Man helps ex-offenders earn second chance by teaching life skills

Rev. Eugene Potter teaches carpentry, mechanics

INDIANAPOLIS - One Indianapolis man is leading by example, practicing what he preaches.

Rev. Eugene Potter helps ex-offenders gain the skills they need to lead productive lives by teaching them carpentry and mechanics skills.

"He offered me an opportunity and where I had came from and where I don't want to be any longer, it was like, I put it on a scale and this is a no-brainer," said ex-offender Willon Sams, who says he has a criminal history as big as Texas.

Potter returned home to Indianapolis to start New Life Development Ministries a few years ago, modeled after his program in Baltimore.

His organization is all about helping criminals re-enter society by giving them the tools necessary to live life within the law.

Thanks to some generous donors, Potter trains his crews on old rundown homes, which eventually generate money for new life.

Their work also improves a blighted community that needs a helping hand.

New Life also has its own construction company.

Potter said the recidivism rate for the ex-offenders working their way through his organization is extremely low compared to the rate for the rest of the city and state.

"I say if a person makes a mistake, should he get another opportunity, absolutely," Potter said. "The people that you love, sometimes they make mistakes. I think we need to find ways to show them the kind of love that Christ did, that they can come back into a society and feel like they're wanted and needed."

Potter said there's not a day that goes by he doesn't want to get up and go to work, and despite a cancer diagnosis a couple of years ago, which he's since beaten, his focus remains on helping those around him.

Potter's helping hand extends beyond the construction and mechanics training.

"He has gone to court with them, he has taken them into his home, he has fed them, he has hugged them, he has given them the kind of hope that you don't get," said Marilyn O'Bannon, who volunteers for his organization.

O'Bannon has seen firsthand how Potter's program works, because her own son benefited from it.

Sams also appreciates Potter's work.

"You know, some people just really need someone to say, 'Hey, there is hope for the hopeless,'" Sams said.

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