March 20th, 2015
Rebecca Webb couldn’t push aside a deep need to help young people before and after they are snared in a web of violence.
“That stayed on my heart,” Webb said. “I couldn’t let it go or it wouldn’t let me go.”
A retired registered nurse, Webb said she was studying how to start her own business when the rash of violence began last summer. People used social media to blame one side or another, she said, but no one was coming up with any solutions.
“I got angry,” she said. “I said get off Facebook and go out and do something about it. I have a plan. Anyone want to help?”
Mike Thomas, an equine radiologist, stepped forward. He had been asking the same question. He brought along a friend and the three met at the Northside Library for two hours. They agreed they could get more done working together than individually.
From that meeting in June 2014, the seeds for Community Inspired Solutions, Enough is Enough were planted.
A month later, the non-profit organization of concerned citizens, was incorporated to “provide individuals with education and training for employment, assist with job placement; life skills education and training, GED classes, mentoring and tutoring for youth.”
“We thought about how we grew up and how our kids grew up, and how we could instill that in this younger generation,” Webb said.
She was referring to old school values, in other words, and old school work ethics and pride in workmanship.
She said horse culture was a big part of the black and white culture in Lexington. Many of the black families who later became middle class, worked in that industry. “There was no shame in that,” she said. “There was good money there.”
With Thomas taking the lead, the first program CIS developed was an equine training and employment program for young adults.
Since the program began in October, 19 people have been trained and employed through the program, he said. Most are ex-offenders, and many are on probation or parole.
Thomas conducts interviews every Thursday in group sessions, pointing out he is an ex-offender and that now is the time for them to change their lives. “It is my man-to-man orientation,” he said.
“I am so proud of those 19 guys,” he said. “I have four more in training. “That is 23 guys off the streets.”
What is even more remarkable, he said, is that CIS cannot afford to pay them while they are in training for four to six weeks. “We would have more people if we could pay them,” Thomas said. “I am so impressed with those numbers.
“It is hard to work for nothing. I use that to motivate myself to work harder, to set aside my activities, to help them.”
The workers start out as grooms but they don’t have to stay at that entry level. Thomas shows them a variety of avenues they could explore after that. They can make what they want of the opportunity.
Still, as grooms, they can travel the world, Webb said.
“They may be people who can’t get a job at Toyota,” she said. “They may be re-entering (society) from prison.”
CIS, which now has 15 members, also has programs targeting children. The volunteers take them on field trips to plays and college campuses in the life skills class.
While at an open house at Kentucky State University, the volunteers met a few male student members of Hometown Environmental Restoration Organization (H.E.R.O.) who wanted to get involved.
CIS collaborated with H.E.R.O. and the students have been visiting Winburn Middle School as mentors in CIS’s Project Impact.
Plus, CIS and H.E.R.O. are collaborating on a pilot program called Operation Lex-Up, which will give youth hands-on experience with gardening, lawn care, urban clean-up and basic farm work.
CIS also sponsors a GED class, with certified teachers, that has four students and meets at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. They plan to add an adult life skills class soon.
All of that has happened in less than a year, and all because people became the impetus for change.
Jane Friedman said after she retired a couple years ago, she wanted to give back to the community she has lived in all her life.
She got involved in self-enrichment activities, as well as the Camp Nelson Honor Guard. And when the Peace Walks began last summer as a result of the outbreak of violence, she joined those as well.
“I attended all of them,” she said, laughing. “I just couldn’t walk very far.”
At one of the walks, she met Thomas who urged her to come to a CIS, Inc., meeting that then was held at the Central Library Downtown.
“I met these people during the walks last year and I’m surprised at how much we have got done,” Friedman said. “I’ve got my finger in every pie in town. I love being involved.”
Friedman said all the credit for the success of CIS has to go to Webb, who others described as “a working machine,” “a strong woman,” and who “has a real passion for youth.”
Those comments ring truer when you know Webb has been battling breast cancer since November. Now on her second round of chemotherapy, with three treatments left, Webb visits the office every other week, along with networking with other groups working with youth.
“On the weeks I have my treatments, I’m on home incarceration,” she said last week. “This is my week I get out of the home.”
Meanwhile, CIS needs to raise money for the programs they have now and the ones they have planned.
“We need community support,” Thomas said. “We are not trying to take over. We just want to get in and fit in, do what we can to change things.”
“I used to sit back and say, ‘Somebody needs to do something,’” she said, “and then I realized I was somebody.”
I had planned to write that we need to clone Webb and Thomas so we’d have enough people to address the problems in our community. Then I realized we all are their clones. We just have to understand that and act like we are.
If you go
Community Inspired Solutions, Enough is Enough, Inc., has a couple of events planned to raise money for their educational and employment programs and introduce themselves to others who want to give back to this community.
Community Yard Sale: Featuring furniture, clothing and household items.
When: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. March. 21.
Where: 323 Old Virginia Avenue.
Spring Meet & Greet: Featuring free appetizers and cash bar.
When: 4-9 p.m. April 10.
Where: Hyatt Place, 2001 Bryant Rd.
Call: (859) 258-9807