Two companies join forces to provide jobs for former Hoosier inmates: ‘Recycling things and recycling lives’

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A new partnership wants to help formally incarcerated Hoosiers, and two Indiana businesses are now working together in hopes of helping more people land meaningful opportunities after their time behind bars.

Officials say this is a big step forward in their fight to return citizens back to the workforce.

Kyle Gregoire was behind bars in the county jail for about a year. During that time, he worried about what life would be like, once he got out.

“That was always at the front of my mind,” said Gregoire.

Until he found an opportunity that he says, turned his life around.

“The first time I heard about RecycleForce and the things that they do and everyone at work release was telling me about all of the certifications you can get, you can get certified to drive a forklift, and there’s all of these perks to getting a job,” said Gregoire, “I immediately was interested.”

RecycleForce helps formally incarcerated citizens get back into the workforce. Last week, the organization announced a partnership with Brightmark Energy in Ashley, Indiana.

“Recycling things and recycling lives are so very important to rebound this community and this entire state,” said Gregg Keesling, the Founder and President of RecycleForce.

The plan is for Brightmark Energy to hire workers who will be trained at his facility.

“We’ve got people from Jay, Jasper, Fulton and Madison and just all over the state that get diverted into our program here. Some want to stay, but many want to go home, and this is an opportunity, they may not be from Steuben County, they may be from an area that’s like Steuben County,” said Keesling.

The plan is for the workers to be paid a starting wage of $15 an hour with full benefits and will live near by the plant.

“Rent will be cheaper, the pay is going to be good, we hope the community up there will be accepting of a few people that have made mistakes,” Keesling added.

Workers at RecycleForce are already looking forward to the partnership.

“I’ve been here in Indianapolis my whole life and obviously I haven’t been doing something right. You know, I’ve been going to jail, and I just need a change of scenery, new people, different environment,” said Gregoire.

Brightmark CEO, Bob Powell recently visited the facility here in Indy. He said in a statement he felt inspired by the important work they do.

“Brightmark is incredibly proud to be collaborating with an organization that provides such vital services to the community and to formerly incarcerated folks – and their families by extension – who are trying to change their lives for the better. We look forward to building a long and fruitful partnership for both of our organizations. I can’t wait to see RecycleForce’s qualified trainees on our factory floor as Brightmark employees.”

Keesling says although the partnership has been announced, they’re still in the early stages of talking with county leaders and the Department of Corrections to find out if they can make this work. He said Brightmark Energy wouldn’t be ready to hire until the Spring.

“This gives us an opportunity to talk to the leaders at the department of correction, the leaders here in Marion County, and also those up in Allen and Steuben and surrounding counties,” said Keesling.

RecycleForce will also supply Brightmark Energy with 1,700 tons of hard-to-recycle plastics like car seats and computers for processing.

“Some of our old junk that we don’t need any more and the people that we’ve thrown away, and we remake them into something new,” said Keesling.

Gregoire added, “We’re not all bad people. You know, not at all. Hard workers, some of the hardest workers I’ve ever met were felons or people who were incarcerated.”

Again, this partnership still needs to be approved by the Department of Correction and county leaders.

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