Listen to Learn:
Renie Rule, staying true to her love of social work, learned the ropes of development and administration in the nonprofit world. She's volunteered, fundraised or served on the board of some of the area's most well-known groups, including Wildwood Park for the Arts, Youth Home, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Centers for Youth and Families, Paws in Prison, Arkansas Hospice, Restore Hope, and more.
"I'm just fascinated with nonprofits, how they work, how they stay on mission, how they get things done," Rule says. "Even if I'm looking at it from afar, I still want to dig into it and find out how it ticks.
On Rule's desk sits a small, silver bar inscribed with a question that no doubt feeds her propensity toward fascination and curiosity. It reads: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
Rule said, "For the longest time I was convinced that if you walked into doing something full time, it would lose its magic. It hasn't to date, and I hope I'm here doing these things for a long, long time."
Some Information on a few of Rule’s Non-Profits:
Restore Hope serves 2000 families per year, decreasing homelessness for 30% of those families, increasing full time employment 20% and assisting 25% to attain their GED certification. Restore Hope is a 501 c3 created in 2016 by Governor Hutchinson to address re-division, reduce incarceration and reduce the number of children in foster care. Their approach has had positive results due to the collective impact philosophy in communities to approach all families in a wholistic manner i.e. education, jobs, counseling, parenting, and addiction assistance.
Arkansas Hospice Rule's introduction to Arkansas Hospice was a personal one. When her mother was placed in hospice care, Rule plunged into a world she knew little about, but a world that would change the trajectory of her life in more than a few ways. According to Rule, the most common misconception is that caregivers often believe they should put off hospice care until the last few weeks of a loved one's life. A patient can be considered hospice appropriate when symptoms indicate a possible six-month window before death. Through her work with the nonprofit's foundation, Rule's team is able to add a little brightness to their patients' final days.
Paws in Prison The concept is simple — inmates rehabilitating shelter dogs. Through ADC partnerships with rescue organizations, dogs will often enter the program mere days before euthanasia. The dogs then learn basic obedience skills and proper socialization from select inmate trainers before being adopted into new families. According to the ADC, since the implementation of Paws in Prison, the program has positively impacted daily interactions between inmates and employees, while providing marketable skills to help inmates re-enter society in the future. To date, Paws in Prison has rehabilitated more than 1,200 dogs through programs in nine prisons across the state, including women's facilities.
[0:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners and Insider's view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk-taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative and always encouraging weekly blog. And now it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:33] KM: Thank you, son, Gray. Today, it is my great pleasure to welcome to the table the good people from Arkansas' Restore Hope, Ms. Renie Rule and Mr. Charlie Mack.
Founded in 2016 by Arkansas's Governor Asa Hutchinson, Restore Hope is successfully working to bridge the gap between struggling communities and government services. Restore Hope is trying to reduce the rate of incarceration, facilitate successful re-entries into society, lower recidivism rates. And, thus, lower the number of children entering the foster care system.
If you feel you're four or five degrees away from any of the aforementioned issues or that these things don't affect you, think again. Knowledge and dignity create better families, broader workforce, lower crime, lower taxes and stronger economic communities that trickle up.
Having known Ms. Rule for years, I can think of no one more capable to execute such important societal duties. Renie is the perfect advocate and community director for Arkansas's Restore Hope. She has a degree in social work and a career that spans decades with such reputable non-profits as UAMS, Arkansas Hospice. And she founded Arkansas' Paws in Prison. She has a degree in social work and a career that spans decades. With her today is Mr. Charlie Mack, a success story, who, with four other felons and gang leaders, started their own initiative called Empowering my Environment.
With no further ado, it is my great pleasure to welcome to the table the hard-working, community-minded, service above self, Ms. Renie Rule and Mr. Charlie Mack. Yay. Charlie's clapping over there. Mr. Mack is clapping.
[0:02:34] CM: Bravo.
[0:02:35] KM: Renie, I read a funny story about you.
[0:02:38] RR: Uh-oh.
[0:02:38] KM: I told Charlie, Mr. Mack, I was going to start with you. So, I am. After graduating top in your class with a degree in social work – now I just said top in her class with a degree in social work, you're advised by your professor to seek another profession.
[0:02:55] RR: That's correct.
[0:02:58] KM: Okay. What does he mean by that?
[0:03:00] RR: Well, they give you tests and I scored too high on empathy. Meaning that if you're sad, I can really feel it. And I can't stop those feelings. And so, my reaction to it is unhealthy sometimes to you because I try to solve your problems. A good social worker is able to keep that distance. And our caseworkers are trained to do that.
And we've learned, and we'll talk about it, I'm sure, tonight. When you solve your own problems, you're much better at it. As a younger person, when I was in my 20s, if a person was hungry, I bought them their food. I didn't help them solve how they would get themselves out of hunger. And so, they could see me doing that early on. And they just said find something else. And so, I found fundraising and got to stay in social work. And I love it.
[0:03:56] KM: What'd you do when you first got out of school?
[0:03:59] RR: I worked at the library for a while and then –
[0:04:03] KM: What was your first gig at a non-profit?
[0:04:06] RR: SCAN, Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect.
[0:04:10] KM: Oh, gosh. How did you do that?
[0:04:12] RR: Well, it needed to be done in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. And there wasn't a lot of money. And I had the time and I wanted to do it. And so, I took the training. And that's what I did. I worked as a caseworker and raised money for them.
[0:04:31] KM: Some of your notable jobs have been UAMS. Why did you leave there?
[0:04:37] RR: I've been there probably 15 years. Gone through two Capitol campaigns. And it is a fabulous place. I can't say enough good things. But then I started looking at my life and realizing I was hitting those 60s. And I probably had one more shot at doing something different. And as I say, I would go back to UAMS. It wasn't that. It was I want to do a couple more things before I leave.
[0:05:08] KM: Been there. Done that. Okay. Well, you ended up doing more than one more thing. You've done a couple like you just said. You went and did Arkansas Hospice next?
[0:05:16] RR: I did. I did.
[0:05:18] KM: What is the question you've answered most for your clients and families that they ask you?
[0:05:23] RR: About Arkansas Hospice?
