Ending the Prison Cycle with Social Enterprises

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Social enterprises

After an individual has paid their debt to society, all there’s left to do is get a job and get on with life, right? Sounds easy enough.

Then how come so many people who’ve been to prison once keep going back?

Some may be surprised by this but as it turns out around 60% of employers, upon initial consideration would not hire an individual released from prison or jail. This doesn’t bode well for recent inmates in a time when even those with college degrees and unscathed backgrounds are having trouble finding employment. In California, between 60-80% of parolees were still unemployed after a release from prison and over 89% of parole violators were unemployed at the time. Just in California the annual cost of re-incarcerating individuals on parole is around $2 billion. Not million, BILLION. That’s a solid chunk of change to have to do something over again. Reincarcerating individuals is costing us all a lot of money. It seems to me that employment would solve a lot of these problems and cut costs. But where to begin?

This is where social enterprises come in. Several social enterprises will focus on hiring those who have recently come out of incarceration, teach them job and some life skills during employment, so eventually they will become more “hire-able” to other employers, ultimately be able to create more sustainable lives for themselves and break the prison cycle. The state of New York is a big proponent of this, using social enterprises to cut down the number of inmates by 9,000 over the last ten years and cutting re-incarceration rates by 40% (while inmate populations in most other states continue to increase).

Helping Hand Rewards partner The Enterprising Kitchen (TEK) is a social enterprise with the same sort of mission as the ones mentioned above. They give recently incarcerated women employment opportunities while teaching them job/life skills and producing high quality soap and spa products along the way.

Among individuals interviewed two years after hire into a social enterprise, 74% were working and 12 percent more were in vocational education. Just as many people have stayed out of jail through social enterprise employment as people going back into prison while being unemployed. Corporations and individuals can support these causes by doing business with these different social enterprises. For example, an individual can purchase soap and spa products from a company like TEK, brownies from Greyston Bakery, or even eco-friendly candles from Bright Endeavors. Corporations can use these social enterprise groups when assembling corporate gifts to clients and/or employees. Most of these types of items are purchased normally, why not do it and help someone in need along the way?

Doing business with these companies and supporting their efforts keeps everything growing and helps break this costly prison cycle. Can you think of any social enterprises like these in your area?

Michael Arkes Talks CSR

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In the latest edition of IMI Media’s magazine, Hinda CEO and Helping Hand Rewards founder Michael Arkes discusses how corporate social responsiblity is becoming more and more prevalent in meeting planning and and incentive programs. He mentions how products from various HHR partner organizations have been successfully used as corporate gifts and promotional items. Recipientes liked the quality but especially liked the cause it helped as a result of giving/receiving those gifts.

The full article is listed here. Check it out!

Socially Responsible YouTube Channel: HHR

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There’s just something about being able to put a face with a name. It’s also good to hear the stories that make our work totally worth it every time.

We have a home website, a Twitter handle, and even a Facebook fan page but now we’ve kicked things up a notch with our brand new YouTube channel. This channel is an opportunity for us to share more of the stories from our social enterprise partners on how lives are being changed. It’s one thing to read about them here on our blog or home website. However, it’s an even more personal experience to see and hear from the participants and partners first hand.

Our first (and only…so far…) video is of Heather, a woman who had her life turn around as a result of HHR partner Women Helping Other Women (WHOWomen). It’s a great story and shows the impact WHOWomen’s socially responsible goods have helped Heather create a new start for herself.

Click here to check out our new channel!

World Water Day

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Today marks the 17th observance of World Water Day. Why a day for water? At a United Nations meeting in 1992, it was suggested that there be an international day to celebrate fresh water. Over the years, there has been a different theme for World Water Day, focusing on a different aspect or issue regarding fresh water.

It is estimated that there are nearly a BILLION people in the world that do not have access to potable water sources and an estimated extra 2.5 billion that lack the proper water sanitation. Why do these figures raise alarm? Improper sanitation is a leading cause of several types of illness and disease. Because water has such an impact on human necessity and health in almost all aspects of life, access to clean water can affect other things like wealth and educational levels.

So what is being done about this issue other than having a UN-sponsored international awareness day?

Other than some legislation, a small social enterprise has taken measures to change the world in this area. Water For Humans is a non-profit social venture who’s goal is to “bring sanitation and clean water to communities in need through partnerships with local communities, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, universities and governments. These partnerships ensure clean drinking water, create local jobs and protect local water assets.”  

Water For Humans began as a graduate school project by Stan Brown and Rick McKenney and officially launched this past July, serving two communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. They bring low-cost drinking water to these communities which ultimately helps families, schools, restaurants and health institutions have access to better quality water and teaching them how to install water purification systems in their towns. Stan Brown says in this article:

“Over a billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water. It’s one of the leading causes of illness worldwide…our goal is to address this issue watershed by watershed delivering low-cost, clean water technology while creating jobs and a self-supporting social enterprise.”

Learn more about World Water Day or Water For Humans. To learn about other social enterprises that are using business models to help out the world outside of water, check this out.

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Rosario: A Success Story from Mercado Global

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Twenty-six year-old Rosario Gonzalez taught herself to sew as a young girl when she had to make clothes for herself and her younger sisters. She became a seamstress to support her family, but work was inconsistent, low-paying, and har d to find. One day a friend told her about an opportunity to join a women’s sewing cooperative which partners with Mercado Global. Today, Rosario earns a fair-wage and supports herself and her three-year-old daughter. As a single working mother Rosario can attest to the difficulties that life can bring, but she is hopeful that one day she will be able to afford her own house in which raise her daughter.

Learn about our other Helping Hand Rewards partners by clicking here

Gonna Be At Promotions East?

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Any promotional products people going to be at Promotions East in Atlantic City this week? If you are be sure to say hey!

Helping Hand Rewards will be showcasing at the brand pavilion area in booth number 2811 the next few days. Unlike many brands, we put a little twist on the whole concept of promotional products.

When most people think “promotional products” they immediately think of branded items like t-shirts, pens, frisbees, kuzis and even the occasional post-it stack. We offer products like gourmet boxes of brownies, soap and spa kits along with some jewelry items. However, it’s not the products themselves that really sets us apart: it’s the social purpose behind them.

For those of you who may not know, we partner with nine different social enterprise groups who create the products our clients use in their incentive and promotional programs. The products are made by individuals employed by the social enterprises who are receiving job and life skills training to better their lives. You can hear some personal accounts from people who have seen 180 degree life turn-arounds by checking out our YouTube channel. Nothing beats hearing the success stories not from us but from the people themselves.

Promotional products that encourage social responsibility? Say hey to us at booth #2811 to learn more!

Credit Card Authorization Form

STATEMENT OF AUTHORIZATION AND GUARANTY OF PAYMENT:
The purpose of this statement is to authorize Helping Hand Partners, and its successors and assigns, hereinafter referred to as “Merchant”, to process credit card transactions from the information stated hereon.  I acknowledge that all credit card orders are billed at agreed pricing. I am the individual to whom the card has been issued. I will update Merchant upon the expiration date and/or other necessary information as the credit card is renewed or changed. I acknowledge that I am solely responsible  to know whether a credit card purchase will be declined by the issuing bank. I understand that any purchases declined by the issuing bank will not be shipped until alternate method of payment has been agreed upon.