• 1991

    Memphis Leadership Foundation's job readiness program, Memphis Jobs was able to help inner city individuals with job except for those with troubled background and criminal histories. The vision was cast for an “intensive care unit” idea where these individuals could work under Christian supervision, receive spiritual enrichment, and be trained to reenter the workforce. Economic Opportunities was formed and Jim Kennedy, Sr. was hired as its first program director.

  • 1995

    EcOp grew as a ministry program serving formerly incarcerated men but was challenged to find work and funding opportunities. The program started several work and revenue generating approaches that consisted of building pallets, outsourcing projects, and other contracting work. But funding challenges still persisted.

  • 1998

    Jim Kennedy negotiated larger space for EcOp in the former Army Depot Building. Barnhart Crane later moved its corporate offices to this location and continued its partnership and support with an on-the-job training program where participants can gain work experience.

  • 2010

    EcOp expanded its formal job prep training to add classroom curriculum based on best practices and focus on job soft skills and financial literacy .

  • 2012

    EcOp training center and office had major expansion to 8,000 sq.ft. Created capacity to serve up to 200 participants annually. Added computer lab for training participants and providing assistance with job searches.

  • 2013

    After leading the growth of EcOp since its inception, Jim Kennedy retires as director. Ray Clark assumes role of new director and will continue to enlarge the program and its impact on the lives of formerly incarcerated individuals.

Economic Opportunities was formed in 1991 as an operational ministry of the non-profit 501(c)(3) Memphis Leadership Foundation and has been a staple in reentry workforce development ever since.

The mission of EcOp is to equip returning citizens with the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to obtain stable employment and economic empowerment. Absent stable employment, the experience is that many formerly incarcerated individuals will wind up being rearrested for new crimes and return to prison.

Ninety five percent of prisoners will be returning to the community, and research indicates that nearly two out of three will return to prison within three years–absent effective interventions. Our program is designed to reduce recidivism and equip individuals with the tools they need to secure stable employment, reconnect with families and communities, and become productive citizens.

A Holistic Approach
The steps to stable employment in re-entry begins with a transformative process. We employ a holistic approach to transform the mindset of ex-offenders, reshape attitudes, and promote effective behaviors based Christ-centered, biblical principles. Our approach includes:

Job Readiness Training
Using best practices and evidence based research to develop the skills and workforce behavior consistent with expectation of employers.

On The Job Training
Provides individuals who complete the curriculum based portion of the the program transitional employment to earn a paycheck, gain work experience, and gain marketable skills for securing full time employment

Employer Partnerships
Our program is supported by long-term employer relationships who believe in the mission to help individuals who face these barriers to employment and that the individuals are prepared to be work-ready, dedicated, and superior employees.

Community Partners
Through collaborations with our community partners we provide services to assist individuals with special needs, such as housing assistance, substance abuse and mental health treatment, child support issues, and related reentry challenges.

Spiritual Training
Through teaching of biblical principles individuals learn truths to gain spiritual growth and restorative behavior. Our program participants are invited to participate Bible Studies to encourage Christian values and strong work ethics. Participation in these activities is voluntary and is not a condition for receiving program services, however our program practices are effective at promoting successful transitions and reducing recidivism.

Economic Opportunities has assisted hundreds of individuals who have criminal backgrounds redirect their lives, find jobs, successful careers, and become productive citizens.