Emmanuel came to Project RETURN in 2013, needing assistance with housing and employment. But more than that, Emmanuel needed a place to belong, a place where he would not be judged and would be accepted. Emmanuel became a regular at Project RETURN, in time coming every day to our offices. While here, Emmanuel would volunteer with projects around the office when not searching the employment leads.
Life was not easy in those first few years post-incarceration for Emmanuel. He suffered many setbacks in his re-entry. One day Emmanuel came into our office visibly distraught. That morning someone had stolen his bicycle, his only means of transportation. He was angry and hurt. The staff of Project RETURN was able to calm him down and, because of a donation from a supporter of our program, to replace his bike for him. This was the moment that Emmanuel knew he had found a family.
Emmanuel has volunteered in many ways over the years. He has helped put on our annual banquet, assembled our quarterly newsletter and assisted in numerous other things in the office. He brings an uplifting spirit and compassion to the office and to our work.
We do not see as much of Emmanuel these days as he has been working full-time for 4 continuous years. But when he does make it into the office, his smile and energy is felt in every corner and by every person he encounters. We are blessed to have him as part of the Project RETURN family and we were honored to present him with the 2018 Elijah O’Neal Award of Excellence, our annual award recognizing a client who is exceptionally demonstrating the mission of Project RETURN.