The latest New Yorker of the Week teaches men to see the value of working the daily grind, one coffee cup at a time. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
A cafe in Brooklyn serves up more than just coffee.
It's part of the nonprofit Reconnect. It hires, trains and employs young men from low-income neighborhoods, giving them an opportunity to earn money and gain a support system.
"The one thing I hope all these guys take away is that my life matters," says the Rev. Jim O'Shea, the latest New Yorker of the Week. "Am I perfect? No. Am I a saint? No, none of us are. But my life matters. And there actually are people in the world that will stick with me and stay with me long enough to discover that.”
One of those people is O'Shea, founder of Reconnect and a Catholic priest. He employs dozens of men ages 17 to 24 at three businesses in Bedford-Stuyvesant: a café, a bakery and a graphics company.
"A lot of us coming from this area took education for granted, so a lot of us didn't take it seriously enough to go into the work world," says Lamont Hill, manager of Reconnect Graphics. "A lot of us needed a second chance and needed some guidance and some help."
Reconnect is O'Shea's attempt to deter men from violence and help them envision a better future.
"Nobody wants to live in a life that’s not productive, but a lot of times, if we don’t see or feel that there's other options, we tend to kind of do what we see or what's around, or do nothing," he says.
"I wanted to do something positive. I wanted to have money in my pocket, do stuff. I didn't just want to be walking up and down the street doing nothing," says Deon Burns, assistant manager at Reconnect Café. "I wanted to be like sort of a role model to other kids in the community."
Here, employees gain communication skills, an entrepreneurial spirit and confidence.
"This guy is like a dad," says Efrain Hernandez, manager at Reconnect Café. "If I never met Father Jim, I probably would have been dead or in jail."
"One big life lesson I learned is not to give up, just keep pushing," Burns says. "Father Jim made a difference in my life by giving me a job and, like, giving me the opportunity to show that I'm worth his time."
So, for reconnecting disconnected New Yorkers to their community, Father Jim O’Shea is our New Yorker of the Week.