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New Beginnings Start at B&M Pallet Recycling
B & M Pallet Recycling: – This Arkansas pallet company has a different mission – to help ex-convicts find a new life after being released back into society; business is affiliated with a church.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 9/1/2005
B & M Pallet Recycling Co., North Little Rock, Ark. is not your typical pallet company. It certainly isn’t a model of efficiency. The company makes only close to 1,000 pallets per month. It has very little equipment, but the story behind the operation is fascinating. Its main objective isn’t even to make money. The reason B&M Pallet Recycling exists is to help people find a new life after getting out of jail.
B & M Pallet Recycling started in March 2004 as part of New Beginning Training Center for Men, a transitional housing shelter for convicts released from prison. The shelter is operated by Word of God Deliverance Church under the guidance of Pastor Robert Beasley.
"It was kind of a dream of mine to start a pallet company," said Pastor Robert. "When I came to this ministry which was struggling financially, I knew that a pallet shop could help."
Before becoming a minister, Pastor Robert worked for a freight company for years and saw pallets on the side of the road all the time. For a while, he picked up pallets as a delivery man to supplement his income. This work gave him plenty of opportunities to see how the pallet business operates. He said, "Finding a market for pallets is not a hard task because everybody buys them."
B&M Pallet Recycling supplies one major account and sells some extra pallets to other recyclers in the area. The shop currently has three employees – a break down man, one guy repairing and making pallets, and a forklift driver.
Before anybody comes to work at B & M Pallet Recycling, parole applicants are screened to make sure they will fit with the program. They are trained on proper procedures and house rules. All the employees live in New Beginning Training Center, which has a capacity of 50 men. Since the pallet plant only needs a limited number of people right now, the other men at the shelter work for packaging, seed, construction and other businesses in the area. One day, Pastor Beasley hopes that most of the people in the program can work at the pallet plant.
Currently, the plant has an old Roger’s 54-B dismantler and an Allis Chalmers forklift. Most of the work is done by hand although Pastor Robert hopes that someone might be willing to donate some old equipment to the ministry. The plant currently needs a band saw, dismantler, notching machine, chop saw and trim saw.
Participants in the program are required by the parole board to stay 90 days at the shelter although many of them stay longer than that. The men at the pallet plant have been there for 6-7 months. "Once they get there, they don’t want to leave," said Pastor Robert. "The longer someone stays in this kind of program, the better chance the person has of staying clean and out of trouble."
When a new person comes to the training center, he goes on a 30 day restriction period before he can freely leave on weekends. New Beginning has zero tolerance for drug or alcohol use. Random drug tests are performed on participants to ensure that they stay clean.
During the week, participants are kept pretty busy at jobs and Bible studies. Pastor Robert said that the "Word of God is the core of his program." Men living in the shelter are required to attend nightly Bible Studies every Tuesday through Friday and church service on Sunday. Pastor Robert and the New Beginning staff provide one-on-one counseling for participants as well as transportation to support groups. New Beginning receives zero government funding because it wants to teach the Bible as its foundation without having government mandated restrictions.
Each participant pays a $60 in-take fee and a weekly program fee of $125. This covers each person’s food, housing, transportation, and counseling services. The ministry hires cooks, drivers, the directors, etc. Employees at the pallet shop are paid a weekly salary and charged no program fee.
Pastor Robert said, "We are one of the best shelters in the state and have a great track record." New Beginning has an average completion rate of 85%. About 15% of participants get dismissed for blatant rule violations or go AWOL. Pastor Robert said that some men have come through the program and really gotten their lives changed around; some have even worked toward becoming ministers to help others deal with addictions and destructive behavior.
John Cooper, the pallet shop steward, said about his role at B&M Pallet Recycling, "I have been blessed with trust and freedom to be the ‘Boss’ – a place to grow in the Word." John further described Word of God Deliverance Church and its shelter as a "Safe haven from the pitfalls that await many on the streets."
Pastor Robert takes seriously the commandment in the Bible to love in deeds and not just in words. He quoted 1 John 3:17-18 (KJV), which says, "But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?...Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."
Some of the men who have come through the transitional shelter program feel deeply about the second chance that they have received. Joseph Gann, a current program participant, said, "I entered the training center as an empty vessel. This ministry has slowly helped me to develop the mental direction needed to re-enter society…When I was unable to work, they fed me. When I needed clothes, they clothed me. When no-one wanted me, they welcomed me. I am forever thankful for each day spent here."
The name New Beginning Training Center for Men describes more than just what hopefully happens to the people who go through the program. The ministry itself is coming out of the ashes of scandal and abuse by the former director, "Pastor" Charles L. Johnson. It used to be known as the Joshua Training Center for Men. Charles Johnson married La-Juana McCauley, and they founded the ministry together in 2000. La-Juana used a lot of her personal money to fund the ministry.
Charles Johnson turned out to be much less than La-Juana had expected. In time, he became addicted to drugs, stayed out late into the night, and started being physically and verbally abusive to his new wife. He began to misuse ministry funds to support his habit and lifestyle. La-Juana left him for a while but came back to work with the people at the shelter. Eventually, she had enough of the abuse and called the cops on him. Charles Johnson was convicted of domestic abuse and forgery. Most of the congregation left the church, although the shelter continued to run. Desiring to build a ministry that truly pleased God, La-Juana cleaned house and started to rebuild it. The only original staff member who was retained was Pastor Robert Beasley because he did not participate in the wrong doings of Charles Johnson. At that time, the ministry teetered on financial collapse.
"The ministry was close to foreclosure on its facilities due to past debt," said Pastor Robert.
The pallet business has been a key for helping the ministry recover from its bad past. But it hasn’t been easy. Pastor Robert said that he and La-Juana would work all night sometimes in the beginning to get the pallet business off the ground. At first, they were breaking down pallets and re-assembling them by hand.
The pallet business got a real boost when a man saw Pastor Robert hauling a load of pallets. The man stopped him and asked if he repaired pallets and could help supply him with the amount he needed every week. This was B&M Pallet Recycling’s first main client. Since its troubles a few years ago, the ministry has redeemed its building from the jaws of foreclosure, maintained a constant flow of participants in its transitional housing program, and is working to pay off its other debts. The ministry is looking for anyone who can donate equipment, give advice or pray for its mission of helping homeless, hopeless men and women get their lives back in order.
(Editor’s Note: New Beginning Training Center for Men and B&M Pallet