LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS 11)--His past includes drugs and prison, but Darin Ashley's future is a clean slate thanks to a non-profit organization giving men and women a second chance. Its message: it's never too late to start over.
"The first 38 years of my life, I went down the wrong road," Ashley said. "A lady in the jail told me about a place called Prodigal Ministries."
Jennifer Partin is the executive director of Prodigal Ministries, a Christian aftercare program offering transitional housing for men and women straight out of prison. Its mission: to help them become self-sufficient and avoid prison return with Christ as their primary support system, enabling them to rejoin their families and loved ones. The group sees roughly 60 people walk through its doors each year.
"Most of them stay probably 6-8 months," Partin said. "Getting back to work and building self-esteem and beginning to restore their lives is huge in their success. The return to prison rate is probably higher in the first 90 days."
So, they come to Prodigal, to one of its four homes throughout Louisville and Oldham County, and stay as long as they need.
"If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be here today. They gave me a place to stay, a mentorship. There was always someone reaching out to help me, encourage me, made me feel like I am somebody," Ashley said.
There are guidelines if you choose to make this place home, like a curfew, random drug tests, bible studies and a small portion of the rent. And it's required you get a job, but like so many convicted felons, it wasn't easy finding employment.
"It took me 5 1/2 months to find a job," Ashley said. "Many places would interview me and want me to come to work and then get my background check and wouldn't have anything to do with me after that."
He found work in maintenance at local rental properties.
"First job I had he was tearing down a house he had bought. It happened to be the house we made all the drugs in. So, one of my first jobs I had to do is clean up my own mess," Ashley said.
Call it ironic or divine intervention, but it changed the path for Ashley and for so many others in his situation. After six months at Prodigal Ministries, he was hired on as a case manager, mentoring men in and out of the home.
"I go into prisons and preach now," Darin said.
Twelve years later, he's still with Prodigal and now has his own HVAC company called Divine Services. His criminal record will also be wiped clean, after a surprise pardon from Governor Matt Bevin earlier this year.
It's the success many of the residents here dream about.
"I see restoration and miracles but we also have some heartbreak. I wish I could say we're 100, but we're not. They're family. They're not bad people who want to be good. They're sick people who want to get well. There is a difference," Partin said.
Prodigal Ministries partners with many churches and donors to keep their homes open. It used to get government funding but since it's faith-based, it no longer qualifies for those funds. You can donate, volunteer or become a sponsor through Prodigal's Facebook page.
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