[0:05:23] KM: Mm-hmm. When you're working in Arkansas Hospice, what did people ask you the most about?
[0:05:28] RR: When is it time to put my loved one in hospice? And the answer is the earlier the better. Because what hospice does is they come in and they let you be the daughter again. You get to move away from being that caregiver.
I was a caregiver for my mother for 13 years. And until I took her to hospice, and she was in hospice and someone else was taking care of her, then I got to become a daughter again.
[0:05:58] KM: Did she live there or did she live at your house when she was in hospice?
[0:06:01] RR: She lived in hospice part of the time. But the rest of the time, she was in a nursing home.
[0:06:07] KM: I think a lot of people think when you get involved in hospice that you're going to put them in the hospice nursing home, so to speak. But you can keep them at home and they can still be in the hospice care system.
[0:06:19] RR: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And that's where we want them. We want them where they are the most comfortable. But we also want to be able to help the family. And it's a very important decision.
[0:06:31] KM: I don't know if you know this, Renie. My mother just passed away in 2018. And it was right before they changed the rules. I don't know when you left hospice. But it was right before they changed the rules that they would not let you come in unless they thought you were within the six months of your end of life. Did you know that?
[0:06:45] RR: Mm-hmm.
[0:06:46] KM: You did? You can't shake your head on the radio.
[0:06:48] RR: Yeah. Y'all didn't hear that shake.
[0:06:53] CM: I heard it.
[0:06:55] RR: Yes.
[0:06:57] KM: Or nod your head, I guess.
[0:06:58] RR: Yeah. Yeah. It has to be 6 –
[0:06:59] KM: So, you can't go too early anymore, because you're like the earlier the better. But they won't actually take you anymore because they think people are – because they're full.
[0:07:06] RR: Yeah.
[0:07:08] KM: They're very full.
[0:07:08] RR: Yes. But that six-month period in there is very important for the family.
[0:07:16] KM: I kept my mother in my home and hospice came to us. And I highly recommend that. If you can, you have room and – I mean, if you go to work every day, you can't leave your mother there all the time. But I was able to afford a lady to come and sit with mother and take work off because I work for myself. What's your take away from the hospice job? If you took one thing away from the hospice job, what would it be?
[0:07:38] RR: I think it is that you let the patient guide you what they want. We have a tendency with loved ones to make them feel better, to make them get well. And oftentimes, our loved one is ready to go.
[0:07:55] KM: Always, I think.
[0:07:56] RR: Yes.
[0:07:56] KM: They're almost begging.
[0:07:58] RR: Yes. And for – I can't say the quote that you started the show with, which was wonderful. But to listen to them, they'll tell you. They'll tell you what they want. And some of my most wonderful experiences was I went into a lady's room and she probably had three or four days, and I said, "What do you want?" And she said, I really want to go ziplining." I said, "And you know what, honey? I'll be back here tomorrow morning, we'll go ziplining."
[0:08:28] KM: No. That is not true.
[0:08:28] RR: That is true.
[0:08:29] KM: In a wheelchair? Do you zipline in a wheelchair?"
[0:08:31] RR: No. She was done in a wheelchair. She was not in a wheelchair. She was with her nurses. The nurses went with us and we went ziplining.
[0:08:37] KM: Strapped her in.
[0:08:38] RR: Strapped her in. And she said it was the happiest day of her life and that's what she wanted to do, where her daughter was over there saying, "Mom, if you do that, you could die." And she said, "I'm dying anyway." And she said, "Let me go." And so, it was a wonderful day for all of us.
[0:08:57] KM: Wow. That's a good story. All right, let's move on to 2011. You founded Paws in Prison. I read a little bit about this, how you were working at hospice and you read about a man who wanted his last meal. You know what I'm talking about?
[0:09:12] RR: Yes.
[0:09:13] KM: Tell that story.
[0:09:14] RR: Well, I wasn't working in hospice. I just moved to Little Rock. And there were three men that this has been about 25 years ago that we're being executed at the same time. And Myra Leverett wrote an article about one of the men, and his name was Leverett. I mean, Hoyt Clines. And he wanted a hamburger, French fries and banana bread. And the article just said the kitchen didn't make banana bread.
And as you know, Kerry, I'm not a good cook. And I thought, "I can bake him some banana bread." And so, the next day I made some banana bread and took it down to him. And, of course, they wouldn't give it to him because they said they needed to protect him. Protect him so that they could euthanize him the next day, I suppose.
Anyway, I did get the banana bread to him through the warden and he called me that night and we talked for 48 minutes. And that's when I became involved with the prison. It's been about 30 years ago.
[0:10:14] KM: And how to Paws in Prison come about?
[0:10:19] RR: Well, his last wish to me was that I would build a chapel at Tucker Max. And so, it took me 15 years to build the chapel at Tucker Mas, which meant I was there a lot. Watching these men, these – and you'll see, when you talk to them, these brilliant men, they don't have anything to do all day. And so, I kept looking for things to do. And then you all remember – what was the football player's name that had all the Pitbull dogs?
[0:10:49] KM: Michael –
[0:10:49] CM: Michael Vick.
[0:10:50] RR: Michael Vick. Well, they sentenced his 52 pit bulldogs to be euthanized. And a prison from Virginia petitioned the governor, "Give us those dogs and let us, through intense behavior modification, train them." The end of the story was 48 of them went on to be adopted by children and three of them went on to be service dogs. And so, I was on the first plane out there.
And I knew – and then it took me three years to convince Bibi that that's what we should put into our prisons. And we've saved – to date, I think we're at 1,872 dogs. And not to mention what it does to the inmates. That's how it all happened.
[0:11:30] KM: Yes. And six facilities. I think I read you're in six – we've got Paws in Prison in six facilities. Six facilities. You've reduced the number of dogs euthanized. Inmates are contributing, and feel worthy, and learning responsibility and skills that I guess can be used later.
[0:11:30] RR: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
[0:11:50] KM: Well, this is a great place to take a break. Don't think we're not going to get to Charlie Mack. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Ms. Renie Rule and Mr. Charlie Mack from Restore Hope, a non-profit working to solve the serious problems in Arkansas of incarceration, recidivism. That is the hardest word for me, recidivism. Say it five times real fast.
