(WKBN) – In this week’s In-Depth segment, WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford sits down with Andrea Mahone-Blackmon and Anthony Blackmon from the Andrea Mahone Foundation.
“So once Anthony and I got married, we came together and we both discovered that we had a passion for guys coming home from prison, a passion to help women get their children back, just whatever we could. So before we knew it, here we are developing the Andrea Mahone Foundation,” Andrea said.
The Andrea Mahone Foundation is about people getting help from a place of sincerity.
The foundation has one location on Midlothian Boulevard and is in the midst of opening up a second location in Struthers.
“What we’re doing is transitional housing. So we have our employment agency on the first floor and then our second and third floors are for guys that are coming home from any type of drug rehab. They need to be clean for at least six months and sincere about going to work. Same way with guys coming home, guys and girls coming home from prison or getting out of a transition or getting out of a halfway house and looking for a place to start,” Andrea said.
Andrea and Anthony met at the Trumbull Correctional Institution, where he was doing a prison ministry. The couple continues to follow their mission today with a faith-based commitment.
There are different ways individuals enter the Andrea Mahone Foundation’s program.
“Some are referred to as actually from the prison itself. They let us know that people are looking. We have people that are within the area that are moving out of the halfway house and wanting to get into transitional housing, independent living. Then some are just by word of mouth. We’ve never really advertised until just now. So we’ve had a steady flow of individuals that come in. We don’t necessarily just take in walk-ins because we’re not a homeless shelter, but if I have room and you don’t have a roof over your head, between Anthony and I, we usually try to help as much as possible,” Andrea said.
As people come in, the program sets goals and expectations for them, which staff implement.
“We do case management with each person and we try to focus on the family and the whole person getting back to wholeness in the community. We, on a daily basis, have to deal with mental health and also a dysfunction in the individual, the situation they’re coming out of. So we do address that with each person and we have a fairly successful rate of getting people back on track with their families,” Anthony said.
The foundation tries to support each individual while using resources from the community as well.
“We’ve tried to make it into a community in whole. They might be coming to the Andrea Mahone Foundation for the help but we’re able to go to CCA, we’re able to go to Red Zone, we’re able to go to Catholic Charities, MYCAP. So it’s really the whole entire community that’s helping these individuals. So if I can provide something there, I’m going to go dig it out of the community and get the help that they need. Even with church services, we provide different means for them to be able to attend one of the church services,” Andrea said.
If the foundation can’t find help within the community, then they develop it.
“So we make out a life mapping plan for each person. Anthony has taken them to get their driver’s license. They use our cars to actually get their driver’s license. So every person in our building, you have to have a job. We don’t do a background check. We don’t do a credit check. We look you dead in your eyes. OK, if you really want help, we’re going to help you, but I’ll tell you what, you have to get up and go to work, and nobody’s gonna lay around here just sucking up air,” Andrea said.
The Andrea Mahone Foundation is a 501(c)(3) within the state of Ohio. Anthony explained how they are funded.
“We actually, right now, we have a capital campaign. We’re in the middle of it. We’re trying to raise $1.5 million so that we can continue to serve the community. You can log on to our website and you can also donate through Facebook,” he said.
Andrea described their expectations and needs moving forward.
“You know, one is definitely going to be the financing because we have buildings, we need repairs. We have a lot of issues that come up and when you’re dealing with mental health, they have a tendency to break everything they put their hands on. So until we’re able to really be able to help with them, one thing with the community that we want the community to know is that we are a safe entity within the community and we are making a difference… We have people that are hitting levels of success that people for sure gambled that they were going to go back to prison and they have not,” she said.
The Andrea Mahone Foundation is about second chances and an integral part of their programming is about family outreach.
“We just picked up a young man. We got a call from the city mission and he had nowhere to go. He had messed up there and we took him in and he has left already and he’s getting married. Then his fiancee, they’re expecting their first child and they have a business right here on Market in Boardman. So we went down to Belmont Correctional, to Grafton Correctional and picked up individuals that were coming back into society that had no place to go. So we understand being a community stakeholder, how it works and we’re able to help the community be safer,” Anthony said.
All in all, the Andrea Mahone Foundation is a haven within a storm for so many people.