Ex-convicts build for a cause in Sherman Park

Posted at 11:17 PM, Aug 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-17 00:27:00-04

In the wake of a destructive weekend for Sherman Park, we found an unlikely team of ex-convicts who are building for a cause.

Marsay Gentry spent six years in prison. 

Nikesha Bynum, a single mother of three, was recently homeless.

Now they're both construction site supervisors, tearing down abandoned homes and building new ones for people in need. All of the workers on their team have similar stories, and are in the process of rebuilding their lives. Their latest project is in Sherman Park.

"What I really like about this, is that I get a chance to brighten up the community, and give deserving families a good home," Gentry says. "I can ride down city streets with my kids and grandkids and tell them I helped build that house."

"There are so many people out here who think, because they have a criminal record, there's no hope," Bynum adds. "That they can't live, or make money an honest way, or find a job, or pursue a career, or become a business owner. But look, I'm doing it! It hasn't been easy, but I'm doing it."

They want that message to reach the young people who are struggling and lashing out. Especially after the rioting over the weekend halted construction.

"It stopped us from working and achieving our goals," Gentry says.

"We're hurting each other," Bynum adds. "The only answer is to start coming together. A lot of these kids have a lot of pent up emotion that they don't know how to release in a more positive way. To look at these things that are happening, while we're trying to rebuild and help, is difficult."

Despite the frustration, they're out in the community every day working hard and setting an example. Trying to build a more solid foundation, in more ways than one.

"We've been through a lot, but we were able to change our lives," Gentry says. "These kids who feel there's no way out can do that too. We all need to get back to respecting each other. It's like so many of us have forgotten how to love and be there for one another. You really can prosper if you just put your mind and heart to it."

Their job training and other assistance came from Northcott Neighborhood House. They graduate from their construction program this weekend. Many already have jobs lined up, or plan to pursue more education and certification.

Get more information on Northcott Neighborhood House here.

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