What: New Life Job Fair
Where: American Job Center, Eastgate Town Center, 5600 Brainerd Road
When: Thursday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
More info: Call 423-643-6702 to confirm your attendance
Convicted felons and ex-offenders have the opportunity once again this week to hit the restart button by participating in the New Life Job Fair.
The event, sponsored by the city of Chattanooga, the American Job Center and Father to the Fatherless, is held twice a year for those looking for a way to re-enter society by putting in the work with a new career.
"The job fair is an opportunity for us to serve those who have made past mistakes," said Troy Rogers, the city's public safety coordinator. "It allows us and our partners to give back to young people who may have not been exposed to the best Chattanooga has to offer."
Those in attendance Thursday, the first day, will be taught how to prepare resumes, dress professionally and interview effectively. They also will have access to free haircuts and clothing for job interviews the next day.
Like many of the other community partners and advocates involved in the event, Rogers believes it is essential to support those who have been involved in past criminal activity by offering a helping hand in love so they can transition into a more productive lifestyle.
"The two-day event is filled with love, hope and opportunity. I am blessed to be able to work with the community on such a great endeavor," Rogers said. "We will continue to get better, as these events are for citizens who sometimes feel hopeless about their record and/or life."
Rogers said the private prison industry made $81 billion in 2016, saying that total highlighted the scale of the problems associated with having a large, incarcerated population.
"When you peel that back, you see prisons full of people who were in poverty, fatherless, illiterate or struggling with some form of mental illness. We want to turn their mess into a message and encourage participants to share their story to help and motivate others," he said.
One of the men who attended last year has taken that mission to heart.
Dwight Turner Jr. said he got a job with Two Men and a Truck because of the resources offered at the job fair.
"The experience humbled me to never give up and to know that people are really here to help and be a blessing," he said. "It helped me to build the confidence to never hold myself back as well as to never look back. I had a business plan, so it helped me to prepare for the future as far as building a savings account, remain consistent, and to thrive off of my ambition."
"If you put your mind to it, know it can be done. You get what you put in. Life is a privilege, so it makes you value it that much more."
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.