July 21, 2017

This college student is starting a ride-share service to serve the less fortunate

Get inspired by these three stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

Hayden Gadberry founded Vessel Transportation Services to help the formerly incarcerated in his Searcy, Arkansas, community, get to job interviews and other pre-approved locations. Photo courtesy of Hayden Gadberry

Every Friday, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Want to share a story from your hometown? Email us at info@therenewalproject.com.

A ride-share that uplifts: Arkansas’s prison population has a recidivism rate of 51.82 percent—meaning roughly half of all inmates released are re-incarcerated within three years. Hayden Gadberry, a student at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, thinks he can help diminish this rate. According to a recent Arkansas Department of Correction report, “an inmate’s first three years in the community represent the period of greatest risk for reoffending.” To that end, Gadberry launched Vessel Transportation Services, a nonprofit ride-share service that shuttles the formerly incarcerated to work, job interviews, and other pre-approved locations. Gadberry also hopes Vessel can be a positive force for the entire community. “While first we will be working with parolees and we think it can help greatly reduce the risk of recidivism, [Vessel] is not just for parolees,” says Gadberry. “We have actually just partnered with Jacob’s Place here in Searcy, a housing facility for families trying to get back on their feet. There is so much potential beyond parolees to help out the community.” He expects to launch Vessel in August, and is raising money to insure two cars and start hiring drivers. Eventually, he hopes to expand the service across the state. “This idea just popped in my head,” Gadberry told Searcy.com. “I thought it was very doable, I had the resources to do it, so I’m doing it. Somebody has to.”

Doubling their reach: FareStart, a Seattle-based nonprofit, uses culinary training to give the formerly-incarcerated and homeless a helping hand. The organization is getting a helping hand from Amazon. Earlier this year, Amazon donated 25,000 square feet of its new headquarters to FareStart. Now, the retail giant is promising to match FareStart’s earnings during its first 25 days of operation in the new building. With its new space, the nonprofit is opening a new apprenticeship program and five new eateries, ranging from an Italian coffee shop to a restaurant and bar named after a psychological theory known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. “I see students walk through our door with little sense of connection, little sense of hope, little sense of dignity, and to use their words, they come ‘broken,’” Megan Karch, FareStart’s CEO, said in an Amazon press release. “What I see when they graduate is a different person. I see them feel their own value. We use food as a tool for helping people see who they can be.”

A Scout support system: Girl Scouts Troop 6000, which was started earlier this year in a homeless shelter in Queens, New York, is set to expand to 14 other shelters across New York City. Currently a small troop of 27, it is expected to serve approximately 500 members by the end of the expansion. New York City is struggling with homelessness: in 2016, the city documented 45,000 homeless children using the New York City shelter system. Four members of the troops—ranging in age from 5 to 11 years old—announced the expansion at a press conference at City Hall last week. One of the troop members, Karina, was a Girl Scout before she became homeless; Troop 6000 helped her through the transition, teaching her “the true meaning of being a sister to every girl scout and how to emotionally support others. … Now more girls just like me will be able to participate and get the same.”

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor for The Renewal Project