Former prisoner tries to help find work

Published 12:50 pm Friday, August 12, 2011

Robert Elswick paints a house on Lakeview Heights road in Clanton.

Robert Elswick has been through prison.

He tried to turn his life around but had trouble finding work after his release. Elswick doesn’t want others to face the same obstacle.

“If I’m a robber, that’s what I’m going to go back to doing,” Elswick said. “That’s how I’m going to feed myself.”

Elswick is working to create jobs for people with felonies on their record, people willing and able to work but who haven’t been able to find employment.

“My ministry is trying to create jobs,” he said.

Originally from Virginia, Elswick moved in with his sister in Addison after being released from prison following time served for a felony. He was offered a job with a prison ministry through another church organization, essentially doing the same thing he is now. He relocated to Clanton but eventually began his own ministry.

He’s hired several people released from jail to perform projects for individuals in the community, including painting houses, building decks, waxing floors…“basically about anything,” Elswick said.

One of the former prisoners Elswick has found work for is Bonny Nipper of Birmingham.

“If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills,” Nipper said. “He’s helped me out a whole lot. I’m glad he’s got this going.”

One of the first jobs Elswick’s group performed was painting a deck for Clanton resident David Horn.

Horn said Elswick explained his ministry in an initial meeting.

“It went really well, and I wish him the best. That’s a hard thing to do and something I’m familiar with,” said Horn, who is the executive director of Shelby County Community Corrections.

Elswick has worked with four former prisoners and is looking for more workers and work to grow the ministry. He also said donations of any sort—monetary as well as used lawnmowers, vehicles, etc.—would be welcome.

“I could do a whole lot more if I could just get the work for them,” Elswick said.

Elswick can be contacted at 688-6353 or 3H Rolling Oaks Apartments in Clanton.