Two ex-convicts who spent years behind bars after becoming consumed by “drugs, guns and gangs” have done an about-face, and are now devoting their lives to helping at-risk youth, according to WWMT-TV reported.
Jeffrey Cotton spent 13 years in prison for gang-related crimes, and Damon Brown was behind bars for 12 years for selling drugs. Both men found themselves diving into the gang life by the time they were in the eighth grade, with the situation quickly worsening.
Despite their rough histories, Cotton and Brown emerged from jail on a quest to turn their lives around, launching a charity in Battle Creek, Michigan, called Big Homies Community Outreach — a nonprofit that helps keep at-risk kids on the right path.
It’s a stunning change-of-heart. The ex-convicts are now working with police to help bring their programs to fruition.
“We helped destroy this community, and to now help to revitalize it, and to now pass the ball to the next generation, so these kids can continue, you know, what we’re trying to do,” Brown told WWMT-TV. “You have a choice, you know. It doesn’t matter how you grew up. It doesn’t matter that you came from this environment, you have a choice.”
Some people in the community have taken notice of the profound changes that Cotton and Brown have undergone, with Sgt. Jeff Case of the Battle Creek Police Department telling the outlet that he can remember chasing Brown around, but is now encouraged to see how the men are choosing to live their lives post-incarceration.
“Start talking about what they were doing, the changes in their lives, and what they were trying to do to really fix some of things that they have caused it was refreshing, it was very cool to see,” the cop said.
Big Homies Community Outreach has helped with water drives amid the Flint water crisis, offers programs to show kids positive career options and helps youths keep their lives on track in other innovative ways. Cotton and Brown are currently trying to create a permanent home for local at-risk youth in their community.
In the end, it’s clearly a story of redemption that proves people really can change.
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