Digging out of the past for new beginnings

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA 21) -
A new partnership in Fort Wayne is giving people with a rough past a second chance in life.  And while they take advantage of the opportunity, it's also a win - win for the city of Fort Wayne.

Shoveling up the past, and turning to a new chapter in life.  Thanks to a success story from Blue Jacket, a program giving community members with a troubled past a new shot at life, a partnership has been formed with Fort Wayne's public works department. 

Former Blue Jacket client Larry Thomas Jr. says, "About 10 years ago i was actually a graduate from blue jacket.  i had a second chance to work for the downtown improvement district where i was the cleaning grand master for 7 years."

Thomas' performance and work ethic was recognized, and now he's a manager with the public works department, and leads by example. 

"From where I cam from, it's to try and get these guys and opportunity to work with me," says Thomas Jr.

That's why at least 15 others have now picked up a shovel too.

"Well it gives me a chance to prove to myself and to others that I can actually do good things," says Blue Jacket client Christopher Sartain.

And that's the message Blue Jacket is sending to potential employers. 

Blue Jacket Executive Director Tony Hudson says, "It may be someone with a criminal background or someone who is homeless and says I want to prove my worth, can I be place on some of your jobs and go through your training as well."

The city benefits from the projects like sidewalk improvement, trash cleanup and beautifying city corridors.  And the work is twofold. 

"I'm trying to get some of my past erased a bit - some of my felonies erased and maybe - hopefully get my foot in the door with the city," adds Sartain.

It's past that can be cleaned up, one step at a time, paving the way for another success story.

Thomas Jr. says, "When you're around the wrong people, sometimes it will put you in the wrong place, and you'll be involved in the wrong things so i was a point to where i was blessed to remove myself from that."

The city says residents and businesses in areas where Blue Jacket members have worked are pleased to see the improvements, especially on sidewalks.