David Figueroa is a family man, a business man, and a man who believes in God and in second chances. Released from prison in 2005, David was living in Chicago with his niece while he looked for work. It was difficult to find employment due to his background. “It was very discouraging,” recalls David. “I could have gone back on the streets but I made a promise to God not to do that again.”
That was when a friend told him about North Lawndale Employment Network’s U-Turn Permitted. “I didn’t know programs like this existed – trying to help individuals like myself who screwed up and were looking for an opportunity to make it right,” said David. Here was an organization that was going to help me get the second chance that I needed. I took full advantage of the program.”
He did indeed. Two weeks prior to graduating from UTP, he had a job offer to work in construction. He has raised a family, including two boys, ages 12 and 5, with a girl on the way in May 2015. “I want to inspire my kids to be better than me – that is my ultimate goal in life, said David.” I want them to find their niche in life. I want to send them to college, give them everything I never had, give them every opportunity to succeed, to be better people – I set the bar as high as I can for them.”
David’s passion for creating opportunity and changing lives extends beyond his family. “I always had in my heart that my mission was to do something for people like myself – to be a bridge for others.” In 2014, he started his own business, Second Chance Renovations, LLC, a construction/renovation social enterprise that hires, trains and empowers convicted felons who are looking to change their lives and re-enter society as productive law abiding citizens. And he came back to NLEN to find employees.
Running his own business has presented David with a new set of challenges, including hiring and sometimes having to fire employees. “The mission is greater than one person,” says David. “Greater than me, greater than them. If they continue bad behavior, it puts the enterprise at risk. There are so many people counting on us. I believe that what we are doing is a game changer – I can’t get discouraged and give up.”
David’s next venture is a non-profit: MMERCI, an acronym for Ministry Mentoring Empowering Renewing Collaborating and Innovating. “I want to send guys back to school. I’m looking to identify individuals who are hard workers – and pay for their tuition [to learn construction skills] so they can better their lives.” His plan, already in motion with the purchase of two buildings in Englewood, is to hire and train workers to renovate distressed properties to serve as halfway houses, orphanages, and affordable housing.
“I see a need for something that a lot of people are ignoring right now and I want to make a difference,” said David. “I don’t want to receive accolades. I put Jesus Christ in the forefront of everything we are doing. I want to provide for my family, but I’m not into it for the money. I just want to help.”