Kevin Fell, a young man from Trenton struggled in his youth to battle his substance abuse issues, as a result he found himself behind bars numerous times before the age of twenty five. Now a second year apprentice Kevin looks back at that time in his life as a learning experience. “Jail woke me up; I got sober and decided to rebuild my life”said Kevin. He is currently working toward his dream of purchasing his own home. A goal that would not be attainable if it hadn't been for the guidance and support of council representatives Anthony Verrelli and Scott Macduff from LU 254. Both men mentored the one time college student and helped him to transform his life. Kevin is now one of the many men who has received a second chance from the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters to start a new career as a carpenter.
Reentry into society is extremely challenging, those with a criminal history face many barriers to gaining successful employment and obtaining housing. All of these issues are a direct result of the societal stigma associated with serving time in jail or prison. For the past few years some of our council representatives have taken it upon themselves to help change those views. They have mentored a few good men who had once lost their way and helped them turn their lives around by introducing them to the field of carpentry.
When council representative Scott Macduff got a call from his friend Charlie Ellis, he thought it would be to catch up. He never anticipated that his old friend a warden at the Mercer County Workhouse would be reaching out to him for help. “We talked for a while and Charlie told me about a young man in the workhouse that he thought had a lot of potential and the ability to become a great carpenter” said Macduff. Charlie knew that the Rashee Oliver would have a tough time gaining employment after he finished serving a ten year sentence so he asked Scott if he could mentor Oliver and help him to gain employment.
Rashee Oliver was just sixteen years old when he started getting involved in the streets of Trenton. At twenty-one his choices led him to an eleven year stint in prison. “The experience grew me, I came out determined to change. Before I went in I was angry at the world, at my family, and at my life. Now I give thanks that I have the freedom to walk down the street and breathe in fresh air. I no longer let negativity consume me, I have a new appreciation for my life" said Rashee. He used his time away as motivation to change. Once he was released from prison he worked three low wage jobs until he was able to enter into his apprenticeship. Today, a few years later he is a third year apprentice.
According to council representative Scott Macduff both Kevin and Rashee have exemplified what it means to be a union carpenter. “They have a different appreciation for the craft because they are grateful for the opportunity they have in front of them. They give it their all, don’t make excuses, do well in school and make their local meetings. I wish I had more members like them”.
At the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters we believe that an opportunity for a lifelong career is what it takes to break the cycle of incarceration. That is why our doors are always open to those who are willing to change their life. We give men reentering society the ability of to update their job skills and obtain lifelong employment. “In life it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, it’s where you’re going that counts. Everyone deserves a second chance. We don’t care if you went to jail or Yale if you are interested in becoming a union carpenter and you are willing to put in the work then you are welcome at the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters”. said Council Representative Anthony Verrelli.