By Mike Kinney
A nonprofit launched by three East Bay men who served a combined 100 years in prison is thriving and expanding its community services from its headquarters at CoBiz Richmond.
Lejon Fahim Reese, Patrick Scott and Dante Gaines lead the 1Hundred Years Enterprise (1HYE), which serves to help formerly incarcerated individuals as well as those at risk for incarceration lead constructive lives.
Formed in the summer of 2020, the nonprofit expanded its programs inside the Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall facilities. They began offering financial literacy, a pre-apprenticeship program, life skills, Criminal Gang Anonymous and a community pathway program, which provides “consistent attention” to youth challenged by family issues, addiction and peer pressure. 1HYE is also mentoring at-risk youth at Greenwood Academy, teaching students basics of financial literacy.
Such efforts are paying off. This past summer, three young men graduated from the Juvenile Hall pre-apprenticeship program, a feat that was recognized by the North America Building Trades Unions. Upon completion, the graduates received a certificate indicating apprenticeship readiness.
Reese said the key has been forming partnerships that benefit youth, including with the Contra Costa County Probation Department. 1HYE receives youth on a referral basis from the Probation Department, the District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office, as they recognize the organization’s dedication and ability to steer youth from making decisions that could lead them to an early death or imprisonment, Reese said.
‘We are the perfect example of consequence and we teach, share and demonstrate preventative actions.’
1HYE has formed partnerships with over a half dozen organizations with aligned missions, including Mom’s Demand Action, Motivated 2 Help Others, the Ronnie Bubba Foundation and Keyz to the Future. The nonprofit also created a working partnership with Chevron Richmond, a relationship Reese said has supported the flourishing of 1HYE’s podcast, which wrapped up its third season, called Consequences of Street Life, in the spring.
The nonprofit’s founders are not only succeeding but living as examples. They trained to have the ability to train other trainers with the North America Building Trades Unions in order to offer a pre-apprenticeship program to youth, and also became certified life coaches. That way, they can directly create career and support pipelines for youth in need.
Reese, founder of an also highly active nonprofit Motivated 2 Help Others, which partners with 1HYE, is a board member for the Oakland-based career-building organization, Rising Sun Center for Opportunity, which offers the pre-apprenticeship program. Reese’s evolution went from spending 30 years in prison for murder to becoming a community leader who is entrusted to transport a young man from Juvenile Hall to a pre-apprenticeship program for 12 weeks.
Scott and Harris also credited early community partnerships for helping to drive its current successes. 1HYE operates in the heart of downtown at CoBiz Richmond, the 9,000 square foot, high-tech coworking space and business incubator and project of eQuip Richmond, the economic revitalization initiative funded by Chevron Richmond. As a CoBiz member, 1HYE has access to state-of-the-art facilities downtown along with expert incubator services to help guide it to success. Along with the ability to network with community and organizational leaders.
Scott thanked CoBiz CEO Wesley Alexander “for believing and continually reminding us that ‘We have something special.”
Looking into the future, Reese said the challenges 1HYE will face is funding for its numerous programs. Smaller cities endure limited resources and many organizations competing for them, he said. Reese expressed frustration at how larger organizations, including those based outside the city, receive support while smaller, growing local organizations like 1HYE often pay for services out of their own pockets.
1HYE’s founders thanked Chevron Richmond for stepping forward as an ongoing supporter of its efforts.
“It’s a blessing to have a corporation such as Chevron Richmond support the work we are doing in the community to help the youth,” Reese said.
1HYE hopes to further expand both its access, and influence, in the local community. One of the ways it seeks to do this is by bringing in more mentors.
“Through my lived experience as a misguided youth, I want to help them overcome challenges and struggles that hinder them from having a positive healthy lifestyle,” Scott said.
Added Gaines, “Several at risk young men within our jurisdiction have had the opportunity to hear our stories of consequences and witness where we are today, which often gives our youth a second thought.”
“We constantly remind our mentees of the realization of what could happen when we act out of emotion,” Gaines added.