Former Inmates Striving Together (F.I.S.T.) celebrates six years of assisting ex-offenders successfully reintegrate into society. F.I.S.T. is an organization of formerly incarcerated men and women drawing on experiences and focusing their energy on this task. Early on, F.I.S.T. worked diligently to secure volunteer positions for their group; now, they are booked well in advance by the organizations and entities such as City of Waukegan, Waukegan Main Street, PADS, and Waukegan Park District.
This year’s celebration, slated for May 3rd, will include comedian Mike Preston and the annual food tasting competition. The competition allows restaurants to present samples of their menu. Some of the participating restaurants include Spice, Key Lime Cove, Momcorn, Fong’s, The Lasagna Shop, The Hass Bakery and El Famous Burrito, while others are finalizing their plans.
This year’s Keynote Address will be presented by Chief Jennifer Witherspoon, President of Lake County NAACP. Featured Speaker, Richard Van Arsdale III, will give his testimony regarding his struggles with re-entry. State Representative Rita Mayfield is also on the program. Awards will be presented by Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim and the F.I.S.T. Annual scholarship, sponsored by First Light Bible Study Group at Joy! Lutheran Church, will be presented by Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Allen J. Lynch.
F.I.S.T. has steadily worked to provide what ex-offenders need to support their re-entry. Over the past three years, F.I.S.T. has: opened a Resource Center; provided over 200 winter coats to newly released inmates; mentored its members on life skills and employment; created a 12-step program for ex-offenders; set up S.T.E.E.P. entrepreneur program; established independent housing for men/women; started a thrift store; re-opened the Waukegan Beach Concession stand; and overseen many community service projects. These community service projects have included rehabbing of churches and a parsonage;, building a elementary school recreation site; Waukegan parade and event clean-up; helping to tend the City’s planters in the downtown area with Waukegan Main Street; and assisting PADS.
The celebration will be held at Gurnee Holiday Inn and Conference Center on May 3rd from 2:00 to 5:00 PM and is FREE and open to the public.