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New Charlottesville Nonprofit Aims to Help Former Inmates

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The Fountain Fund The Fountain Fund
Patricia Smith of Offender Aid and Restoration Patricia Smith of Offender Aid and Restoration
Former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy Former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy
Dan Goodall, The Fountain Fund board member Dan Goodall, The Fountain Fund board member
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

 A new Charlottesville nonprofit, The Fountain Fund, launched Wednesday with the goal of helping people who just got out of prison or jail restart their lives.

“Sometimes it's housing - they don't have any place to live. Sometimes, it's always, a job,” said Patricia Smith of Offender Aid and Restoration. “Even food, we'll do vouchers, clothing for jobs, or tools, or anything like that.”

About 33 people are released from Virginia state prisons each day and most of those people find it hard, if not impossible, to get a bank loan.

The Fountain Fund is trying to solve that problem. The new nonprofit will grant low interest loans for about $1,000 to former offenders who qualify and agree to take a financial literacy class.

Former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy came up with the idea while catching up with a man who he put in jail as a prosecutor.

“He indicated really money was what he needed, that he had all these onerous debts that he couldn't pay,” Heaphy said.

Those debts aren't only a problem for your credit score - in Virginia former offenders can't get a driver’s license until they pay court fees.

“If you don't have a license, you can't get to your job. It's really, it is a vicious cycle,” Smith said.

Heaphy says helping former inmates get jobs will reduce the chances they commit another crime.

“They want to work, they want to do the right thing, they don't want to reoffend and go back to prison. They just need to get to the starting line and that's what we're trying to do,” Heaphy said.

"Anything we can do to help those who have served their time and are released from prison, to stay out of prison, is a huge win for all of us,” said Dan Goodall, The Fountain Fund board member.

The organization needs about $250,000 to open its doors and start granting loans, hopefully by early 2017.

If you’re interested in helping, click here.

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