Community Builder: DJJ program provides host of second chances

(Source: WIS)
(Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A program at the Department of Juvenile Justice allows juveniles to take old furniture and give it new life.

However, the teens who participate say because of the woman who leads the program, they're getting a second chance, as well.

"We started out with three juveniles in a tiny little room, and it grew and within a week or two, I had ten kids in the program," said Rebecca Morrison, who started the program at DJJ nine years ago.

From a repair room to a fabric room, the upholstery class is now a full-blown workshop, and everything that comes in the workshop leaves differently. That includes the teens.

"It's a lot more than furniture, it's life skills, like patience," said Malik, a DJJ student.

"A lot of stuff that's going on in here is just change," said fellow DJJ student and classmate Gabriel. "Making men and everything into better people."

Ask the young men whose largely responsible for that change, and you'll hear a common theme.

"Mrs. Morrison has made a very big impact on my life," said Gabriel.

"Mrs. Morrison encourages me to keep going … don't stop cause there's always a way to finish it," added Malik.

"She's never left me behind when I needed stuff," said DJJ student Austin.

"Morrison was here with me from the beginning, she'll be with me to the end," added another student Kenneth.

Morrison came to DJJ to work part-time 9 years ago after working for 32 years at the Department of Social Services. While she had retired, her husband David, who has spent his 44-year career at DJJ, knew it was a fit.
"She would go above and beyond what is required here at DJJ," said David. "For 44 years, I've never seen a program grow or be so good for the kids to have."

It's why Rebecca's son Matt Morrison nominated her as a Community Builder and Matt Mungo with Mungo Homes surprised her with the news.

"I'm here because of your work with the youth here at DJJ and helping them with some vocational skills…you have been nominated and chosen as our Community Builder," said Mungo.

"You'll get a $1,000 check to the charity of your choice from the Michael J. Mungo Foundation."

Morrison says the money will go right back to the program. Currently, the program is sustained by selling the teens' refurbished items at the Store of Hope off of Broad River Road.

Putting the items on display also serves as a symbolic reminder that while at one time they looked differently, there's no limitation to what they can become.

"I want these kids to be successful, I don't want what they have been through to define them," said Morrison. "This is their do-over, this is their second chance. I want them to get jobs, I want people to hire them and find out how amazing
they are. It's really all about them, it's not about me."
You can find out more about the Store of Hope by clicking here.

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