LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – This Friday, the Lee County District Attorney’s Office is partnering with nearly 30 local companies for the Second Chance Job Fair dedicated to helping workers with a criminal history find a career.
Joshua Vandusseldorp, the founder of ABEL Electric and Ministries, is living proof of how God’s grace and second chances go hand in hand.
“I had accumulated about 18 felonies on my record and ended up spending five years in state prison; about halfway through that, the Lord rescued me,” said Vandusseldorp.
Released from prison at age 30, Vandusseldorp joined a Columbus, Georiga Bible study where he met an electrician, who gave him a second chance.
“Zach Alderson with Alexander Electric hired me and taught me the electrical trade; I had never done it, but in a year or so after I got out of prison, I had my master’s in electrical license, and I am now licensed in five states and have 70 employees. So the lord is just good to us,” said Vandusseldorp.
Vandusseldorp is the founder of ABEL electric and ABEL ministries. ABEL is one of 30 companies joining the Lee County’s District Attorney’s Second Chances Job Fair Friday, August 27th, at Southern Union in Opelika.
Lee County District Attorney Jessica Ventiere organized the job fair. She modeled it after other jurisdictions that were having success sharing employment opportunities with men and women who served their debt to society and needed options to start a new life with companies willing to give them a chance. The job fair also provides info on childcare and transportation resources and getting your GED or vocational training. Plus, just for showing up and registering, Lee County’s Court System will knock $250 off court fines, not including victim’s restitution. Information about expungements will also be available.
“These are companies offering full benefits, really good competitive wages, for people who feel like they don’t have options. Well, there are options to work right here in Lee County. Employed people typically stay out of the system; they don’t re-offend, which just makes the community safer,” said Lee County District Attorney Jessica Ventiere.
The job fair is a new opportunity for ABEL Electric and Ministry to continue what they’ve been doing for years. Vandusseldorp and the minister of ABEL Ministries, Chris Cloud, are in the process of opening their fourth transition house, where men can come to heal whatever is broken in their life. Vanursseldorp says it’s not about giving someone just a job. It’s about helping them create a new life.
“Several men we have helped in their recovery with this ministry now have their own companies and ten employees. They can come and live in our houses; we help them get their tools, transportation, get their driver’s license back, get right with pardons and parole, learn a trade. All of the excuses one can find for not trying, we take that on with them,” said Vandusseldorp.
Vandusseldorp enjoys watching former employees move on and start companies of their own and disciple others in need. The gift he shares, he hopes to see them pass along.