkable man inspires hope to people often labeled as demons of society. Yet, surrounded by hope, kindness, jobs and resources, this organization is about upholding dignity and hope for every individual that passes its threshold.
Let’s face it, looking beyond the jail time, tattoos, and mistakes these individuals have made in their life isn’t an easy ask. Yet, these folks spoke to us with confidence about the infrastructure that exists for them, no matter what they’ve done in the past and how many times they may fall, again. During our tour at Homeboy Industries last Friday, I asked our tour guide, Ricardo,”how do gangs entice you or influence you to join their ranks?” Richardo’s response, “that is the million dollar question we are trying to answer”. He then shared that his norm was a gang on every street corner and surmised that wasn’t the case for me. He was right. In the meantime, their investment of time, energy and hard work with Homeboy Industries gives them a path to becoming contributing members of society.
This experience reminded me that these young men and women are brave in so many ways: telling their own stories, sharing details about their missteps, their homelessness, their incarceration, their climb back to a good place, a healthy place, a safe place. They shared their personal journeys, their harrowing stories, and their love for Father G. and all that he represents to them.
Interested in learning more? Visit https://www.homeboyindustries.org/
How can you help? Check out the list of social enterprises that provide opportunities to the men and women at Homeboy Industries:
- Recycle with homeboyrecycling.com– Your donation impacts a life!
- Silkscreen & Embroidery – custom designed apparel, pens, mugs and more created for teams, churches, schools, businesses and other groups.
- Support Homegirl Cafe (LA locals)
- Buy Homeboy breads, pastries and cakes baked by hand daily at 130 W. Bruno, Street, Los Angeles, CA.
- Homegirl Catering – next event, contact Homegirl catering and have the team prepare gourmet dinners or sandwich platters.
Each time you support one of these social enterprises, you are letting the women and men of Homeboy Industries you believe in their ability to redirect their lives.
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