Peace through Jobs: PBMR Prepares to Move Youth from Jail and the Streets into Employment

Categorized as: on December 7, 2013.


PBMR members, entrenched in violence and poverty from birth, want a sustainable way out: education and jobs.

Editor’s note: This guest-post by Father Dave Kelly gives you a glimpse into the series we shared from Chicago this summer. More gun violence, more killings, have struck the community since we visited. PBMR relentlessly continues their work with the youth and their traumatized families, holding a safe space for study, recreation, and peacemaking circles. But they’ve realized that, to build peace that lasts, they have to help these boys secure sustainable employment. To that end, they’ve launched a new two-part mentoring and jobs-skills training workshop, “Bridges Out of Poverty” and “Getting Ahead,” that you can directly support. Workshops begin THIS WEEK. The Skees Family Foundation is honored to seed-fund this initiative, but PBMR still needs help with longterm training, mentoring, and workforce partnerships. Read on for an update from Dave, below.

By Father Dave KellyPBMR

Father Dave (L), doing what he does 365 days a year: listening. 

A brisk start to the day means that summer is giving way to autumn. Sister Carolyn says the harvest from our community garden is just about done . . . a couple of tomatoes still hanging on, some brussels sprouts, too. Frankly, the change of season is a welcomed relief from some of the summer-time violence that has marked too much of the last few months. In the past week or so there has been a lot of attention with the “mass shooting” that occurred some blocks from the Precious Blood Center; I even received a call from a reporter in France. As has been our custom, we gathered to do a prayer service at the site of the shooting in an effort to reclaim the space as sacred, and to recommit ourselves to working for peace. The real challenge is: How we can bring forth a true and lasting peace? Our kids deserve it.

There is no simple explanation for the violence, just as there are no simple solutions. As a community we must find ways to build stronger relationships with one another; we cannot just wait for professionals or elected officials to fix the problem. Things will change only when we come together and commit to creating a neighborhood where children are not afraid to play in the park, where innocence isn’t snatched away at such a young age.


Lamonte (in olive sweater) and Jonathan (in grey cap) working with youth and checking pantry supplies at the PBMR Center. 

There is, however, ample reason to have hope. Even though we have our problems—and there are many—there are also many things to be proud of. More and more young people and families are claiming PBMR as their “home away from home.” Local schools and the courts are looking to connect with us in an attempt to change the discourse from retribution and punishment to restoration and reconciliation. There is an energy among those of us working in the community that gives me hope.

Jonathan and Lamonte are two young men who work here at the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. Even in their youth they have experienced a great deal. Both have grown up in this community and have gone through their fair share of struggles. Today, however, Jonathan is in second year of college, on the way to achieving his dream of being a nurse. Lamonte is set to begin college in January. They both provide a ray of hope to those young people who are looking for someone to show them that it is worth the struggle—that it is possible.

Kelvin Brown, a PBMR member who’s not afraid of a little hard work.

On an ongoing basis, we offer our youth a holistic curriculum that focuses on educational, emotional, and spiritual growth. We offer tutoring and mentoring, spiritual and emotional guidance. We assist them in preparing for and finding employment. Every week, the youth meet with their mentors to talk about their stories, their struggles, and their dreams.

In addition to the 90-100 youth that we serve, we also assist their families: families who have children incarcerated and families who have lost children to violence. We reach out to our hurting community broken by poverty, pain and hopelessness. We gather victims, offenders, and the community together in peacemaking circles, to restore relationships, reduce animosity and violence, and bring reconciliation and healing in a peaceful manner.

We offer a healing, reconciling presence in our neighborhood, in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, the Cook County Jail, and other penal institutions in Illinois where our community youth are incarcerated. We’re working toward restorative justice in an effort to alleviate the poverty in our neighborhood and reduce both violence and recidivism.

Our news this month is that we’re trying to expand our mentoring program so that more youth have an adult in their lives—people like Jonathan and Lamonte—who are willing to reach out and show them support and care, show them that they are not alone. All the research tells us that a young person who has a caring and positive adult in his/her life is better able to cope with the inevitable struggles.

There’s no denying that there are a lot of problems and a person can become overwhelmed at the sheer immensity of the struggle; but there are many reasons to have hope as well. I have recently been inspired by Pope Francis’s call to reach out to those who are on the margins, who are isolated and struggle alone. As a church, we must become their safe refuge.

We at the PBMR Peace Center are privileged to be in the lives of these youth.  They can have you laughing and in tears in the same moment. I have many dreams and hopes—from as simple as a new pool table to something a bit more to the point—a jobs program that really enables kids to have the skills and support necessary to have a promising job/career.

This year, we’re introducing a new initiative in our effort to equip our youth with employable skills. Our “Bridges Out of Poverty” skills-training program will be a foundation for our mentoring program as well as our community HUB Project. We’re running a pilot program in Chicago next week, training community leaders, adults and youth. In 2014, we plan to host a followup training for these same leaders in a life-skills program called “Getting Ahead.” We see these two training programs as the next step in giving community leaders, our youth and their families, the tools to break out of this cycle of poverty and violence; in empowering a community without hope or power to work together for change.

My dream is to train our youth and then give them the opportunity to become productive members of society in the local Chicago workforce. We hope to partner with individual and organizational supporters to match youth with longterm mentors, entrepreneurial options, and job sponsorships.

Jobs for peace: It’s a logical next step. I welcome your ideas on how we can make this venture successful: Email me at [email protected]


The staff of PBMR work relentlessly, with a shared conviction that the youth and their families deserve peace NOW. R to L: Lamonte, Father Denny, Father Dave, Diana, Jonathan, Mike, Sister Carolyn, and Sister Donna. 

Meet Dave and the some of the PBMR youth: Click the link here or watch the video embedded below. They talk about the therapeutic and enjoyable art of theatre as a means of communicating and sharing their struggles, what it’s like to be racially profiled on the streets of Chicago, and how they maintain respect for self and other, even when imprisoned.

Photographs courtesy of PBMR.

LEARN  more about The PBMR Center’s holistic care of at-risk and incarcerated youth here.

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DONATE  directly to provide more youth and families with a safe space to heal, here.

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