[0:12:09] GM: You chose it.
[0:12:11] KM: No. I didn't make that word up, but I do love that word.
[0:12:14] GM: Recidivism. It is a good word.
[0:12:15] KM: It's a great word. I'm going to put it in – Charlie's rolling his eyes. It's not a good word.
[0:12:19] CM: It's not a good word.
[0:12:22] KM: I've lived that word. It's not a good word. Anyway, problems in Arkansas; incarceration, recidivism and the foster care residual where the kids come back and back.
Still to come, Mr. Charlie Mack's story. The life that led to his imprisonment. The disturbing but fascinating statistics of crime punishment and foster children. And my favorite part, redemption, success stories. We'll be back after the break.
[0:12:47] GM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed along with Kerry's experience and leadership knowledge.
In 1995, she embraced the internet and rebranded her company as simply flagandbanner.com. In 2004, she became an early blogger. Since then, she has founded the non-profit Friends of Dreamland Ballroom. Began publishing her magazine, Brave. And in 2016, branched out into this very radio show, YouTube channel and podcast. And today, in 2021, Kerry McCoy Enterprises acquired ourcornermarket.com, an online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage and memorials for over 20 years.
If you'd like to sponsor this show or get involved with any of Kerry McCoy's enterprises, send an email to me. That's firstname.lastname@example.org. Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbanner.com. Back to you, Kerry.
[0:13:56] KM: Thanks, Gray. Before the break, we're talking with Renie Rule about her life in social work non-profit and all the great things she's done through UAMS, SCAN, hospice, Arkansas Hospice and Paws in Prison. And now she's with Arkansas Restore Hope, which we're going to talk about.
And with her, she brought Mr. Charlie Mack, who, along with other felons and past gang members, has started a program called Empowering My Environment. Before you tell us about this initiative, Mr. Mack, tell us about your life and the story that led up to the events. What were you convicted of?
[0:14:40] CM: Possession of controlled substances.
[0:14:42] KM: How old were you first time?
[0:14:45] RR: Probably 18. But that wasn't – I had a gun. I got caught with a gun. And I've been caught with guns. In the streets, you have to – it's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6. It means it's better to have a gun and go to prison and then be killed. You'd rather be alive and be in prison than dead.
[0:15:08] KM: Why are black men killing each other?
[0:15:11] CM: I think it's poverty. I think poverty is the main thing. Everyone wants to take care of their family. It's a process. Because poverty is embedded in our community. So you grow up wanting more and more. And to get more, you think you have to take it. That's where the violence comes in. That's where the killing comes in. Because if you take something from somebody, who's going to let you just take it from you? Somebody's going to say, "No. It's mine." You know? So, it turns into a violent situation. But the violence and the killing is connected with poverty. It's all connected.
Okay, you go to certain neighborhoods in the city, in Little Rock, there's not a lot of violence in the community because the communities is affluent. It has wealth. There's no reason for somebody to take something from somebody in that community.
[0:16:02] KM: But everybody's poor, you're just taking from each other nothing.
[0:16:05] CM: Exactly. Exactly. That's the mindset.
[0:16:07] KM: Oh, it's the mindset.
[0:16:08] CM: It's the mindset. That you have to think outside of that environment. That's why we named our business Empowering My Environment. Because the environment starts with your mindset. How you think? Not just where you live or where you reside. But first of all, you have to reside in your mind. You have to think things and think things through.
And if you see yourself in a bad situation and think that's all you know, then you're gonna continue doing those wrong things. But if you change your mindset, if you get a focused point in your life to where you want to change and you want to see things better, then your mindset changes and it changes your environment as well.
[0:16:44] KM: That's such a huge thing to do, is to change people's minds and change a whole community. How to even begin doing something like –
[0:16:52] CM: Because I have to start myself. Starts with me. We're starting it together, my brothers, Turtle and Caleb. We changed our lives. We pulled ourselves up from the bootstraps through support through a higher power, through religion. However, we did it. We found a way to get out of that mindset thinking of doing things that is detrimental to others and ourselves. And once we started doing that, our whole world's changed. We started to become involved with allies like Ms. Renie and Paul. And we started becoming more involved with our neighborhood. And people in our neighborhood started respecting us more. They don't see us as the gang member, that young boy I've seen with that gun last week. No. You're not him anymore. You're the guy that have talked to their children and tell them, "Hey, don't do that. I've done that before. It's not smart to do that."
[0:17:38] KM: When I hear on the – and I don't know anything about this. Forgive me for being stupid.
[0:17:44] CM: I'm here to teach you.
[0:17:45] KM: Thank you. When I hear people say that the bangers and the gang members are respected and looked up to in the neighborhood, you're saying they're not really.
[0:17:56] CM: No. They are looked up and respected but for the wrong reasons.
[0:18:00] KM: But you're saying now that you're not one, people are like, "Oh, that's not the guy with a gun."
[0:18:03] CM: No. I'm saying my actions. I'm still Charlie Mack. But my actions are different from the younger Charlie Mack. I'm not the violent, willing to do whatever, hurt people type of Charlie Mack. I don't want to be that past guy anymore. I'm showing them that I'm the future. And my future is much brighter than what they've seen in the past. And I want to kind of rectify what I've turned.
[0:18:25] KM: There's two kinds of respect in the community. There's the respect of the guy who's the gang leader. And then there's the respect of the guy who's trying to get people out of the gang. Because now you're the different guy. Now you're respected for being different.
[0:18:39] CM: I'm respected because of my actions, again. I'm still in the gang. I'm still associated with my gang, but I'm doing different activities inside of it. I'm not violent. I'm not selling drugs. I'm uplifting my community.
[0:18:53] KM: Why are there even gangs that exist?
[0:18:55] RR: I also think a lot of people have a misunderstanding with the word gangs, because you could put organization on instead of gangs and it'll be a wholly different word.
[0:19:03] KM: Oh, you're so right.
[0:19:05] CM: There's nothing wrong with gangs.
[0:19:07] KM: That was brilliant. That was good.
[0:19:09] RR: Yeah. We call it organization.
[0:19:12] KM: The organization is – a gang is the word for organization.
