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PAR-Recycle Works is a unique non-profit model; one organization with two parts – a social service component and a green employment enterprise. Although it was given the grant for education, it also plays a big role in helping the environment. PAR-Recycle Works was formed as an electronic recycling enterprise with the mission of  providing a holistic approach to the reentry process of previously incarcerated people in the Philadelphia area through structured employment, job readiness, mentoring, and referral services. They were incorporated as a non-profit in 2015 and began operations in February of 2016. They take their name from a program called People Advancing Reintegration (PAR), started by a group of men serving life sentences in the State Correctional Institution at Graterford (now SCI Phoenix). After years of observing men stuck in the “revolving door” of recidivism (leaving on parole and then returning to prison) they started a peer to peer program which prepares inmates, through goal-setting and mentorships, for successful transition back into society.

PAR works to help previously incarcerated men and women  successfully reenter society by providing job training and employment within their own electronic recycling business. The program provides returning citizens with support, attention to their trauma and complex psycho-social needs, job skills training in the growing industry of electronic recycling,  job application and interviewing assistance as well as full time job placement.  The program also addresses their immediate financial needs through active employment in PAR’s own electronic recycling business.

PAR’s electronic recycling business is transformational in its own right.   Not only does it provide transitional green jobs utilizing highly technical skills, it also helps to appropriately recycle millions of pounds of e-waste while engaging in the highest level data-security procedures.  They are working on obtaining the rigorous R2/RIOS Certification that assures recycling materials are managed in an environmentally-responsible way, protecting health, safety and data security/destruction. In addition PAR’s community engagement reaches thousands of individuals each year including high school and college students, community organizations and the public, helping to raise awareness about the importance of electronic recycling. Each interaction with their team helps them to change their perception, reducing the stigma and perceptions people have about previously incarcerated men and women

PAR’s strategic goal is scaling its program to serve more returning citizens. PAR has provided transitional employment for 150 men and women and 63% of them have gone on to obtain full time employment (a 63% job placement rate). PAR provides 1200 PAR employee training hours each year. They plan to double the number served with a goal of having served 400 participants by 2027.

PAR recently hired a new staff member with the title of Training, Development, and Job Coordinator. They will work with the program participants and develop a pathway for them to obtain full time employment within a four month timeframe.

PAR’s biggest need is to get as many electronic recyclables as they can in order to keep these people at their transitional jobs. The R2/ROIS certificate will likely substantially increase the number of suppliers with whom they partner. But, they believe that direct connection to organizations that can spread the word to their constituencies would help educate and increase public awareness and help their mission of being a one stop shop for recycling, while giving previously incarcerated men and women a second chance in life.

Below are a few websites that tell their story:

Video – A People’s Story

Video about PAR-Recycle Works

Video of Theresa’s exit interview upon her graduation from PAR-Recycle Work

In addition to the financial support from Impact100, members have expressed interest in working with PAR. For example one member connected them with a marketing/branding consultant who is willing to provide pro bono support and help them to expand towards a partnership with the Eagles.

Additional volunteer opportunities include the need for extra hands at recycling events and volunteers who  could spend a few hours a month talking to people about employment skills, resume writing and budgeting,  both on site and at the prison. If interested, please contact Darlene Cohn at 267-335-5455 or visit their website: