DENVER — Raymond Johnson walked out of prison and into a place he didn't recognize.
"When I got out here, the world was scary," he said. "It was like I was on a whole new planet."
Johnson had been in prison for 26 tears. He was ready for a fresh start. but had no idea where to start. Then, he found The People's Pickles.
"I became a full-time employee. They gave me my first job," he said.
Marcus Weaver is the founder of The People's Pickles, a nonprofit that employs marginalized citizens, such as those recently released from prison or those struggling with substance abuse, homelessness and poverty.
"I’m a social worker, so I work with a lot of people who are coming out of prison, the local jail here," Weaver said. "They always want more than just a job. They want to learn how to run their own business and be an entrepreneur. And so the pickles became a vehicle where not only I can offer guys job training as they come back into the community, but also offer them a chance to learn how to do their own business and start moving them in that direction."
Weaver had his own struggles. He knows that people don't just need a handout but a hand-up.
"If you can get them to move into a place where they're getting the job training, they're getting back in their community, they're putting roots down, it causes less recidivism," Weaver said. "It causes people to reunify with their families and be better parts of our community."
As for Johnson, he's found a place within the pickle community. In less than a year, he's gone from newcomer to program coordinator.
"This next chapter of my life is about forgiveness," Johnson said. "It's about giving you a second chance. Not to say I wont make a mistake, I’m a human being, of course I'll make mistakes. But I won’t make a costly mistake again."
That, Weaver says, is the whole point of the program — never making the costly mistake again.
"Our brothers and sisters are staying home, they're not recidivating," said Weaver. "We want people to have the mindset that we can move mountains, but we can move more together."
Now there's hope in every slice of pickle, or maybe the real hope is in the people behind the pickle.
"And that's really the goal of The People's Pickle, it's really not about the pickle," said Weaver.
To learn more about The People's Pickle, click here.
This story was first reported by William Peterson at KMGHin Denver, Colo.