March 17, 2017 9:54 am

‘Second Chances’ for the disadvantaged in Moncton, N.B.

WATCH ABOVE: A workshop in Moncton is helping people with troubled pasts get back into the workforce by teaching them to refinish old furniture. Global’s Shelley Steeves has the story.


Second Chance Workshop in Moncton is helping people with troubled pasts get back into the workforce by teaching them to refinish old furniture.

“Helping people especially the marginalized people I think is a passion for us” said Leo Johnson, who started Second Chance four years ago after he retired from working in maintenance for a decade at the Dorchester Pen penitentiary in New Brunswick.

He and his wife volunteer about 50 hours a week for the non-profit organization which is run entirely by volunteers.

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“We will not save everybody but if we can save one or two,” said Johnson.

Johnson said people who are on income assistance are referred to Second Chances to get hands-on work experience fixing up donated furniture that’s eventually resold in their storefront called “Enviro Plus” at 315 Baig Blvd. in Moncton.

The non-profit organization, Johnson said, sells about $250,000 a year in furniture and relies on those sale to operate.

“It is to give them job skills,” said Johnson, who teaches his workers that with just a little TLC, old furniture that might otherwise get tossed away can be given a new life and so can those doing the repairs.

“Most of them have a criminal record. It’s not something awful but they do and unfortunately it has followed them through their life.”

He said it can making it difficult for those people to find work.

Monica Drysdale is a volunteer at Second Chances and will be starting her work placement in April of this year. She said her struggles are not criminal, but emotional.

“I was on sick leave for a few years and Social Development sent me here to kind of rehabilitate me back into the work force,” Drysdale said.

At first, she said wasn’t sure she was ready to re-enter the workforce.

Johnson said that getting back into the daily work routine can be overwhelming for some people.

That’s why a few weeks ago he started a pilot project working with the Social Development department to identify barriers that some people face in re-entering the job market, he says not to judge, but to help.

“After four weeks with us I will know what barrier they have,” Johnson said. “It is drugs, is it alcohol, is it mental illness, because we have a lot of that.”

He said he works with social workers to make sure people get the support they need before jumping back into the workforce.

Drysdale started out working half a day a week at first and now she’s up to working full time.

“It’s made me feel better about myself waking up in the morning and coming to work,” she said.

“It’s that success that I see that drives us,” Johnson said.

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