Two-time felon and ex-drug dealer Greg Miller broke free from a culture of crime and is determined to help as many former felons as he can get living wage jobs and be successful.
"I have a passion for the adversities I see young men go through when they get home from prison, but if we create our own jobs and help each other and employ each other, maybe we can come up," said Miller, founder and owner of Brilliant Paint & Construction Co. and executive director of the nonprofit People United Living Love Inc.
It's been seven years since he got out of prison. Since then the 35-year old father and grandfather has founded two businesses. The first, Slip and Glide car wash, he gave to a family friend. At Brilliant Paint & Construction Co. he hires ex-felons and former gang members. He has landed contracts with the Chattanooga Housing Authority, Chattanooga government and businesses throughout the city.
Last week he hired four people, including three ex-felons, to paint and repair a water-damaged ceiling at Country Inn & Suites motel in Lookout Valley.
Mark Wimbush, 23, who has spent time in prison, said he appreciates having opportunity to work.
"He helped me take care of myself so I could pay bills, get my own house. Basically he gave me a job, what somebody else wouldn't do," Wimbush said.
And 32-year-old Philex Gordon, a former gang member, said working for Miller keeps him away from negativity.
"I want to be a family man," Gordon said. "I want to stay away from violence, robbery, doing drugs. I'm leaving all of that behind."
Miller credits God with putting him in position to secure the painting contracts. He said he also believes his experience as a former drug seller allowed him to be familiar and comfortable around people with money.
When Miller isn't working on his business he's working with other men in People United Living Love Inc., a six-week job training program aimed at mentoring and educating ex-prisoners to help them get GEDs and jobs.
"We want to help the people who wouldn't get no help, the people who have been looked over," said Miller.
PULL board member and retired Chattanooga police detective Napoleon "Donut" Williams said the group wants to help people get jobs.
"We've got a list of 83 companies who will hire people with felonies," Williams said. "We are trying to give people a second chance."
Miller dropped out of Dalewood Middle School at age 11. He was in the same class as Grammy Award-winning singer Usher Raymond, but while Usher was singing in class, Miller was sleeping, he said.
He started selling crack while living in East Lake Courts. By age 16 he had his own apartment. He went to prison for the first time at 21 in 2000 and again in 2006. He was released 10 months later and has no plans to return.
"There is nothing about that lifestyle that interest me," he said. "Now I want to wake up every day with my wife and my kids. That is priceless and I wouldn't trade it for nothing."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at email@example.com or 423-757-6431.