By Yolanda Spivey
Kenneth Williams is one resilient man. After he was released for prison 26 years ago, he couldn’t find employment as a second time offender. Everywhere he went, he was asked about his criminal past which stifled his ability to find employment. But this God fearing man felt that there was something bigger for him. He entered the construction industry where he was rarely asked about his criminal background—and today he is licensed as a Class “A” contractor in the state of Virginia.
This married entrepreneur of twenty years subsequently opened up his own construction company. And in 2009 he opened an appliance store in his home town of Richmond Virginia, and what he saw there changed his life even further. He witnessed first-hand the oppressive and depressive state that young Black men were in. “I saw the frustrations and the low self-esteem within our young youth,” stated Kenneth. “I saw my own reflection—I was one of those guys.”
It is with these eyes that led Kenneth Williams, along with his wife Alfreda to open Adult Alternative Program which is a prison re-entry program aimed at teaching young men and women skill sets within the construction industry, an industry that was instrumental in changing Kenneth’s life. Alfreda said, “This vision was nudging at him for a while and it finally came into fruition.”
Adult Alternative Program is faith based and has already garnered a significant amount of support from the Governor’s office, Department Of Corrections, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, and local Churches. So far, over 100 men and women have registered with the program, and the one criteria they must meet in order to join is they must have a felony conviction.
Kenneth further stated, “I had father’s coming up to me, expressing that they’re unable to find employment due to their felonies and this broke my heart. I couldn’t move on in life, in old age, leave the world without making an effort to make a difference for my people.”
Alfreda added, “These young people are hurting. I had a young man come up to me the other day stating he didn’t want to go back to prison. They are hurting.”
The Adult Alternative Program is so popular, it has caught the attention of thirteen college students from Virginia State University. They are preparing the organization’s business plan and are using their experience as the basis of their thesis paper. And although Kenneth and Alfreda have thus funded this project out of their own pockets, they are hoping that public donations will help them run the program efficiently and for many years to come.
For more information on their program, please visit www.adultalternativeprogram.com.