Lawrence man starts business that only hires ex-offenders, homeless and recovering addicts

LAWRENCE, Kan. – A Lawrence man is trying to empower at-risk people by giving them a job.

Shine Adams is the executive director for Phoenix Woodworking, a company that specializes in wooden gifts.

“It’s actually the first public-benefit corporation in Kansas,” Adams said. “We’re all about transformations, fresh starts.”

The company only hires people experiencing homelessness, ex-offenders or recovering addicts.

“If you don’t offer people better choices, better options, they’re never going to do anything better, and it’s just a downward spiral,” he said.

Anthony Jernigan is one of two part-time employees working for the company. Jernigan struggled for years with alcohol and drug abuse. He said working at Phoenix Woodworking has given him stability and confidence.

“To know that I could come here, being a felon or addict recovering -- and there was no prejudice against that -- that was a little bit of surety,” Jernigan said. “[It] made me walk with my head up.”

Adams launched a Kickstarter in hopes of raising $30,000 to hire more people and expand operations. The campaign got the attention of actress Kristen Bell, who told her Instagram followers she’d match donations.

“[I’m] super grateful [for Kristen],” Adams said. “She’s always got her hands in projects for social good.”

As of Monday evening, the campaign was less than $2,500 away from reaching its goal.

“It’s important to give a chance to people,” Adams said. “I know what it feels like.”

Adams is eight years sober and promised himself, early into his sobriety, that one day he’d pay it forward. Empowerment through employment.

“I saw that I had an opportunity to teach some skills to people that were ready to change, and it’s gone well,” he said.

Kickstarters are all or nothing, so Adams campaign must reach its goal. It ends on Thursday.

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