Announcement, News, Press Release

GreenLight Brings Center for Employment Opportunities to Charlotte

Sep 24, 2020


Providing Reentry Opportunities and Successful Transitions Through Workforce Partnerships

Charlotte, NC – September 24, 2020 – GreenLight Fund Charlotte announces its second investment, bringing the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) to Charlotte. CEO, which started in New York City in the 1970s and is now in 30 sites across 11 states, meets a community-identified need for second chance employment by offering individuals just coming home from prison the ongoing reentry support necessary to build career capital and financial stability. In partnership with the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and Bojangles, CEO began enrolling participants and providing immediate work opportunities through their transitional work crews in September. The program is set to reach nearly 800 returning citizens in Charlotte-Mecklenburg by 2024.

GreenLight Fund Charlotte Executive Director Carrie Cook spearheaded this investment opportunity. Cook said, “There is an urgent need for justice and jobs in our communities, especially communities of color. CEO, alongside local reentry partners, will strengthen our ability to provide successful reentry pathways. People coming home from incarceration want an opportunity to work, but the barriers to employment make that incredibly difficult. CEO believes that everyone, regardless of their past, deserves a chance to work toward a stronger future for themselves, their families and their community. We affirm that belief and remain committed to helping expand economic opportunity and financial stability in Charlotte-Mecklenburg no matter someone’s background or zip code.”

Congresswoman Alma Adams who has championed criminal justice reforms and workforce development in Congress said, “CEO’s job training, placement and retention services will position individuals for success and prepare them for meaningful work that provides financial resources for themselves and their families.”

GreenLight Charlotte engaged in a year-long comprehensive process in partnership with its Selection Advisory Council (SAC), a diverse, inclusive group of community leaders and residents, to identify and respond to a combination of deep-rooted, systemic challenges. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Racial Wealth Gap report highlighted criminal justice reform and smart decarceration as key systems strategies to close the racial wealth gap. The barriers to prosperity are significant. 70% of returning citizens are released to opportunity desert neighborhoods in Charlotte-Mecklenburg where employment and other quality of life indicators remain challenged. The financial cost is also great. North Carolina spends $1.5 billion dollars per year on prison expenditures, approximately $28,000 annually per person, and recidivism rates remain around 40%. After thoroughly vetting dozens of proven solutions from across the country, GreenLight Charlotte selected and invested in CEO, the program with the most impactful results and promise of local fit to address these challenges.

Chris Jackson, local President and CEO of Goodwill and a GreenLight Advisor, said, “The CEO team approached this opportunity with a focus on how they can partner with other organizations in our community to help justice involved individuals have the best chance for success. We are excited to partner with CEO and welcome their site and services at the Goodwill Opportunity Campus.”

With unemployment, race, gender, age and criminal history strong predictors of reoffending, the transitional employment, job-readiness training, job coaching and placement opportunities CEO offers will have a positive effect on returning citizens by providing them with a source of income, transferable skills, and a sense of security and stability. Based on CEO results in other communities, GreenLight expects the program to reduce recidivism of those at highest risk to recidivate by 15-20% and place 65% of participants in permanent jobs after year one.

“CEO coming to Charlotte was a dream come true for me. It is a feeling that is unexplainable to be able to help the participants get a job after being released from their incarceration. I know what it’s like to not be able to get a job because of a blemished background. I took this job to make a difference and to change the narrative for us,” said Tia Brown, the newly hired CEO Charlotte Director.

Brown has already made an impact with the first enrolled participants. “When I met Tia at CEO, I knew the passion she had to support us is real. She shows it every day and her actions speak louder than her words. Too many people look down on us because of our past. Not CEO and not Tia. That’s very special to me,” said James Grier.

GreenLight Charlotte’s multi-year financial and on-the-ground support along with strong local partnerships position CEO to reach impact quickly in Charlotte. Bringing additional federal dollars to Charlotte through the SNAP Employment and Training program, philanthropic resources through CEO’s national program infrastructure, and partnerships providing a variety of labor services to the county and the city rounds out GreenLight’s investment, ensuring program sustainability.

In 2019, GreenLight brought ParentChild+ to Charlotte. In partnership with Charlotte Bilingual Preschool and Inlivian (formerly Charlotte Housing Authority), ParentChild+ is supporting kindergarten readiness for nearly 100 children and families in Charlotte, on a path to grow to 400 by year four of the program. CEO is GreenLight Fund Charlotte’s second data informed community investment as the organization continues to build a portfolio of solutions to address gaps in services for Charlotte families experiencing poverty.