New Small Engine Repair Center looks to teach ex-inmates new skill

Former inmates learn new skills through reentry program

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - Next week there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the brand new Shelby County Office of Re-Entry Small Engine Repair Center.

County officials say about a year and a half ago they decided to turn an old storage facility on-site into a new training center to repair things like lawnmowers, chainsaws and weed eaters.

Labor officials say this kind of work is in high demand in Shelby County.

Harold Collins, Executive Director of the Shelby County Office of Re-entry says this brand new facility will pay former inmates $15 an hour to learn this skill.

“Well our mission is two-fold. One, to provide our clients a skill that they can go work for a firm and be hired and making a livable wage, but if not they can be entrepreneurs and do the same thing,” said Collins.

Jessie Tharpe is an ex-felon and small business owner.

“It’s booming. It’s doing really well,” said Tharpe.

Tharpe started Gold Mouth Affordable Moving 10 months ago. It’s a business he started thanks to the slew of business and finance certifications he earned during his 12-year prison sentence.

“I’m able to do all the booking, all my finances, I know where every dollar is going and I can keep up with how much I’m spending,” said Tharpe.

Tharpe says he was also able to pursue entrepreneurship thanks to the jobs the Shelby County Office of Re-entry lined up for him when he was first released.

“I took what I learned from FedEx, took what I learned from U-Haul and that’s how I started my own company,” said Tharpe.

Every year Collins says about 8,000 former inmates just like Tharpe will be released into society. The office of re-entry offers job training, bus passes, even clothes if needed to get them hired.

Collins says the brand new Small Engine Repair Center is just a new tool in their belt to get ex-felons to work.

The Center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on Feb. 25.

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