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Thanksgiving Message to the First 72 family

First 72+ supporters and family,

As I reflect on this past year, I think about all that I have to be grateful for. I can’t express it enough. Being here is a blessing.

I was only 17 years old when I was incarcerated, and I had never been to jail in my life. It would be almost 45 years later before I was free again, no longer a young boy, now an old man. I was fearful of what I would do with my life on the outside, so many questions - How would I survive? Where would I live in this new world? Will I fail like so many I’d seen come back to prison after they were released? I didn’t know if I could make it on my own. No place to live, no job, no car, hell I didn’t even know how to use a cell phone.... no wonder so many people end up back in prison after coming home. I was afraid that could happen to me.

It was just last year that I walked out of the prison gates at Angola with nothing but a few personal items and a one way bus ticket to New Orleans. I grew up in Shreveport, and was moving to a completely new city. It all started when I arrived at a little house on Perdido Street- The First 72+. They provide housing, medical, legal and job placement services to people like me who are returning home from prison. Upon arrival I was embraced by so many and welcomed with open arms. I came to this place because I had heard about it while on the inside- I heard it was started by 6 formerly incarcerated people and that I’ll be given a chance and lots of help to get on my feet while adjusting to this to life on the outside. So I came, and as they say, the rest is history.

This picture of me and my new car taken just a few days ago…

she’s a 1991 Buick and she runs great!

I have so much to be grateful for this year. I’m working two jobs now, I have my own car, I got my TWIC card, and not only can I use my cell phone, but I think I’m a real high tech know it all :) When I walk to work every morning I cross the street and I stop and pause to look back at the house, and express my thankfulness and ask God to direct me through the day. I’ve met so many people that God put in my path, and I am thankful I have met these genuine and generous individuals. In a society like ours it's too rare that you run across generous people. This speaks a lot about their character, and that’s what you need to be surrounded by when you leave prison. These are the kinds of people where you can let your guard down and feel comfortable in their presence, that is the way we should always be. These days I’m able to let my guard down and be Wayne.

Yes, I’m very Thankful today. In fact, I can’t remember another Thanksgiving that I’ve had more to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your family.


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