After years in and out of prison, Anthony Cantrell needed what a lot people in his situation need: "That little chance."
Cantrell found it at Fillerup Employment Services, where RoquesAnn Fillerup was willing to not only get him working but challenged him to succeed in ways Cantrell never imagined
The Utah Defendant Offender Work Development Advisory Committee recently recognized Fillerup for her efforts to get offenders stable jobs — one of the surest ways to help an individual get back on his or her feet and avoid a return to prison.
UDOWD also recognized Utah Valley University's media team for its generous help in producing a video explaining the cross-agency group's focus on connecting employers and offenders. The video has been shown throughout the state, helping UDOWD educate employers about the benefits of working with former offenders.
Adult Probation and Parole's Northern Region Office also recognized its key partners in UDOWD, including the Office of Rehabilitation Services in Ogden (Steve Whited) and Cache Valley (Trina Phipps); Kate Sorensen of Cottages of Hope; Taumi Donovan of People Helping People; and Tim Robbins of LDS Employment Services.UDOWD works with newly paroled offenders to help them overcome daunting obstacles to becoming gainfully employed.
That includes learning to talk about a criminal background, help writing a resume, interviewing and personal presentation tips and, with community and State partners, job leads.
Cantrell's first months back in the community were rough. Most employers weren't interested once they learned about his criminal history, telling Cantrell to come back in a few years. Despite those rejections, he landed a good-paying job, but still struggled and returned temporarily to a community correctional center
It was at that juncture that Cantrell connected with Fillerup, starting as a $10-an-hour manual laborer. At one point, he took a job elsewhere but quickly returned to Fillerup.
Why? The balance of expectations, structure and pay was perfect to keep Cantrell motivated and out of trouble.
Today, Cantrell is a job specialist for Fillerup, which provides temporary and permanent workers for the construction, landscaping and production industries along the Wasatch Front.
"At first when you get out, it doesn't seem like there's anybody out there to support you," Cantrell said. But that "extra little push" from Fillerup "has changed my whole outlook on everything."
Fillerup, who has worked with UDOWD for the past 18 months, said she always wanted a job where she could engage in humanitarian work.
"One day it hit me — I've got it!" said Fillerup, president of the employment company. "This is a place where people can start over, turn a new page. The thing that reinforced it for me over and over are the ones who really want to change their lives. You couldn't find a better worker, more motivated guys, when they really want to get their lives back in order."
Fillerup is "really specific" about her expectations and won't take any "riffraff."
But, the "ones that really want to change are, bar none, the best workers you can find," she said, adding those workers "end up being like a pot of gold.
"Fillerup said the temporary jobs she lines up for good workers often are a stepping stone to a permanent job in the construction field.
"I put them out in the field and let them show their stuff and then businesses will ask what they need to do to get the guy in a permanent position," she said.
Valarie Cassity, an employment specialist with the Utah Department of Corrections, said Fillerup has "gone out of her way to facilitate and aid" UDOWD's clients while also realizing how it benefits her business, too."They've been really good to work with us," Cassity said. "It's been a good working relationship."