Released from prison in 2008 after 14 years of incarceration, Harlem resident Richard Bonner has overcome enormous odds to further his education, succeed at work, and provide for his family.
"You have to be willing to push yourself"
After coming home from prison, Richard quickly teamed up with a volunteer from our Financial Coaching Corps, who then referred him to CSS's mentor program emphasizing career placement and education. He also completed our Next Door Project's record repair program. "You have to be willing to push yourself," he said. "I want to do all I need to do for my family."
Richard was soon on the job as a kitchen worker, before graduating first in his class from a rigorous culinary training program. Meanwhile, the volunteer business coach he worked with through CSS helped him create a marketing plan for his hand-made crafts. He faced obstacles and a brutal schedule, but kept at it. "I saw there are people who really do care and want to help."
When we first met Richard Bonner, he said: "I've got so many goals--establishing myself financially, then creating my own business." By Spring 2012, Richard had made huge strides--working two demanding jobs, one as a full-time chef at Project Renewal, an organization that assists homeless men and women suffering from addiction and/or mental illness. Richard has also been busy as a freelance dessert chef and continues to fill orders for his hand-crafted toys.
To other formerly incarcerated New Yorkers learning to re-integrate back into their family lives and communities, Richard says: "In today's society, there are people trying to keep us from advancing. It's up to you to have the determination to succeed."