Top 25 Achievements of Past 25 Years

Here in Florida, there exists a beacon of hope that has been helping people rebuild their lives for a quarter of a century. Founded in March 1999, Operation New Hope celebrates our 25th anniversary this year, commemorating our legacy of transformative impact on the communities we serve. What began as a vision to uplift a neighborhood struggling after years of neglect has evolved into a comprehensive Statewide Reentry Network reconnecting thousands of people with employment every year and breaking the cycle of poverty and incarceration for generations to come.

Since its inception, Operation New Hope has been dedicated to providing second chances and opportunities for those who have often been marginalized by society, even after they have paid their debt to society. Through a multi-faceted approach encompassing job training, career placement, and wraparound support services including counseling, housing, and transportation, we have now helped over 12,000 individuals break free from poverty and involvement with the justice system, forging pathways to sustainable employment and brighter futures.

As Operation New Hope marks our 25th year, it is not only a time for celebration but also reflection and rededication to our mission. The challenges facing justice-impacted communities continue to evolve, and the need for innovative solutions remains ever-present. We pledge to continue to expand to serve more and meet the critical needs of 600,000+ returning from Florida’s jails and prisons every year. 

To celebrate, here are the top 25 achievements of our past 25 years:

1. Creating More Voices of Hope

We believe that we are all better than our worst mistake, worst day, or worst decision. We believe in people’s ability to transform their lives through commitment and hard work. We see it every day as we support our clients’ reentry and growth. By the end of our 25th year, we will have served over 15,000 people who will have gone on to become productive community members and build successful careers earning living wages. These are their stories of transformation, success and hope!

2. Reducing Recidivism in Florida

The Florida Department of Correction reports that Florida’s recidivism rate has declined from 27.7% in 2008 to 21.2% in 2018. Operation New Hope’s work over the past 25 years has contributed to this reduction. Our programs present a significant return on investment by improving the tax base, reducing recidivism, and decreasing corrections costs. 

3. Reinvesting Over $75 Million in Our Communities

The valuable commitments from our generous donors have helped elevate Operation New Hope to the status of a national leader in the field of reentry. Their trust in our work and continued support has helped us attract the attention of the last four White House Administrations, federal, state, and local representatives, and other foundations and donors, and their dollars have allowed us to leverage even more government funding. Investment in Operation New Hope exemplifies what can be achieved by developing Public/Private Partnerships. During the past 25 years, we have reinvested over $75,000,000 in our communities through reentry training and support designed to reconnect people to the workforce and their families. 

4. Expanding to Serve More

Operation New Hope’s Statewide Reentry Network now delivers pre-release services at over 30 correctional facilities and post-release training and support at our Ready4Work program locations in Jacksonville, Orlando, Space Coast and St. Augustine. We are continuing to expand to serve the thousands of people leaving Florida’s jails and prisons every year and are excited to open our newest Ready4Work program location in Tampa in 2024. We have grown from 1 location with less than 10 employees to multiple sites with more than 75 employees. 

5. Helping More Incarcerated Fathers Become Good Dads

Operation New Hope is thrilled to announce that we have been awarded the Responsible Fatherhood Education Programs grant from the Florida Department of Children and Families. Part of Florida’s Father First initiative, the grant will fund Operation New Hope’s delivery of the InsideOut Dad’s program to an additional 300 incarcerated fathers every year at prisons across the state. Expanding opportunities for incarcerated fathers to have access to evidence-based education helps ensure the physical, emotional, and economic well-being of their children and families. This in turn helps break the generational cycle of incarceration and poverty. 

6. Breaking the Cycle

Because children of formerly incarcerated parents are 7x more likely to become offenders themselves, our clients with children are also paired with a Breaking the Cycle coordinator to create individualized family support and reunification plans designed to correct the cycle of generational incarceration.

7. Addressing Homelessness

Formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public. Lacking adequate access to stable housing means people are disconnected from their communities, unlikely to be hired or retain a job, and therefore are far more likely to return to incarceration. This has been called the “homelessness-jail cycle.” That’s why we partner with transitional houses and provide up to 3 months of safe stable housing so clients can focus on securing living wage employment and developing the healthy habits needed to be successful upon reentry.

8. Investing in Mental Health Resources

We know that when people have the support needed to address the issues that may have led to their involvement with the criminal justice system, such as substance abuse and mental health symptoms, then they will be far more successful at securing stable employment and less likely to return to incarceration. Therefore, we continue to invest more mental health services to better support our clients’ success.

