In an area that has been rampaged by drug abuse and addiction, one former user has walked out of prison with a hope to stop others from turning out like him.
Jerry Jordan, of Portsmouth, served eight months in prison for possession of cocaine. He was not released until November 2016. For Jordan, drugs were a regular part of life. Though more than 20 years sober now, Jordan’s parents used and sold drugs when he was a child. After his arrest, Jordan remembers his father telling him that he needed to break the cycle. Otherwise, Jordan’s children would be doomed to repeat his mistakes. Then, while in prison, Jordan met someone that would give him the confidence to make the change he hoped to see in the youth of Portsmouth.
“One of my buddies was training me,” Jordan explained. “He really started talking to me and said, ‘This community doesn’t have many positive role models.’”
Jordan’s friend Thornton Taylor recently filed for judicial release after being in prison for 11 years. Jordan originally had an interest in basketball, but Taylor expanded Jordan’s interest in fitness but also started talking to Jordan about his plans for life after prison. While working out, this man became an even more important mentor for Jordan, focusing him on how his experiences and how lessons he has learned could be used to help others.
Upon his release, Jordan found that it was difficult for a former convict to find employment in this area. He explained that Columbus has programs for those recently released from prison. They can work for the City for a probationary period with possibility of full-time employment following. Lack of employment was yet another difficulty for Jordan to overcome, another difficulty that he wanted to prevent others from struggling to survive.
Jordan started to see all that he had learned, lessons he wished he had known in his youth, and decided he had to share this information to help others.
“I started with my oldest son and my nephew,” Jordan explained. “Our community is very infested with drugs. I was a part of the reason,” Jordan commented. “I got my life together, gave my life to Christ and I changed. I told myself that I can touch some of these kids. Some of them are heading down the same path that I went down and are heading to the same place that I went. I’m not going to be able to change all of them, but if I have 17 and change three of them and then they change three, it is going to make a difference. It is going to help.”
Jordan started working out with the two young boys and discovered that, like with his mentor, conversations just started happening. Jordan and the boys were bonding, and Jordan could see that his input in their lives made a difference. The two boys started bringing their friends to train. Now, Jordan is up to nearly 20 kids that he mentors ranging from third grade up.
“I just take my time out and talk to them and teach them responsibilities,” Jordan stated. “Some kids around here don’t have a father. It is sometimes hard for a single mother to be in control, especially of a teenage boy. I develop a relationship with the mothers, so they tell me what is going on in the kid’s life. I tell the kids I want them to do their chores, I want them to go to church on Sunday and I want them to respect their mothers.”
Jordan says that he explains to the kids that there are other children looking up to them and that how they act can influence those around them. He added that if the children are getting in trouble at home or school, he takes the time to talk to them about their behavior but also punishes them.
“I still have my prison ID, and I show it to them,” Jordan said. “I ask them, ‘Do you want to go down this road? I’ve been there, and it’s tough.’”
With Jordan, the kids he trains and mentors do three hours of a CrossFit type workout that includes ropes, hurdles, dribbling tennis balls, pulling and pushing sleds
“By the time they get home, it’s time to eat and go to bed. I know they won’t be running any streets because they’re worn out.”
In addition to gym time, Jordan explained the kids have responsibilities to their training. Saturday the group held a fish fry to raise money for equipment. The kids helped set up and cleanup, ran cash registers and even delivered food for those who ordered. Jordan added that they do not currently have a regular gym and make use of available facilities when they can. He refuses to charge the kids or their families for his time, explaining that some of these kids have difficult home lives and would not be able to participate if he charged them. Rather, they look for donations from the community.
In the three months since Jordan started working with these kids, he says that he has really seen a difference so quickly.
“It’s been very touching,” he said. “I see my old self in them.”
Jordan hopes to eventually be able to open up other opportunities for these kids by taking them on field trips, visits to the jail as a scared straight tactic, drug tests on hand for parents and even compassionate efforts such as providing meals and Christmas gifts. Some of the children Jordan mentors don’t know where their next meal is going to come from or even where they will sleep.
All of Jordan’s efforts have been supported by community donations and volunteer efforts through Tim Wagner with Wagner Rentals, The Ribber, Neal Hatcher, Dick Spencer, City Cutz, Coach Eugene Collins with the Portsmouth Trojans, Shawn Sturgill, Elite Basketball and Tara Thomas. Jordan added that the guidance and support of his parents has also been instrumental.
For more information about Jordan’s mentoring program or to assist, call 740-285-7837.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930.