Fred Stevens is never far from his phone at South Chicago Dodge. As a finance manager at the dealer-ship, there is always a deal to close, a call to answer, a problem to solve.
It was a little more than three years ago that such a life seemed impossible for Stevens. At the time, he was sitting in a prison cell serving time on a drug charge. A turning point was being referred to Safer’s Foundation’s North Lawndale Adult Transition Center, which allows selected participants to serve out the last 30 days to 24 months of their sentences in a community-based work-release setting.
Because of the programs and services offered at the ATC—including life skills, job-readiness training and employment services—Stevens was better prepared to transition back into the community and a career.
“Safer allowed me to focus on a regimen. Sometimes you’re at the ATC. Sometimes you’re home. Sometimes you’re at work.” Stevens said. “It has gotten to where everything that I wanted to do in my life, I’m doing that – and some!”
Andre Martin, Chef of Security at the ATC remembers Stevens well.
“Stevens took his challenges—including those within his family—and looked at them as just that; not always as problems and complaints,” said Martin. “The skills he learned here helped him work through his challenges and as he did that, other residents took note.”
Martin said Stevens became a mentor to his peers, who sought his advice. “He showed them how to handle things and find constructive ways to address a problem,” said Martin.
Stevens recalls the day he was cleaning a hallway at the ATC when a man he’d never seen before walked in. Steven learned he sold cars at South Chicago Dodge. Wanting to spend his days outside the walls of the ATC, Stevens asked his Sector Manager about a job at the auto dealership. Because of his record at the ATC and his successful completion of programs, Stevens was offered work-release at South Chicago Dodge as a salesman .
That was three years ago. He admits that at the time all he thought about was returning to his native Detroit; to his wife and kids.
“I am not thinking, ‘ am really excelling in my job,'” Stevens said. “Finally, I asked myself, ‘ hat can I do in Detroit and make this kind of money?'”
Five months ago, Stevens was named the dealership’s finance manager. He is now house-hunting and making plans for his family to join him in Chicago permanently this summer. His wife, Charese, who owns a beauty shop in Detroit, will be looking to open a second one here, she said.
She said she is grateful for Safer Foundation.
“It is excellent because it helps individuals who need rehabilitating,” said Charese. “It’s a fantastic program.”
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