KELSO, Wash. -- A Kelso man who twice served time is helping other ex convicts find an a path that leads them away from a life of crime.
“'Been There, Done That' is what I call the nonprofit,” said 34-year-old Joel Whiteside. "We’re really a bridge to put them in touch with resources.”
Since 2014, Whiteside has helped almost 50 former felons in Cowlitz County.
“Salvation, a different way of life is what it’s meant to me,” explained Nate Richardson. “I was worried I’d return to the same life of drugs and stealing cars.”
But instead, with Joel’s help, he found a job as a mechanic and is making plans to go to college.
Whiteside begins working with inmates like Richardson months before they are released.
He encourages them to set 5 goals to accomplish before they’re set free and 5 goals for when they reach the outside. “There’s a big disconnect between incarceration and the streets,” said Whiteside. "If I can do it, anyone can.”
Whiteside spent time in Washington state prisons for assault and violating a no-contact order with a former girlfriend.
“I thought I was this tough guy but really I was a scared little boy,” he said, explaining that his inspiration to change came from his Mom.
“She used to say, 'Today is the first day of the rest of your life' and it finally clicked on the sixth day of my second incarceration," he recalled. "I’m glad to know I was clean for 5 years before she passed away.”
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