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Christian Company Hires Mostly Ex-convicts

The United States has the largest prison population in the world, with 2.2 million adults behind bars. The United States also consumes more coffee than any other nation—45 million pounds of coffee every year. Those two facts may seem completely unrelated, but to a Christian businessman from Wheaton, Illinois, they provided a creative way to do something he loves and minister to former inmates in his community.

It all started when Pete Leonard, a businessman involved with a local software company, started roasting coffee out of his garage. About the same time, Leonard watched as a family member fruitlessly searched for work after serving time in prison. Leonard said, "He'd always get interviews, but the instant he had to check the box 'I'm a convicted felon,' that was the end of the story." Leonard also realized that his relative's story was typical of a much larger problem: Many ex-convicts can't find work, which drives them back into unemployment or crime.

Over breakfast one morning, Leonard and two close friends took a napkin and sketched out an idea of starting a business that would hire ex-offenders. But Leonard was also committed to making excellent coffee. "If the coffee is bad," he said, "you're not going to buy it again." So Leonard and his friends started Second Chance Coffee Company, which markets under the brand I Have a Bean. Leonard and his wife, Debbie, invested thousands of dollars to launch the business, and Leonard eventually left his job to pursue it full time. Today, Second Chance makes quality coffee while hiring mostly ex-convicts. For a mom or dad coming out of prison, that means being able to be a provider and pulling the family out of the cycle of poverty. According to Debbie Leonard, for her and Pete it's also meant realizing that "your security is in God and not in your bank account."

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