Youth community re-entry program reaches Mecklenburg County

LOC Family Services is a community and faith based reentry organization out of Farmville that began in 2018 and is funded by the Department of Justice. The overall goal of the organization is to help individuals returning back into the community after incarceration.

The new HYPE Program (Helping Youth Persevere Everyday) is a grant funded program through the Department of Labor and was received through the National Restaurant Association Foundation, which utilizes the HOPE program model to include community-based resources. “We were able to select Charlotte Courthouse and Mecklenburg County specifically for this grant due to the fact that we had to pull data from the U.S. Census and the areas had to be at a poverty level of 25% of higher. Way to go Charlotte Courthouse and Mecklenburg County for filling out the census. It really helps with getting funding for programs like this,” said Founder of the LOC Family Program, Shelley Mays-Couch. 

With this program services will be provided for juveniles and justice-involved youth between the ages of 18 and 24 years of age, both male and female. The program provides case management services, assists with emergency services, and pays for job specific certifications. HYPE can also assist with job placement through a partnership with Virginia Career Works.

Leland Davidson added, “We’re also hoping that this grant will mitigate a stigma that a lot of people have. If you’re 18 and have been in trouble with the law then your ‘no good’ or have ‘no motivation’. With this grant and our program and building trust with not only the community but also the businesses in hospitality and culinary arts. This could prove that past mistakes should not control you and that these individuals should be given the opportunity to be better when trying to reenter society.”

To be eligible, individuals have to be residents of Mecklenburg County or Charlotte Courthouse, at least 18 to 24 years old, a high school dropout or currently involved or has been involved with the juvenile system, has never been convicted of a sex crime other than prostitution, or is returning to or resides within the census tracts identified for each affiliate. “Only 10% of participants can be high school dropouts with no justice involvement. The goal is to have at least 50 participants in this program but the more the merrier. We will be able to receive more funding for the program and its participants,” said Mays-Couch.

So why focus on hospitality and culinary institutions to help the program’s participants? Restaurant careers are accessible and foodservice operations careers do not require a high school diploma, GED, licensure or certification. Restaurants need a well-trained workforce, as nearly 1 million unfilled jobs currently exist in the restaurant industry. Restaurants are integral parts of the community and the industry currently employs 15.3 million people and is expected to add 1.6 million jobs over the next decade.

“Our motto is; ‘It takes a community to build a family but it takes a family to build an individual’,” said Mays-Couch.