CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Palmetto Works has partnered with Father's Place, Horry Georgetown Technical College and several other organizations to help former inmates adjust to the community.
Program organizers believe we live in a society that doesn't believe in second chances or a society that believes "once a criminal, always a criminal." However, this group wants to change the way someone's past frames their future.
The program is called CHOPS - or, "Culinary and Hospitality Operatives Prepared to Serve," Cheryl Moore Adamson said. Adamson is the Pastor at Palmetto Baptist Missionary Church and the Executive Director of Palmetto Works Community Development Corporation.
She says CHOPS is a collaboration between Conway's Palmetto Works Community Development Corporation, Father's Place and Horry-Georgetown Technical College, and it's getting former inmates cooking up a new confidence.
"And that is providing a culinary arts training program for people returning from prison or otherwise engaged with the criminal justice system," Adamson said.
Until classes start, the class of nine people, six from the Conway area and three from Georgetown, is working together to grow a garden, providing what program organizers say are soft skills, and communication lines.
An effort like this one is something Lee Bellamy believes is crucial.
"I know the hardship of coming back to the community, and trying to find a job and having no skills to get a job," Bellamy said. Bellamy spent years in prison and to be in that situation for so long, he says it's easy to forget.
"I came out of the prison system in 2009.. I'm also an ex death row inmate and 23 years in prison all together, and to have someone to help me when I got here, made a great difference," Bellamy said.
Organizers say this program provides a chance at redemption and welcomes these people back into the community.
"Help is available to you, you don't have to commit crimes. You don't have to do anything to upset the community. Let's become one and be part of the community in a positive way," Bellamy explained.
Tuition for each student is around $1,500. The cost for this initiative is all based on donations, if you would like to donate, click here.
For more information head to the Palmetto Works website or stop by. Palmetto Works is located at 1931 Fulmer Street in Downtown Conway.