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An organization rebuilding homes and restoring hope is expanding across eastern North Carolina

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Chris Jenkins stood outside of an old white house in Goldsboro on Monday, Feb. 14. From the outside, you might not be able to even tell that anything was wrong with it, aside from one boarded-up window.

But once he stepped inside, dust was flying, and workers were filling up a dumpster with debris.

Jenkins is the founder and executive pastor at Hope Restorations, an organization that provides paid employment, training, and other support to adults recovering from addiction or incarceration.

With each swing of a hammer and pull of a crowbar, sheetrock, cabinets, and termite-damaged wood crumbled down inside the dilapidated home.

This is a first for Hope Restorations in a sense. The nonprofit, which started in Lenoir County in 2015, has figured out how to scale and expand.

The job in Goldsboro marked the beginning of its expansion into Wayne County, and plans are underway to serve Pitt County, too.

Hope Restorations job site in Goldsboro. Cheyenne McNeill/EducationNC

The demolition is just the first phase. Next, Jenkins’ team will come in and complete a full renovation of the home, which was donated by the Wayne County Commissioners and the City of Goldsboro.

“The first week or two will be just tearing out the damage of what already exists so that we can figure out how we want to put it back together,” he said.

And that’s how Hope Restorations operates. Participants come in – fresh out of prison or recovering from addiction – and look for a new start. The nonprofit is helping get rid of the damage and pulling folks back together.

COVID-19 forces change

Since the start of the pandemic, Hope Restorations has fully renovated four homes and completed renovations on countless other projects in Lenoir County. Despite challenges that have arisen due to the pandemic, Jenkins believes the program is continuing to fulfill its mission and make an impact.

“There’s always been a huge demand for our houses because we’re offering up a well-prepared and modernized home with energy efficiency, at or below what the surrounding landlords are offering for non-renovated houses of the same size and shape,” Jenkins shared.

When Hope Restorations renovates a home, it makes a concerted effort to install LED light bulbs; replace and weatherproof windows; and complete whatever tasks to make the home energy efficient, comfortable, and affordable.

Participants in the program work Monday through Thursday. Fridays are used for upskilling, training, and job searching. Often this includes taking courses at the local community college, meeting with advisors, or completing job applications and interviews.

Still, Jenkins says likely due to increased unemployment benefits and stimulus check rollouts during COVID-19, his organization saw a decrease in participant applications.

The effect of this was two-fold: participants were able to find permanent employment outside the organization more easily as demand for labor increased, and completing the organization’s construction jobs took longer with fewer hands to help.

Despite that, the organization has 16 participants, including team leaders, and Hope Restorations continues to grow in Lenoir County.

Jenkins talks with Hope Restorations participants on a break. Cheyenne McNeill/EducationNC

A partnership with the Eighth District Family Drug Treatment Court has allowed Hope Restorations to open House of Hope, transitional housing for women. With a capacity of 16, House of Hope provides 24/7 supervision and around-the-clock peer support specialists and case management.

Jenkins says it’s more than “just a boarding house.” The end goal is to reunite these women with their families and children.

And, thanks to efforts from its local state representative, Hope Restorations will receive a $250,000 grant from the N.C. General Assembly.

Jenkins says each of these adds to Hope Restorations’ credibility.

Wayne County Expansion

Now, as Hope Restorations moves into Wayne County, Jenkins says the organization plans to partner with other organizations and act as an additional resource for the county – not as a competing one.

“If the needed service already exists, we don’t want to replicate it, we want to partner,” Jenkins said. “I just strongly believe that that’s the way to be good stewards of the resources. We shouldn’t replicate a service that already exists.”

In Lenoir County, Hope Restorations also provides transitional housing for its participants. However, they won’t in Wayne because there are already transitional housing options available.

Hope Restorations participants gutting a house in Goldsboro. Cheyenne McNeill/EducationNC

While preparing for its expansion to Wayne County, Jenkins made connections in the area – meeting with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, Civitan and Rotary clubs, churches, and mental health professionals. A local church in Goldsboro, St. Luke’s United Methodist, is offering office space and a place to store trucks and trailers for the jobs in the new service area.

Jenkins says moving into Wayne County will allow the program to continue promoting “social detox” for Hope Restorations participants.

“Just to be among new people, places, and things,” he explained, “at least until you learn how to think for yourself again, and then you can maybe go back to your home neighborhood.”

Ideally, the Wayne County expansion will allow Hope Restorations to provide that. Participants in Wayne County can work and join the program in Lenoir County, and vice versa. Eventually, Hope Restorations will expand into Pitt County, too.

Making an impact “one at a time”

No matter how the organization grows, Jenkins says making one-on-one connections will remain a priority.

“What brought me into this vocation in the first place was helping individuals one at a time,” he said. “So every time we’ve helped somebody succeed or make progress, for me, that’s the biggest win.”

“What brought me into this vocation in the first place was helping individuals one at a time. So every time we’ve helped somebody succeed or make progress, for me, that’s the biggest win.”

Chris Jenkins, Founder and Executive Pastor, Hope Restorations