Welcome to the fifth edition of Instilling Change: A Second Chance Series! Last month, we featured former Second Chance participant Ronnie Walker. Stay tuned each month for a new feature. -- Focused. Humble. Giving. These are just a few words to describe former Second Chance participant and United States Army Veteran, Deborah Henderson. Not wanting to return to the lifestyle that she was living, Deborah has been able to succeed in many areas of her life post-incarceration with her go-getter attitude and dedication to bettering the lives of those around her.
While Deborah was incarcerated, she was able to focus on change and complete programs such as Pathway to Change and Anger Management. When talking with Deborah, she stated that “if I could do right in prison, I know I could do right when I got out.” Alongside of the different programs she completed, she developed a personal relationship with God through time spent alone and reading her Bible.
Before returning home, Deborah was introduced to the Second Chance program. After her release, she was able to become involved with the program. While enrolled, Second Chance was able to help Deborah find gainful employment and assist with housing needs, such as kitchen/bedding supplies and furniture. When asked which component of Second Chance was the most helpful in her success, Deborah stated that “they don’t look at us as felons. They look at it as ‘you can do it again, and you’re going to do it again.’” The connection between the staff and participants is something that she values to this day.
Through the Second Chance program, she was able to experience a lot of ‘firsts’. For example, she obtained a drivers license for the first time, was an executive housekeeper at the Holiday Inn, and made a wage of $13/hr. At the Holiday Inn, Deborah was able to advocate for fair-hiring practices so people were able to get second chances after their release from incarceration, as well. In an interview, Deborah mentioned how the process of fair-hiring is about trust. When referring to those hired, Deborah stated that “When you’re honest and up front, people have a tendency to trust you, and I got their trust…if nobody speaks up or speaks out, nothing is going to change. I want to be that voice for the people.”
As of today, Deborah is beginning the journey of re-starting her own cleaning business in the Kansas City area. While she was incarcerated, she developed her entire business plan, which includes the rates, pay, penalties, etc. Deborah plans on hiring those with criminal backgrounds, so she can give people second chances just like the ones that she received. Aside from her business goals, she also has the aspirations to open her own homeless and transitional shelters for those in Kansas City who need it most. Deborah has also successfully completed the Second Chance program and has completed parole. To this day, she still maintains contact with the program and her parole officer. -- Second Chance is a program of the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission. If you have any further questions, please contact us at 816-231-0450.