[0:19:16] CM: What I'm saying is it's the name that changes the perception of people.
[0:19:20] KM: What's the goal of the gang in the neighborhood?
[0:19:23] RR: Okay, gangs started because there was a lot of problems with the police. The police were in our neighborhoods not doing the right thing. And the gangs were created to kind of police the police. Watch them. And it turned – I don't know if you guys watched this series called Snowfall. Comes on FX. And it showed how crack cocaine came into the neighborhoods and how the CIA brought crack to the neighborhoods. That changed the gang format. Now the gang aren't protecting. They're trying to make money because of the crack. It's so much money –
[0:19:55] KM: Did you say the CIA brought – unless FX shows the CIA brought the crack into the neighborhood? Why would they do that? That creates more crime, doesn't it?
[0:20:02] CM: Because they said they were trying to start – what was it? Oliver North and what was going with the war in South America. And they were using the drugs to finance it.
[0:20:14] KM: Is that supposed to be true?
[0:20:16] CM: I don't know. I just watch TV. I don't know. I don't have any inside points. None of that. Don't get me hurt. I just said what the TV said.
[0:20:27] KM: Yes. But the gang members started to police themselves. Self-governing.
[0:20:31] CM: Yes. But it changed and it became violent and it imploded. So, now the gang members, they're killing each other for the money and the business of the crack. Now it's not good anymore. It's instantly turned bad. And from that bad [inaudible 0:20:47] step, that's how gangs have evolved to where we are now.
And the thing is with gangs, gang members are your cousins, your brothers, your fathers. They're human beings. They're people just like you and they're just going through a different situation that you might be going through. And to understand a gang member, you just have to sit down and talk to him anyway. Communication is the best way to change and to move a block out of the way. It's talking. Ms. Renie and I –
[0:21:13] KM: Y'all are tied.
[0:21:15] CM: – totally different people. Don't we look like totally different people?
[0:21:17] KM: Yeah, y'all do. Y'all, don't start dating.
[0:21:20] CM: But this is my buddy. She listens. She gives me great advice. I give her advice. Look at that.
[0:21:26] KM: Yeah. Well, you're teaching us right now.
[0:21:26] CM: And it's about total opposites. Sitting down, talking and becoming family.
[0:21:36] RR: And one of the things that they did was they did food drives. And it was so –
[0:21:41] KM: Who's they? Empowering My Environment?
[0:21:42] CM: EME. You can call us EME.
[0:21:44] KM: EME.
[0:21:45] RR: EME. But what I would say to my friends were the gangs are doing food drives down there.
[0:21:50] KM: What?
[0:21:52] RR: That's out of their image. But they were doing food drives. They were cleaning up their community.
[0:22:00] KM: Going back to their original purpose.
[0:22:01] CM: Right.
[0:22:01] RR: Going back to their original purpose, yes. And one thing that we've learned from the Restore Hope is it's not outside leaders coming into a community that changes the community. It is always the leaders within the community that change the community. And that's what these four men are doing. And we're just along for the ride.
And it has been a powerful just process to watch them. And Mr. Chapman, of course, he's an entrepreneur and has helped them. But –
[0:22:34] KM: And who's Mr. Chapman?
[0:22:35] RR: He's the Executive Director of Restore Hope.
[0:22:38] KM: Oh, okay.
[0:22:38] RR: And so, he's helped them as they've come up with their businesses and their business plans.
[0:22:45] KM: When I say past gang members, they're not past gang members.
[0:22:48] CM: No. I'm still there. I'm just in a different light. I'm in a gang. Yeah.
[0:22:53] KM: And so, you've gone back to jail.
[0:22:55] CM: I went back to jail – I've been to jail several times, yeah.
[0:22:58] KM: Yes. And what is one of the reasons that you end up going back to jail over and over? Because people talk about – what is the percentage of people that go back to jail? It's high.
[0:23:07] CM: It's very high.
[0:23:07] RR: 55%.
[0:23:09] KM: I thought it was higher than that even.
[0:23:10] CM: That's still high. Over half five –
[0:23:12] KM: Well, it is.
[0:23:13] CM: Five percent over half. And what made me go back to – the words you can't say good and you don't like.
[0:23:19] KM: Recidivism.
[0:23:19] CM: [inaudible 0:23:19]. Yeah, that word.
[0:23:22] RR: But here's something that we could teach our listeners. We think of recidivism is – meaning, say, a person came out of prison and they were put in prison because they robbed a bank. Well, recidivism, when they go back, means they robbed another bank. No. It doesn't. They didn't pay their parking tickets. They didn't take care of some feed that they owed. It could be anything. It could be a very minor, minor situation.
I mean, I have to brag on our caseworkers in Restore Hope. One of the things they've done with these incentive checks is they have helped our clients take that $1,500 and get those fees paid down. Get their driver's license back. They have –
[0:24:06] KM: Oh, you're talking about the stimulus $1,500?
[0:24:09] RR: Yes. Yes.
[0:24:09] KM: Oh, nice.
[0:24:11] RR: And so, thinking about it in a different way. You have the opportunity here to get your driver's license back. You can imagine trying to live in a life without a driver's license.
[0:24:21] KM: And I listed that I found off of Restore Hope's website. The problems, like we said, are incarceration, then recidivism for the reasons you just mentioned. And foster care for these children that have to keep going in and out of foster care. And then one of the other problems is understanding and navigating the government services that you said your caseworkers helped these candidates in Restore Hope to use their money to navigate the government services to pay down bills.
Some of the things that you said that they needed to do, families face upon release from prison, are having child welfare cases open, which could have fines. Unable to pay, like you said, misdemeanor traffic tickets. You're going back to jail. You didn't go back to jail for that though, Mr. Mack? Didn't you?
[0:25:08] CM: I had community service. I almost did. But it was a traffic ticket like Ms. Renie said. And it was a fine that I didn't pay and I forgot about it. And they pulled me over and I thought –
[0:25:19] KM: Why'd you get pulled over?
[0:25:21] CM: You never heard of driving while black? You never heard of that?
[0:25:24] KM: Yes. But I didn't know if that was why you got pulled over for being black.
