Darrell Richardson, Project Lift participant
John Johnston / United Way of Greater Cincinnati 2022

Darrell Richardson: Project Lift was a "Fresh Start"

According to Darrell Richardson, United Way's Project Lift led to the "wonderful feeling" of working full-time.
May 9, 2022

CINCINNATI, Ohio (May 9, 2022) — As his 19 years in a northeast Ohio prison neared an end, the thought of what lay ahead gave Darrell Richardson cold chills. The world he once knew had changed while he was locked up. His mother, sister and a brother had died. “I didn’t know what I was capable of doing or being,” he says.  

He did know, however, that it’s difficult for a person convicted of a felony to get a job. Indeed, a 2018 Prison Policy Initiative study revealed a 35% unemployment rate for previously incarcerated Black men like Darrell.  

So, he is quite grateful that he has been working full time since two weeks after his Dec. 26, 2018, release from Trumbull Correctional Institution. At 51, the married Walnut Hills resident now knows what it feels like to have steady income, to make a purchase with a credit card and pay it back, to have life insurance so his family is secure.  

“It feels wonderful,” he says. 

His progress is due in part to his determination to keep a promise he made — more about that later — as well as ongoing support he has received from United Way’s Project Lift and one of its two dozen sponsor organizations.  

With help from the sponsor organization, Darrell landed a job with a local castings manufacturer. But his efforts to gain a financial foothold hit a snag when his car needed major repairs. Reliable transportation is crucial for workers to show up on time and remain employed. In Darrell’s case, car repairs were made using funds from United Way’s Project Lift, which leverages public and private dollars to remove barriers to securing sustainable income so families can build long-term financial well-being.  

Project Lift also played a role in boosting Darrell’s income while potentially helping him realize a long-term goal. 

He has long enjoyed cutting hair. As a young man, he attended a barber school and earned a barber license. While in prison, he succeeded in getting his license reinstated. 

After his release, he regularly took part in weekend outreach efforts to help homeless people, using his only pair of clippers to cut hair outside the Hamilton County Justice Center. “Just giving back,” says Darrell, whose long-term goal is to open a barbershop. 

He was invited to attend an entrepreneurship program, which helped him flesh out his idea, learn how to set up a business plan and connect with other entrepreneurs. Project Lift funds were tapped to buy barber equipment for Darrell, including clippers, razors, liners and the like. 

“That really helped me out a lot,” he says, “because it helped me get extra money I need to pay bills.” Indeed, “I got quite a few customers who call me, and I cut their hair,” he says, sitting in the Walnut Hills apartment he shares with his wife.  

For now, at least, barbering is a weekend and evening side job, because he still works full time.  

He received several promotions while at the casting company, but he left that job last year when its factory relocated 90 miles north of Cincinnati. He immediately found a job with a scrap metal dealer. It’s strenuous work, but he says he doesn’t mind because it helps keep him fit. 

“I like the work that I do now,” he says. “I’m dedicated to it.” 

And he is determined to keep a promise. 

“My mother was sick while I was in (prison). I promised her that I wouldn’t let her down once I got out, and I’ve been moving forward ever since.” 

 

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Project Lift offers critical short-term assistance and support, coaching, workforce development and other resources that support long-term success for all families.

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