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Project Lia rebuilding lives for female ex-offenders while refurbishing discarded materials

Hiring Hoosiers: Rebuilding lives after incarceration
Project Lia pic.jpg
Posted at 7:07 AM, Feb 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 07:07:02-05

Hiring Hoosiers is an initiative from RTV6 that works to connect Hoosiers to employment opportunities, career development resources, training programs and educational paths. Learn more about Hiring Hoosiers and see new stories weekdays at 6 a.m. on RTV6.

INDIANAPOLIS — A goal of Hiring Hoosiers is to share opportunities for training and growth for all Hoosiers regardless of one's past.

Project Lia is transforming the lives of formerly incarcerated women who are working to re-purpose discarded materials.

With new tools in hand, Joyce David explores a new job. It is an opportunity for a new path for the 38-year-old, who is just weeks out of a six-year sentence behind bars.

"Just because I have a past does not hinder my ability to be successful as an individual," says David.

David is one of three new employees of Project Lia, a non-profit job training program specifically for formerly incarcerated women.

In their space in the Circle City Industrial Complex in downtown Indianapolis, the women working are re-purposing discarded material into one-of-a-kind home and office furnishings. But, there is a lot more to the hands-on work they are doing.

"We utilize the materials that other people have discarded or don't see the beauty in it, is kind of like the same thing with us," says David. "People don't always see the beauty in us; we can refurbish materials and refurbish ourselves kind of at the same time."

Once hired, Project Lia employees are expected to work Monday through Friday, like a typical work week. Plus, these women are expected to work at Project Lia for one year before moving on to their own career path.

"My long term goal for myself is I want to open up a transition house for women coming out of prison," David says.

Elizabeth Wallin is the founder and executive director of Project Lia. This is her effort to reduce the recidivism rate in Central Indiana.

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Elizabeth Wallin works with new hire, Joyce David in their sewing area.

"A lot of times, these women are dealing with trauma and in a more survival mindset, and that prevents you from dreaming big and seeing what all your options might be," says Wallin. "Just the human factor of knowing these are people that have the same dreams and goals that I might have for myself. I want to provide for my family, my friends, and they want to do the same, but they have different options from us and different support systems set up. And to be able to have a community around that to build support."

Nearly 60% of women report not having full-time work in the month before their arrest. In addition to providing employment, Project Lia offers skills training to help overcome obstacles of re-entry.

"Very entrepreneurial in ways, involved in all aspects, of the business from marketing, selling, producing, idealization of new products and prototyping and so we're kind of just problem solvers here, we have resources that are available to us and material," explains Wallin. "And we take them, and we decide together, 'okay what can we do here,' and we test out new ideas, which in ways is a good practice for their lives and what they are dealing with when they go back home at the end of the day, how can they test out new ideas and new opportunities."

The woodworking, the sewing, and the creating are all new lessons for these women. As each progresses through the technical skills and life skills, Project Lia gives her a chance for a successful transition to a long-term career opportunity.

"It is something new, something new to do, learning different trades and things that I can utilize in my life or later time whether it be for personal use or my own business ventures, whatever the case may be, the atmosphere is great," says David. "That is why I like working here; I feel like I am helping myself, but I am helping other people.

Program participants receive educational opportunities in financial literacy, communication, business ethics, and health and wellness, as well as support for a future job search.

Wallin says they are always looking for donated materials that they can work with, monetary donations to purchase materials, and volunteers for the workshop/store.

You can shop at the Project Lia store at 1125 Brookside Avenue, Suite C1 Indianapolis, IN 46202.

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