[0:25:25] CM: It's real. I was just driving. I wasn't swerving.
[0:25:29] KM: No license plate. Nothing.
[0:25:31] CM: I had licenses.
[0:25:32] KM: That's what I'm just asking. Did you have –
[0:25:34] CM: I was a normal everyday American driving around. Just happened to be black. And I was pulled over. And I didn't know that I had a warrant on me. I had a warrant. I went to jail. And they took me to jail and they gave me community service. Let me out. I did the community service. No problem. I've been out for what? Since 2006? I've never been back.
[0:25:55] KM: Good. Simple things that they can't get also if you've been incarcerated and don't have transportation is a driver's license.
[0:26:04] RR: That's very much – and we're fighting that. I would say fighting. And we're working with legislator now. We think Mr. Chapman did a wonderful job with one of the committees in trying to get temporary driver's license. And so, it still has to go through the house.
[0:26:19] KM: Can you not get a driver's license if you're a felon? Is that one of the issues? Or is it because you have to buy the driver's license?
[0:26:26] RR: Well, you don't. You have your driver's license taken away because of DWIs, or because you haven't paid your fees, or you didn't appear in court. For a variety of reasons. But, of course, you can imagine, that also limits how many jobs you can have when you come out of prison. And what many people don't understand, every time that you get a DWI, it's $10,000. And then if you go into prison for five years, that 10,000 goes to 20,000, goes to 30,000. They just keep adding it up.
[0:26:56] CM: They do.
[0:26:58] RR: When you leave prison, you could have a $50,000 fine waiting for you for something that you committed –
[0:27:06] KM: When you're 18.
[0:27:08] RR: When you were 18. Yes.
[0:27:09] KM: That cannot be for real. Now that doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that needs to be changed.
[0:27:16] CM: But it's about money though. When it's about money, why change it?
[0:27:19] RR: Now Texas changed it. Their philosophy was, "Look, if the state sentences you to five years, you have paid your fines."
[0:27:29] KM: That's right.
[0:27:30] RR: When you come out, you get a clean slate.
[0:27:34] KM: Because, Charlie, it's not a popular legislative subject to bring up in the legislature. You're not going to get your name in the paper for that. Or get your constituents aren't going to love you if you bring that up. And so, it's all about politics. But the money, you go back to prison for something? Like not paying a fine or not being able to – it costs a lot more than any money that they could make off of a fine.
[0:28:00] CM: Yeah.
[0:28:01] KM: That doesn't make any sense.
[0:28:03] CM: But bodies are money in the penitentiary. That's money. That's guaranteed money.
[0:28:07] KM: I thought they cost money.
[0:28:08] CM: No. The body's in there reap the system. The system reaps off there. But that's another story neither here nor there.
[0:28:15] KM: Oh, gosh. I haven't read up on that.
[0:28:16] CM: Yes. And we kind of know about that kind of stuff.
[0:28:20] KM: I thought that our taxpayers paid for the prison system.
[0:28:25] RR: We do. There are several ways that you could tell the example. But, yes. If you keep someone in prison for $25,000 a year when they could be out being –
[0:28:36] KM: Part of the workforce. Tax – yes.
[0:28:38] RR: Yes. That doesn't make good sense.
[0:28:41] KM: One that I thought was interesting was – and I knew this one because my daughter-in-law worked at our house, but reliable transportation is tough when you're trying to keep a job. And then I knew this one too. Deposit on a dwelling. If you're going to rent an apartment, you got to have a deposit.
And then this was one I did not know and I had not thought about is health problems. So many people have health problems. And there's not really much help for their health problems. Can they go to ARcare? Arkansas Care? They can if they're children, but not if they're adults. Or how do they handle their health problems when they come out?
[0:29:20] RR: There's a huge bill that, again, hats off to Governor Hutchinson and several of the senators and representatives that have put together a healthcare that will make that possible for especially people in rural areas that are coming out of prison. You can usually find healthcare in a city that will help you. Medicaid or something like that. But especially in rural areas, they've done a great job of getting that started.
[0:29:47] KM: That speaks to you helping people navigate their government services that they may not know how to use. Because it's tough. I mean, I own a small business and I can't read all the paperwork and understand what you're supposed to do and where you're supposed to go.
[0:30:03] RR: Well, and that's why my hat's off to these men. Starting a business, it's not easy.
[0:30:09] KM: Is Empowering My Environment a business?
[0:30:11] CM: Yes. It's a multi-faceted business. It's a brand in a movement. It's also a podcast. It's a clothing line and it's a consulting agency. And a trucking service. And a construction service. Construction agency. Yeah, we got a lot.
[0:30:26] KM: Tell me how Empowering My Environment –
[0:30:30] CM: Environment. You can just say EME.
[0:30:31] KM: EME. Tell me how EME works with Restore Hope.
[0:30:35] CM: Well, Restore Hope and EME are partners. We look at situations in the communities. And we, EME, as experts, we consult with Restore Hope and we come up with programs and solutions to help fix those problems in different communities. And we sit down with people and pick their brain. And we listen and ask questions that are detrimental to helping them. We don't want to go into a situation and say, "We know what you need. Here's what you need."
[0:31:04] KM: That's what I like to do.
[0:31:07] CM: No. That's not right. Don't work.
[0:31:11] KM: Oh, you got to listen? You got to listen again?
[0:31:13] CM: Sometimes. Kerry, sometimes. Not all – not 365. Maybe 172. 172 days, maybe.
[0:31:21] KM: Yeah.
[0:31:22] CM: And we just listen more. And once you listen to somebody – and then we try to treat people as friends and then we gradually grow into family. Because with EME and coming from a gang, your gang is your family. You eat together. You sleep in the same apartments together. You hang around each other.
[0:31:42] KM: You do? I didn't know that.
[0:31:44] CM: I'm just telling you, Ms. Kerry.
[0:31:45] KM: Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.
[0:31:47] CM: And it's a family-orientated organization. Because people don't want to see it that way. Everyone has their different mindset the way something is. But it's only – my mother taught me, there's three things. There's only three things. There's a your side, my side and the truth.
[0:32:05] KM: I've heard that before.