9. Providing Training Behind the Wall

We are now offering our Ready4Release Career Development Reentry Training program to people prior to release from the St. Johns and Clay County Jails. Our experienced team of reentry professionals provide Employability Skills Training and individualized Case Management to people currently serving jail time to prepare them for release. We are working expanding this programing to more counties across Florida. 

10. Becoming the Leader in Virtual Reentry

Along with our strategic goals to serve more returning citizens and develop a Statewide Reentry Network, it is our goal to be the leader in virtual delivery of reentry services. In response to the challenges presented during the pandemic, we created the Ready4Success virtual reentry program. 

11. Restored Homes and Lives

Operation New Hope was founded by Kevin Gay in 1999 to address the problems facing Jacksonville’s Historic Springfield neighborhood – poverty, crime, homelessness, disrepair, and drug addiction – and the organization successfully brought together a community once lost to blight, poverty, and outright neglect.

12. Selected by President George Bush

Our early success caught the attention of President Bush and in 2003, and he selected Operation New Hope as the pilot site for the Ready4Work program. Since then, we have been recognized as one of the most experienced and credible organizations in the country that provides reentry services.

13. Recognized by President Bill Clinton

Operation New Hope’s impact was recognized by President Bill Clinton in his book Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.

14. Mentioned by President Barak Obama

There are millions of Americans who share a similar view of their faith and feel they have an obligation to help others and are making a difference in communities all across this country – through initiatives like Ready4Work, which is helping ensure that ex-offenders don’t return to a life of crime.” – Barack Obama

15. Invited to White House

Operation New Hope’s  Founder Kevin Gay was invited to the White House on two different occasions –  the White House Summit on Prisoner Reentry and to advance the First Step Act. 

16. Helped to "Ban the Box"

Operation New Hope was instrumental in development of Project Open Door – Jax Chamber’s Ban-the-Box initiative to encourage employers to delay criminal background inquiries to the interview process which encouraged other cities around the nation to implement more equal hiring practices for people with a criminal history. Jacksonville was one of the first chambers to do so, earning White House recognition.

17. Prepared Workers to Help

In 2010, Operation New Hope helped prepare workers for BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup, addressing both environmental and economic needs. 

18. Hosted Mandela Family

While Dr. Makaziwe Mandela, eldest daughter of Nelson Mandela, and her daughter Tukwini were visiting Jacksonville for the 1st Nelson Mandela International Day Jacksonville in 2019, they stopped by Operation New Hope to learn more about the organization.

19. Named Model Program for U.S.

On Friday, July 26, 2019, Vice President Pence, Ivanka Trump and Governor DeSantis visited Operation New Hope to learn about our nationally acclaimed Ready4Work program. Pence praised our reentry services stating that Ready4Work is a “model program not only in Florida but for the United States.”

20. Provided Business Insights on Forbes

Operation New Hope’s Founder Kevin Gay contributed to in his article “How Businesses Contribute To The Second Sentence Of The Formerly Incarcerated.”

21. Referenced in Harvard Business Review

Employers are desperate to recruit hundreds of thousands of workers who seemingly have vanished from the workforce. People with criminal histories represent a large pool of labor that could fill the gap. So why aren’t more managers hiring them? HBR cites Operation New Hope as a solution. 

22. Built a Community of 20,000+

We build stronger communities by creating opportunities through strategic partnerships with local businesses, community-based organizations, workforce alliances, educational institutions, and the judicial system. During the past 25 years, Operation New Hope has built a community of more than 20,000 supporters, partners, and stakeholders. Check us out on social to learn more. 

23. Named Top Workplace 2 Years in a Row

We have been awarded the Top Workplace in Jacksonville Award for 2024 as well as the Meaningfulness Award, for two years in a row! Creating a Top Workplace is about more than offering great benefits; it’s about putting employees first. Our team is comprised of empathetic, hard-working professionals who positively impact our community. We love what we do and it shows.

24. Honored with NFL Changemaker Award

“The Jaguars are honored to recognize Reggie Fullwood this year as our recipient of the NFL’s Inspire Change Changemaker Award,” said T-Neisha Tate, Jaguars Vice President of Social Responsibility. “The impactful work Reggie is leading through Operation New Hope is making a difference in the lives of many, offering hope and the necessary support and resources to assist in their transition.”

25. Instituted Legacy of Hope Endowment

To honor Operation New Hope’s Founder Kevin Gay and the the seeds of hope he planted during his leadership of the organization, the Legacy of Hope Endowment was presented as a gift at his retirement.

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