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July  23, 2015

Roadrunner Food Bank: Program for fathers with criminal records helps with efficiency

July 1, 2015
By Jeff Hoffmann

PB&J Family Services and French Funerals Create Kosher Caskets, Foster Sustainable Relationships

In late 2014, an Albuquerque-based nonprofit, PB&J Family Services, along with the key support of French’s Funerals, also Albuquerque-based, and the Rabbinical and Cantorial Association of Albuquerque, created a business relationship to produce and provide pine, kosher caskets to New Mexico’s Jewish community. 

PB&J Family Services and French Funerals Create Kosher Caskets, Foster Sustainable RelationshipsPB&J Family Services (pbjfamilyservices.org) is dedicated to “helping at-risk children to grow and develop to their full potential in nurturing families within a supportive community.” Fathers Building Futures is a key PB&J program and director Dean Ma’ayan’s passion. 
Fathers Building Futures “is a re-entry program for fathers recently released from Los Lunas Men’s Prison or Bernalillo’s Metropolitan Detention Center. [The] program includes pre-and post-release wrap-around support including family-based case management, parenting education, counseling, job training and placement."
Fathers Building Futures job training includes a large, state-of-the-art woodshop where the caskets are made. During an interview at PB&J headquarters in ABQ, Dean Ma'ayan stated, “Our mission is about connecting formerly incarcerated fathers with their civic and professional promise. In order to do that we need to be a functional sustainable business, while also relying on donations and grants. So as a social enterprise, we take our business development very seriously.”
In order for PB&J to become sustainable, they needed to find the right product to manufacture. They sought out French's Funerals, who started a mentorship program with several businesses a few years ago to help nonprofits like PB&J launch their ideas.
“French's Funerals was the best partner for us,” said Ma'ayan; “They became our mentors and we created a sustainable relationship.” 
He asked the CEO Tom Antram to get to know PB&J: “We want create a product for you and French’s and be your customer, but first, would you come to this side of the table and teach us how to do that?” From Tom’s smile, Dean knew they were going to make magic together. 
Dean Ma'ayan described the relationship with French’s as “dating.” During the first several dates, Dean and the fathers built trust, showing French’s they were an organization of genuine character and dedication.  
“French’s saw the work and met with Alonzo. They saw potential, and they taught us how to make a prototype for an urn,” said Ma'ayan. Alonzo, the woodshop director, and his team, accomplished the task with about five different versions of the urn to date.
“By the ninth date,” Dean Ma'ayan stated, “French’s accept our urns and we got an $1,800 check from them. So then we were in the game.”
However, even more than an urn, making a kosher casket to the exact specifications of Jewish law is no simple feat. The casket must be constructed entirely of wood (usually pine), encouraging a natural decomposition. 
This time, Dean and the dads received assistance from a local Jewish artist Hershel Weiss who helped with design, and Rabbi Min Kantrowitz, who taught Fathers Building Futures about the Jewish laws that make a casket kosher and, as he stated, “Rabbi Min spiritually talked with our men about what it’s like to handle death and dying in a really sensitive way.”
Many of the fathers at PB&J have experienced death in traumatic and violent ways, some even during their teenage years or younger. 
Alonzo, now a staff member and woodshop supervisor at PB&J, is a man who went through Fathers Building Futures’ reentry program. Like many of those at PB&J, Alonzo experienced the violent death of his father at a young age. “I know it is my responsibility to end this cycle for my kids, and I know now what I need to do,” he said. 
When asked about what being reunited with his four children meant to him, and what advice he would give fathers recently or at risk of being incarcerated, he replied, “There’s always another way. Asking for help doesn’t always mean that you have a weakness. The weakness that we all have is that we are afraid to say something. It takes a lot of strength to set aside your pride and be able to stay with your kid and provide a home so that he always knows he has stability in his life and he will always be able to come home. You know, just being here at PB&J and having everyone here as resources to be able to talk to has been amazing.” 
Alonzo has recently been released from all probation and correctional supervision for the first time in eighteen years. He plans to take his four children and girlfriend to the ocean. 
Dean Ma'ayan keenly noted how PB&J’s partnership with French Funerals has also had a powerful influence on the fathers: “Our dads have been around death their entire lives, many of them had seen their own family members killed… and now they’ve made a turn to being able to create caskets, to be able to be a part of death and dying in a new way, and Rabbi Min Kantrowitz was crucial to those first conversations.”
Knowing death and dying in dignified ways runs parallel to the nurturing of love, compassion, and responsibility in life. Rabbi Kantrowitz’s conversations with the fathers were made possible through the strength of the nonprofit and Jewish communities involved. 
Rabbi Kantrowitz is a member of the Rabbinical and Cantorial Association of Albuquerque; the association played a crucial role in the completion of the project. It was a happy day for everyone involved when Dean Ma'ayan received a letter stating “The Rabbinical and Cantorial Association of Albuquerque has inspected the pine caskets created by PB&J’s Fathers Building Futures and certifies them to be kosher under Jewish law.” 
The Fathers Building Futures project has been fully funded by a grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Family Assistance. However, funding from that grant will end on September 30.  So, as Ma'ayan explained, “our entire focus is to become self-sustainable through projects like this and donations to sustain us afterwards.” 
The public can now see displayed PB&J’s kosher urns, and can purchase their Jewish kosher caskets. “French’s has remained our mentor in the business community and has held their promise to help us earn their business partnership,” said Ma'ayan.  
PB&J and French’s exemplify nonprofit work at its best; in their relationship, dignified death reflects responsible life, and the creative birth of sustainable nonprofit organizations and communities.

