Participants spend Saturdays learning construction with Athens Area Habitat for Humanity Executive Director and State Rep. Spencer Frye. (Keith Sims/Clarke County Sheriff's Office)

It is all about second chances and opportunities. It’s a collaborative effort by the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office and Athens Area Habitat for Humanity, and it is off to a good start in changing the direction of lives.

The inaugural class of the Future Foundations Jail Resident Construction Program graduated on Tuesday, June 4, at the Clarke County Jail in Athens. The day celebrated four women, Brittany Blevins, Selina Watts, Angela Nichole Mosley, and Shelby Hammock, who made up the program’s first class.

Making a difference

This program’s mission is threefold: teaching hands-on job skills training, reducing recidivism, and building affordable housing through Habitat for Humanity.

“The women are selected based on certain criteria. They must have a record of compliance at the jail, cannot hold a violent conviction, and must have the motivation and incentive to work,” explains Clarke County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Keith Sims.

Future Foundations graduates are shown here with, from left, Clarke County Sheriff’s Lt. Gary Davenport, Sheriff John Williams, and instructor Jonathan Sims (Keith Sims/Clarke County Sheriff’s Office)

District 122 State Rep. Spencer Frye is the executive director of the Athens Area Habitat for Humanity. He is also one of Future Foundations’ founders. After months of brainstorming, Frye and Clarke County Sheriff John Q. Williams, Chief Deputy and Jail Commander Frank Woods, and other staff created the program.

“We talk often amongst our staff and community connections about issues that need to be addressed. When we got the right collection of people in a room, we devised a plan to provide training and certification right on the jail property,” says Sheriff Williams. “Then the idea was to actually build these housing modules on-site and assemble them elsewhere. The ideas quickly piled up about where to put the finished houses and how to use them. We knew right away when the positive energy and excitement hit that high level, that we came up with something that will make a difference.”

Community investment

Frye says the Future Foundations program is an investment in the entire community.

“The most effective means of cutting recidivism is offering education and work training to inmates who have a drive to turn their lives around,” says Rep. Frye. “That means not just a better life for former offenders and their families, but also a savings for taxpayers and safer, more prosperous communities.”

Clarke County Jail’s new Future Foundations program teaches inmates construction skills while working on Habitat houses for low income families. (Keith Sims, PIO/Clarke County)

Sims’ husband, Jonathan Sims, has worked in construction for over thirty years and volunteers to teach participants once a week. Program participants take written exams and have work days every other week. Saturdays for those who choose to enter the program involve building and learning.

“They start learning basic tools and advance to step treads and rafters,” says Keith Sims. She explained that the key to the program is the “willingness of the participant.” The four women who formed the first graduating class met every expectation and more, says Sims.

“They made 90 or higher on their exams and went beyond what was required in learning construction.”

‘Just people…building together’

Future Foundations graduate Nicole Mosley gave a speech at the graduation ceremony. Her words spoke volumes about the program’s importance.

“Only in this setting were we no longer inmates and supervision no longer a focus. We were all just people, working, laughing, and building together. When I say building, my meaning is deeper than you may realize,” Mosley said.

Clarke County Jail inmate and Future Foundations graduate Angela Mosley speaks at the graduation ceremony held on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Keith Sims/Clarke County Sheriff’s Office)

In her speech, Mosley thanked the Sims, Rep. Frye, Sheriff Williams, Chief Woods, and many others for dedicating their time and days off to teaching them construction and for believing in them.

“Today is a day for forward momentum. We ask for your continued support and that you join us and share our vision for growth and improvement,” she said.

Keith Sims says it was an emotional day. There are now five more women in the program and a waiting list.

“Seeing their passion and pride in what they have learned and accomplished moved me,” she says. “Their example of determination and hard work will make this program thrive.”

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