LYNCHBURG, Va. – Marcus Oliver, 48, used to be a drug dealer.
"I'm not ashamed of what I've done because God has changed me; therefore, I speak the truth. But now, I'm an author,” Oliver, an ex-offender, said.
An author now, but several years ago, he would've only been considered a convicted felon.
"People looking at you because you got this 'X' on your back. We just made bad choices, but that don't mean we are bad peoples. God gave me a chance; therefore, other people should give other felons a chance,” Oliver said.
Oliver spent close to seven years in prison for being in possession of a firearm and crack/cocaine. It's stories like his that help members of the Blue Ridge Re-Entry Council know investing in an ex-offender benefits the whole community.
"What's the mission? Safety and community. The more people I can get back into the community, contributing members of society, the more I can help their children, their spouses and the community at large,” Steven Monetti, the chair facilitator for Blue Ridge Re-Entry Council, said.
More than 30 organizations gathered for an educational summit to help case managers and their clients network and learn about new resources in transitioning into society.
"It's important to know that this goes on, even though you might not have to access these services; to know that Virginia has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country. This state is very proactive in rehabilitating people coming out of incarceration,” Monetti said.
Oliver has worked at Liberty University's admission's office for six years. Now, looking back, he's glad he knew people who didn't give up on him.
"Yeah, I have doubts and go back to the streets, but I remember what God brought me out of. So I decided not to go back that way no more,” Monetti said.
On Tuesday May 15, 2018, active members of the Blue Ridge Re-Entry Council will host a job fair on at The Salvation Army Gymnasium, 2215 Park Ave, Lynchburg, from 10:00 a.m. –3:00 p.m.
The job fair aims to have 25 employers, keynote speakers, and job-related workshops available to assist returning citizens and ex-offenders.