How Furniture Restoration is Restoring Lives at Anew Nature
In St. Louis, Missouri, men are redesigning themselves alongside the furniture they restore at Anew Nature. Since March 2014, forty-five otherwise marginalized men have received vocational training, an honest wage, and a renewed lease on life.
Founder of Anew Nature and son of a stonemason, Robert Karleskint inherited more than just his father’s strong work ethic. “My dad made a point of always hiring men who needed a helping hand to get back onto their feet.” said Karleskint. “Recovering drug users, alcoholics, felons, and men who just had a hard time with a normal 9-5 job.” According to the National Institute of Justice, as many as 3 out of 4 men are jobless up to one year from their release. Many of the interns at Anew are middle aged men who struggled to find work as a result of decisions they made in their early 20s, if not younger. Karleskint believed there was a way to provide opportunities to ex-felons through a job and leadership program lead by those the program had transformed. Partnering with Mission, a local nonprofit, he now educates men in practical life skills alongside their vocational training in the workshop.
Anew Nature have restored and sold about 200 pieces of furniture within 1,200 square feet of workspace. Their main source of inventory comes from individuals who believe in their cause. Other sources have come from wholesalers and auctioneers.
Karleskint leads the organization alongside Guy Long and William White, two alumni of the program. Long had been unemployed for five years upon walking through the doors of Anew Nature. Having once been labeled the youngest drug lord in St. Louis, Guy Long’s go-get-em mentality was one that Karleskint could relate with. “I met a man, who was so similar to myself. I felt I could have done all the wrong that he had, if my circumstances had been just a little different coming up. Guy radically changed my perspective, and I know I did for him too.”
The community of men at Anew Nature strive to become better men every day. The creativity, pride, and passion in their work shines through to the furniture they restore. 91% of their graduates have not received new felonies or warrants, and 73% of the men have received full-time employment within 5 months of graduating. Within the last year they have hired five of their own graduates. Anew Nature plans to extend its program online and expand to a second location where they can provide deeper training and new skills.