Monday, March 8, 2010

Homeboy Industries

Recently I was hit with a traffic ticket (ugh) and was assigned community service to pay the fine. Because the Catholic Worker is not registered with the government as a tax-exempt nonprofit (see second half of this post), I could not do my hours at my normal "job" (which is itself a community service). So I chose Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit I only knew a little about. The most I knew was that a branch of Homeboy makes all the T-shirts and keychains for the LACW.

I learned much about the nonprofit in my four Mondays there. It's a gang intervention program and much more. Here's a little snippet from the "history" section of their website.

Homeboy Industries traces its roots to “Jobs For A Future” (JFF), a program created in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle while he was serving as pastor of Dolores Mission parish in Boyle Heights. Begun as a jobs program in 1988, offering alternatives to gang violence in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, the program soon grew beyond the parish.
With the addition of a small bakery in a run-down warehouse across the street from Dolores Mission, JFF had its own business, one where it could hire the most challenging, difficult to place young people in a safe environment. The hope was that they could learn both concrete and soft job skills, to make them stronger, better prepared candidates for permanent employment. A tortilla stand in Grand Central Market downtown solidified the evolution of JFF into Homeboy Industries.

Today was my last day of community service at Homeboy, and I was a little sad for it. I feel like I just started to get to know the place, in its many facets, and the great group of people who work there. I heard a testimony of one of the homeboys this morning, who told his life story with passion. It's still "therapeutic" for him, he told the group of white students he was leading on a tour of the huge Homeboy headquarters. He spoke of his childhood and his journey from there to gang-banging, in and out of jail and, eventually, to Homeboy Industries, where he was offered a job and a chance to change his life around. It was an inspiring story, to say the least. But Brian is just one of the hundreds of such stories to be heard at Homeboy. Kudos to the work of Father Boyle.

There are so many issues, so much pain in the world. What can we do to make some kind of small difference where we have the chance?

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