The Chattanooga Gas Foundation, as part of its commitment to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion, is supporting Project Return’s efforts to help the formerly incarcerated in Tennessee gain access to opportunities that they may otherwise be denied. Today the organization celebrated the grand opening of its Chattanooga office, expanding its operations to the region.
The $25,000 donation will help Project Return support and coach individuals through their transitions from incarceration to the community. In 2021, Project Return program participants have an 82% job acquisition rate and a 13% recidivism rate, compared to state and national averages exceeding 50%.
“Our mission is to provide necessary, impactful reentry services for our program participants who have chosen to improve their own lives and communities,” said Bettie Kirkland, CEO of Project Return. “Our decision to expand our services to Chattanooga was inspired by the strong support we received from local leaders, including state legislators, the city and county mayors’ offices and the business community.”
“Project Return is a shining example that with the right help and guidance, one mistake doesn’t have to hold a person back forever,” said Pedro Cherry, president and CEO of Chattanooga Gas. “That’s why Chattanooga Gas and the Chattanooga Gas Foundation are presenting this donation as part of our company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. We believe strongly in Project Return’s mission and the results they are achieving, and hope that we can help them continue to create opportunities and strengthen communities.”
Project Return’s decision to expand to Chattanooga was made in part due to the area’s growing local economy and the strong entrepreneurial identity of its business community. Project Return operates an employment-creating social enterprise known as PROe, which is a high-quality staffing company, offering participants their best first job after incarceration, while staffing the worksites of area employers with motivated workers.
The gift is one of several donations in an ongoing charitable initiative sponsored by Chattanooga Gas’ parent company, Southern Company Gas. Through the Southern Company Gas Charitable Foundation, the business is donating $700,000 to organizations across Southern Company Gas’ service territory that improve equity and social justice through education, economic development, community support and industry partnerships.
The Chattanooga Gas Foundation and the Southern Company Gas Charitable Foundation are independent, nonprofit philanthropic organizations funded solely through shareholder dollars. For more information on the companies' impact on their local communities, visit scgcares.org.