[0:32:07] RR: And if my side is closer to the truth, then it looks like I'm telling the truth, right? We want people to tell us the truth. We want people to give us all their information so we can help them. Because we're genuinely here to help. We put people on our podcast from our neighborhood black-owned businesses. We market them if they probably would not have had a way to be exposed and get their business up. But we put them out there because that's what we want to do. We want to help.
[0:32:32] KM: I've watched your podcast.
[0:32:33] CM: You like it?
[0:32:33] KM: I did. I watched a couple of them. Let me just take a quick break to say you're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. And I'm speaking today with Ms. Renie Rule and Mr. Charlie Mack from Arkansas's Restore Hope, a non-profit working to solve the problems of incarceration, recidivism and foster care. And also, Empowering My Environment, which is – I don't think it's a non-profit. It's more of an initiative. It empowers people in the African-American community. How do –
[0:33:03] CM: Could I say something?
[0:33:03] KM: Sure. Absolutely. I don't think it's in the African-American community. I think our logo says unity with every side. We're doing – we're starting with our community. But it's going to explode in the city. It's for everyone. It doesn't matter your color. It doesn't matter your occupation. It doesn't matter what neighborhood you're from. Unity with every side means everyone. And we're trying to get everyone on the same page to have like Ms. Renie said, empathy for all.
If you have empathy with somebody, it means you care about them and you feel it. When they're hurting, you feel pain too. You want to help them get some of that. You can't change people's complete lives. You can't take away all the pain. But you can take as much as possible as you can and help them. And that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to help our community to help everyone else. And then we want everybody else to reach in and help others.
[0:33:53] KM: That's lovely. I watched her podcast on the Facebook page of – I guess that's where it was, where it's housed, is on the Facebook page.
[0:34:03] CM: It's on YouTube and on our Facebook page, Empowering My Environment.
"EME is Empowering My Environment. Our environment, it starts with our mind. it starts how we think. It starts how you wake up and perceive the day to be every day."
"it's me and my brothers getting together and reversing some of the bad things that we've done now that we're in this more positive light."
"We are trying to start something, a movement, the brothers and I. Turtle, Charlie Mack, Caleb. We trying to start something that empowers not only our minds but those minds that we are in contact with in the neighborhood. We're trying to make our neighborhood a better place. We're saying our mind first then our community next. And then everything else will follow.
[0:35:04] KM: How many have you done so far?
[0:35:05] RR: Seven.
[0:35:06] CM: Seven?
[0:35:06] RR: I think you're right at seven.
[0:35:08] CM: Seven? I thought it was more. It seems like more. I feel like 25.
[0:35:11] KM: It's a lot harder than it looks.
[0:35:13] CM: Yes, it's much harder. And from where we started to now is a whole different – that's a whole different animal. We were like so nervous and weird in the beginning. And now we just – it's natural. It's like we're supposed to be in front of this microphone. This microphone is an extension of me now.
[0:35:30] KM: Thourillbread. I watched the Thourillbread.
[0:35:31] CM: Yeah, that's our homegirl, Sharonda Williams. Yeah, she's got a nice business going. She got a lot of things going.
[0:35:36] KM: Well, the whole time I watched it, I wanted to give her advice. And I'll just quickly tell you this one because I think everybody should hear this, is it drives me crazy when people spell words wrong. She spelled Thourillbread. She made up her own spelling for Thourillbread. And I thought, "Girl, no one's ever going to find you online."
[0:35:53] CM: They are. But they do. I'm sorry, Kerry. They do.
[0:35:56] GM: I've told this to her before too. It's like I used to work for a flower shop that had a misspelled name and she was like, "Oh, they're never going to be popular." They're like the most popular flower shop in Northwest Arkansas.
[0:36:05] KM: It drives me crazy.
[0:36:06] CM: It's not misspelled. It's on purpose.
[0:36:08] KM: I know it's on purpose.
[0:36:10] CM: It's spelled the way she wants it.
[0:36:09] GM: Branding.
[0:36:11] CM: Exactly. It's branding. And everyone loves – I'm sorry to –
[0:36:15] KM: Look, I'm shaking my head. He's shaking his head.
[0:36:20] GM: Is it a bakery? Thourillbread?
[0:36:22] CM: No. Thourillbread is entertainment.
[0:36:25] GM: I don't know.
[0:36:24] KM: That's good.
[0:36:25] CM: It's an entertainment business. She goes and sets up parties for people. And she's like the emcee. She comes out and tells them, "Oh, we're going to have such, and such, and such, such performing." She's the MC, and that's her business. And it's an amazing business.
[0:36:38] CM: Oh, cool. I love that. Okay.
[0:36:41] KM: Restore Hope acts as a brokering agency to connect communities and government and helps with technology assistance. Solves complicated issues. Collaborative intervention with government agencies, non-profit and local businesses. And that your approach is a holistic approach. Education, jobs, counseling, parenting, addiction. Let's talk about parenting and addiction. Why would a gang be your family? Where is your real family?
[0:37:11] CM: Okay. Your real family is in your house. In your home, you know? Your gang is your family in the streets.
[0:37:17] KM: Did you have a mother and father?
[0:37:19] CM: Yeah. I got a mother. My father passed. But, yeah, I have a mother. I have a mother and I have two other brothers.
[0:37:24] KM: Why did they let you get in a gang?
[0:37:26] CM: Can't nobody let you get in a gang. I chose to get in the game. No one lets you get in a gang. It's your choice. It's a decision in life. You choose or you don't choose.
[0:37:34] KM: Because you're a grown man and you can make those decisions.
[0:37:36] CM: No. I wasn't a grown man when I joined a gang. I was a kid.
[0:37:38] KM: See, I would have taken Gray and locked him in his bedroom if he started packing a gun and selling drugs.
[0:37:43] KM: I don't think my mother really knew all of that. You know how kids – your parents don't know everything you do. That would be impossible for our parents to know everything.
[0:37:50] KM: What's the solution to keep kids from making bad choices?
[0:37:54] CM: The solution is you have to have men, or older younger guys, or older men to help guide. Everyone needs a guidance somewhere. And where I'm from, the male figure, the father figure is not there too often.
[0:38:10] KM: Why is that?