 

June 10, 2015

Father’s Day: Gift Ideas From Dads Who Have Gone From Jails to Jobs

One year ago, Toby was sitting at MDC Metropolitan Detention Center thinking he was in hell. He didn’t think in a year from now he would be providing for his family by holding down a steady job and learning meaningful job skills through the Fathers Building Futures (FBF) program, while contributing to a better life in the community.

He was looking at spending what could be the rest of his life locked up and away from his family. His wife and four kids were home, burdened with bills and missing their dad. Children were anxious and stress levels continued to grow. Not a day went by that he didn’t think of his family and did whatever he could to get that back.

FBF has helped men like Toby through a job training initiative with PB&J Family Services. The group has built viable lines of business in car detailing, mobile power washing and woodworking. Toby is 1 of 150 fathers who are formerly incarcerated or on probation/parole. The PB&J program reaches out to them while in jail, prison, probation, or on parole to prepare them for successful reentry and reunification with their family and steady employment.

“Once I started with PB&J, I started to look at things in a different way when it came to my kids. I started learning about how kids grow, what you’re supposed to do, what they’re supposed to do and what they should know and see. When I was in Jail, I thought was going to prison for the rest of my life...I was gone. When I first met PB&J, I didn’t think I was ever going to see my kids again. I wanted to see my kids. I wanted to do whatever it took to see my kids. Now I get to be there for my kids. When I’m not at work, I’m with my family and we do everything together. They play sports and are in computer clubs, we watch movies and go out to eat. It’s the best.”

Need gift ideas for Father’s Day?

Here are three ways to honor the fathers in your lives while promoting family stability for fathers through Fathers Building Futures.

  • Purchase a gift certificate for Auto Detail or custom wood cutting boards through www.fathersbuildingfutures.com or shop in person at 4301 4th Street NW. Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 4p.m.
  • Pitch in together to sponsor a full day of Auto Detail at your office.
  • Come out to one of our three events over Father’s Day weekend.

 

February 16, 2015

By Sayyed Shah

Grad students help prisoner dads reconnect

Tema Milstein, associate professor at the Department of Communication and Journalism, said the students from a PhD professional seminar class are collaborating with PB&J, a nonprofit organization working for the rights of children, and specifically with Fathers Building Futures.

“This unit of the class in which we are collaborating is focused on using research and teaching to help bring about positive change,” Milstein said. “We really wanted to engage our graduate students, who are going to be future professors, in understanding how they can bring about positive change in their work.”

Fathers Building Futures is an initiative of PB&J Family Services that provides hands-on service and skill-oriented training to previously incarcerated people in auto detailing, mobile power washing and customized woodworking, according to the PB&J website.

“Fathers Building Futures aims to connect formerly incarcerated fathers with their professional and civic promises while providing affordable, meaningful and useful services to the community,” a PB&J press release states. “In the process, child recidivism is cut by close to 50 percent, and children benefit from a father who is not role modeling behind bars.”

Fathers Building Futures is working to protect the futures of children as well as their parents, said Dean Ma’ayan, director of PB&J Family Services’ Development & Strategic Initiatives.

“In the majority of cases fathers are returning to jails not because they committed a new crime, but because they failed to secure housing or employment — which translates to their Probation Officer as a violation of their parole plan,” Ma’ayan said. “Creating a business to employ them as they leave prison was our solution to the tremendous problems these fathers face: not being able to get hired despite their talent and desire to work.”

She said that many Fathers Building Futures graduates have found employment in other organizations.

This workforce development project of PB&J Family Services has been funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Family Assistance, through its Responsible Fatherhood community-based pilot project grant.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, children of prisoners are 10 times more likely to partake in criminal behavior than children with non-incarcerated parents.

Milstein thought this project was a particularly good collaboration for her graduate students, she said.

“It is a nice way to engage the University with people who have served time,” she said. “I think what we are practicing is a kind of research service learning. This is the second year we have been doing this.”

The C&J students’ role in the project is to help fathers who have served time tell their stories.

“After we interview them, we go over with the stories with them and we give them their stories so that they could have something to hand on to their children — like what they went through and how they are trying to improve their lives,” Milstein said.

C&J students are also helping Fathers Building Futures and the organization Young Women United prepare some of these fathers for testimony in the current state legislative session, in support of a bill that will help the previously incarcerated fathers be considered for jobs.

“This year we are also helping them with a bill, which is at the State Legislature right now (Senate Bill 120),” Milstein said. “The bill is about trying to take away the felony box from work applications. We are coordinating with the organizations lobbying for the bill.”

Joseph Shaw, 33, is a woodshop supervisor at Fathers Building Futures. He said the business has helped him return to a normal life after almost 10 years of suffering.

“From about 2005 to 2011 I was just doing drugs; I was consumed in drugs,” Shaw said. “At one time I lost everything. I lost my car, my jobs. Now my life is good: I have two cars at my apartment, I have two kids and a wife. I have gotten a job here.”

Shaw is one of the men from Fathers Building Futures who was chosen to speak at the legislative session in support of SB 120.

“It is basically a shut door right now,” he said. “We are knocking on the door and we do not even get it opened because we get stereotyped before we’re even considered. It keeps us from progressing.”

The majority of these fathers are working hard to rebuild their futures, and some plan to enroll at UNM in search of a brighter future, Ma’ayan said.