"Honestly, it's keeping me on the right track," said Ruben Vasquez, a Fresh Start carpenter.
"I have been out of work for quite a while before I found Fresh Start," explained Orlando Poventuv, who is also a Fresh Start carpenter.
Fresh Start is a Hartford-based non-profit in the Asylum Hill neighborhood that started in May 2015. Its concept builds quality furniture for the community while also building the community up.
"I build whatever the clients want, from tables to chairs to outdoor furniture," said Poventuv.
The organization hires those who have faced discrimination and are in marginalized communities.
"It's not one category of person, but they have had barriers in front of them that were trying to help them overcome," explained Richard Carman, the Executive Director of Fresh Start.
Carman explained that Fresh Start hires people recovering from addiction, battling poverty, or coming to Connecticut for the first time as refugees. He said there were about five full-time employees when the organization first started, and that number has since doubled.
"Pricing is structured so that we can be a midpoint on those levels of entry wages," said Carman. "And that seems to be able to give them that start that they need."
On top of ensuring their employees have livable wages, Carman said there's Fresh Start Academy, a course that teaches carpentry skills and helps graduates get real honorable employment.
When the academy first started in 2021, there was a handful of students. Carman emphasized that they have grown to about 50-60 people and are dramatically scaling up and have many people set to go through the program.
Vasquez went through the program and moved on to become a carpenter on the Fresh Start team. He said each day is a reminder of growth, opportunity, and second chances.
"My life is different today from when I was younger, so I feel like it has helped me stay on the right track," said Vasquez.
"This is a model of showing what they can do and what they can provide back to the community," added Carman.
Carman said Fresh Start Academy added field carpentry to its curriculum to help people achieve employment with partnering organizations and receive excellent wages after they graduate from the program.
Click here for more information about Fresh Start.
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