[0:38:12] CM: It's a lot of things. Like I said, sometimes crime. You commit a crime, you go to prison. You're gone from your family. Death. Sometimes it's a violent situation. Sometimes the male dies. He's murdered. Poverty. He doesn't have any money. He's not getting along with his wife or a girlfriend, he leaves.
[0:38:34] KM: Every black man that almost has worked for me has had a wife that he loves with his children and he has a girlfriend.
[0:38:39] CM: Oh, yeah, two. He got a side chick.
[0:38:40] KM: Aha. All of them. And it makes me crazy.
[0:38:42] CM: Oh, not all of them. You just met me and I don't have a side chick.
[0:38:46] KM: Thank you.
[0:38:46] CM: Because I'm scared of my wife.
[0:38:47] KM: One of them had a wife, a girlfriend and a mistress. I said, "How are you doing it?" He said, "I work two jobs." I said, "Is it worth that?"
[0:38:53] CM: I don't think it's worth all that. That's too much stress, trouble in my mind. Yeah, I like the laid back set up with my family. Hang out with my friends. And I don't like to stress and all that.
[0:39:05] RR: I mean, is that maybe an example of one of the things that they're trying to show the younger generation? You may see this, but this is not the best way to live.
[0:39:16] CM: Exactly.
[0:39:17] RR: This is not what is best. It's not the talk that they're giving them. This is example.
[0:39:21] CM: It's example. It's truly the example, Ms. Renie.
[0:39:23] RR: You're showing them. You come home with your wife. I was talking to one of the men today and he said every morning when they leave, they say to each other, "I will come home to you safely." And the other one says, "And I will come home to you safely."
[0:39:39] KM: That's beautiful.
[0:39:40] RR: And that's their marriage. They will come home to each other safely. And so, I think, from where I sit, that's what these men are doing. And they're getting other men – I mean, the last time they had a big cookout, there was probably what? Over a hundred people?
[0:39:56] CM: Yeah. On Martin Luther King Day, we had a big cookout in the neighborhood. And a lot of people came. Ms. Renie was there. Paul was there.
[0:40:04] KM: Well, sure, she was. Free food.
[0:40:05] CM: Yeah. And she ate a lot of barbecue. She had a good time. Good old time with my mom.
[0:40:10] RR: But I'm telling – but you're modeling to those young boys. This is the way you spend Martin Luther King Day. And we're real excited. I'm going to just throw this in here real fast. The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute has asked us to help Arkansas understand what do we need.
These men will be a focus group for the Rockefeller Institute on April the 8th. Eight felons will come into a room and will tell them, "This is what we need when we come out of prison to make our lives better. We're not asking you to give it to us. But listen to us. Don't decide for us. This is what we need." And to me, that's a major start that Winthrop Rockefeller Institute is moving and is helping us solve this problem.
[0:41:04] CM: Ms. Renie, we're giving them a solution.
[0:41:05] RR: That's right.
[0:41:06] CM: You got to give them solutions from the horse's mouth. From people who've experienced it.
[0:41:10] KM: That's right.
[0:41:12] CM: Even in drug programs, the best counselor is a rehabilitated addict. The best.
[0:41:17] KM: Yes.
[0:41:19] CM: And we are the best to stop violence because we used to do violence. So, we know all about it. And we know the solution of how to stop it and we want to help. And we're using our business to make money as we help. It's America.
[0:41:32] KM: Were you ever on drugs? Did you have to deal with addiction?
[0:41:35] CM: Smoke weed. Yeah, I was addicted to a drug. You guys probably never heard of, it was called sherm.
[0:41:41] KM: No.
[0:41:41] CM: You never heard of sherm? formaldehyde? You never – formaldehyde.
[0:41:44] GM: Oh. Yes.
[0:41:46] CM: We've called it wet daddy in the neighborhood.
[0:41:47] GM: Oh, I've heard that.
[0:41:47] CM: You rolled it up in a joint, but it's like embalming fluid on tobacco. And it gets you super high. And I was addicted to that. But I quit cold turkey. It was hard. It was like everything that you want to –
[0:42:00] KM: What'd you call it? What's it called?
[0:42:02] CM: Sherm, wet daddy.
[0:42:02] KM: Wet daddy.
[0:42:04] CM: But the solutions that we're coming up with will enable our community to grow. And it also enables us to align with other communities and ally with other communities where we can all help. Because if you look at our communities, they basically have some of the same problems. But some are just more exasperated, more bigger than others. But if you get down to the nitty-gritty and the truth of it, we can solve these problems together.
[0:42:30] KM: Well, as a businesswoman, all I can talk about is my point of view. And we don't have enough people in the workforce. I'll tell you right now, we don't have enough people in the workforce. And I try to hire people all the time. And there's just not enough people that can get to work on time, have transportation, have good enough health, or just a multitude of reasons like we've talked about here. Or in jail. We've hired up several felons though, and we've had great success.
[0:43:04] RR: You know, truck driving.
[0:43:06] KM: Oh, that's a great one to talk about.
[0:43:06] RR: They need 50,000 truck drivers in Arkansas. 50,000.
[0:43:10] KM: We need that many?
[0:43:11] RR: We need that many.
[0:43:12] KM: I've been told that there's a major shortage of truck drivers.
[0:43:16] RR: Well, we will open a school April 5th, and we're going after it. Because they will hire felons. You don't have to have a GED. And you can make $35,000 the first year and $60,000 the next. They can have a career. We can take them from crisis – I can get excited about this.
[0:43:34] KM: Yeah, you can.
[0:43:35] RR: I'm going to calm down a little bit. But they stand a chance. And they'll never get laid off because they need so many.
[0:43:40] KM: And that's a great job.
[0:43:42] RR: It is a great job.
[0:43:43] KM: And you sleep in the bed of the car. Some of these people are like, "This is a great bed. I'd love to sleep in that bed."
[0:43:49] RR: Yeah. And women can do it. And you don't have to be on the road. I mean, we need truck drivers in town. So, they're home every night with their children.
[0:43:57] CM: Yeah, we need dually drivers and drive the dually trucks, like the trucks that you move somebody's boat or stuff like that. We can rent your truck out and do all kind of work.
[0:44:06] KM: Oh, I thought you were talking about drivers on –
[0:44:10] GM: Long haul.
[0:44:11] KM: Yeah, long haul. Yeah.
[0:44:10] CM: We are. But we're talking about citywide too.
[0:44:13] KM: And so, there's a school that you're going to partner with?
[0:44:17] RR: Yes. And it's already full. We've got our first class already full. And we're going to just keep on going. And it's a wonderful opportunity for a felon. It's one of the best.
[0:44:29] KM: How do people find out about this? How are they going to get in touch with you? How are they going to learn about it? Anybody that's listening now, they're going to call Empowering My – EME. Or they going to call Restore Hope?
[0:44:39] CM: Yeah. You can get in contact with Restore Hope or EME. EME has a Facebook page. Restore Hope also has a page. But we've been passing our flyers around the city. And we didn't got a lot of people from our neighborhood involved. We go down to the park and just say, "Man, we got something for you guys. Just read it." And Ms. Renie and Paul they've been getting a lot of phone calls and a lot of people. And they sold out two classes so far.
[0:45:04] RR: And people just don't know.
[0:45:04] KM: Right.
[0:45:07] RR: And so, it's just getting it up to their awareness that –
[0:45:11] KM: I don't think people realize there's a shortage of drivers.
[0:45:13] CM: They didn't. A lot of people didn't know that truck driver was in such a high demand.
[0:45:17] KM: I was shocked when I found out.
[0:45:19] RR: And that you can make great money. And you don't have to be overnight. You can go home to your family.
[0:45:23] KM: I didn't realize they'd take felons.
[0:45:25] RR: Yes. They take felons. And you don't have to have your GED. That's a good thing –
[0:45:28] CM: That's a great career move. Great career move.
[0:45:30] RR: It's a great career move. If you're coming out of a prison, it's a great career move.
[0:45:34] CM: Gives you responsibility, independency.
[0:45:36] KM: And so, you'll help them get a license if they've got to get a license. You get that when you go through this school. Responsibility – there's dignity and responsibility. And we've talked a lot about – what do they say? Don't give a man a fish. Give them a fishing pole. And y'all are kind of I think doing that. Some of your accomplishments at Restore Hope have been four counties, Pulaski, Crawford, White and Sebastian. You're excited about the future, I can tell.
[0:46:03] RR: Yeah, we are.
[0:46:04] CM: Tell them about the April 13th.
[0:46:07] KM: You better hurry. We've got a few minutes left.
[0:46:08] RR: We're going to launch – every time the governor sends us into a different county, we launch it. And so, we'll launch Pulaski County on April the 13th. And we'll be at War Memorial Stadium outside. EME is going to come to barbeque for them.
[0:46:22] KM: How many people you think are going to be there?
[0:46:24] CM: We hope a hundred.
[0:46:25] RR: A hundred. It will be outside. And we will all sign a petition that says we will gather together and work and get these people back out of crisis, into stability and a career.
[0:46:35] KM: What day? I love it. To help the least, the last and the lost.
[0:46:39] CM: April 13th.
[0:46:40] KM: April 13th, War Memorial.
[0:46:41] CM: And EME is coming out cooking. It's going to be some really good barbecue, really good food.
[0:46:44] RR: Reall good. And we've got a band that's going to be out there that they said that they would come out free. It'll be fun.
[0:46:50] CM: It's going to be a big fun.
[0:46:50] KM: Okay. April 13th. We'll put the date on our website.
[0:46:53] CM: April 13th, 12 –
[0:46:55] RR: 12 to 1.
[0:46:56] CM: 12 to 1.
[0:46:56] KM: 12 to 1. Not too long. That's perfect. If you want to get involved or you want to reach out to these people, just call Restore Hope. Call EME.
[0:47:04] CM: And go to EME. Go to Empower My Environment on Facebook. Our number is there. You can contact us. We answer questions. We're not scared. We talk. We talk back. Just go to Empower My Environment on Facebook page. And you can see our videos on YouTube also.
[0:47:19] KM: I've really enjoyed talking to Renie Rule. Y'all are great.
[0:47:20] RR: Oh, this has been great. Love it.
[0:47:22] KM: And this is a gift for both of y'all for coming on. It's a desk set with a US and an Arkansas flag. Thank you so much Charlie Mack and Renie Rule.
[0:47:31] RR: Oh, thank you, Kerry.
[0:47:31] CM: Thank you. Thank you so much. You're a great host.
[0:47:34] KM: You're welcome.
[0:47:34] RR: This is great. You are.
[0:47:36] CM: I don't care what they say about you. You're a great host.
[0:47:40] KM: I know, right? You aren't scared of me. Weren't you? In closing, to our listeners, I want to thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening. And if you haven't, you haven't been listening. And that whatever it is will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy, and I'll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[0:48:02] TW: Here's a message from Dreamland Ballroom, upstairs in Taborian Hall. Home of flagandbanner.com. When a great organization serving a great community issues a new mission statement, that's a big deal. And the Friends of Dreamland has one.
Friends of Dreamland celebrates the community of historic West 9th Street, shares the legacy of Dreamland Ballroom and preserves the original intent of Taborian Hall. Let's break that down. Celebrate the community, the men and women that lived, worked and played in the West 9th Street neighborhood faced brutal social stigma every day, but thrived. We'll never forget this and we'll always celebrate it.
Share the legacy. There's no doubt that the most fun and fascinating facet of the history of Dreamland Ballroom are all the legends that graced the Dreamland stage. Unfortunately, it's taken only one generation to almost completely forget this great history. It promotes pride in our hometown when we remember it and encourages us to do everything we can to keep this community strong. And, finally, preserve the original intent.
Taborian Hall was built as a central fixture of commerce, community organization and entertainment. And that's our mission statement now. We have a major legacy to live up to and a lot of work ahead of us, but we plan to move forward. See how you can help develop a new mission statement into reality. Visit dreamlandballroom.org.
[0:49:28] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio show and choose today's guest. If you'd like to sponsor this show or any show, contact me, Gray, at email@example.com. That's firstname.lastname@example.org.
All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcast wherever you like to listen. Kerry's goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.