A year prison stay did not keep Charlie LaBoone from fulfilling his dream.

While incarcerated for a felony, “I was determined to use my mind so that when I leave, the only thing I’m taking out of here is knowledge.” Charlie completed two associate degrees. One of them resulted in obtaining certification in computer drafting, a skill that would help change his life.

Charlie’s dream came to fruition with the confluence of his newly learned computer drafting skills and the big idea he had been thinking about for years.

Charlie, who is now the president of Catering Machine, Inc., developed a kiosk that can be located in worksites with large numbers of employees. The kiosk, which resembles an ATM, allows workers in companies to order from a menu on a video screen, pay for the food with a bank card and have their food delivered from designated restaurants that offer a broad range of menu options.

Drawing on his 20 years of restaurant sales experience, he could not help but imagine that there had to be a better way of getting a variety of good food to a large number of workers. Charlie is celebrating, because a large, national retailer recently approved the placement of the kiosk in its warehouses.

Charlie had some help in his transition from inmate to businessman.

Released from prison in 2013, Charlie immediately started attending weekly support groups organized by The Up Center which is part of a grant funded by the Obici Healthcare Foundation. Sessions are held weekly at the Probation and Parole Board District 6 office in Suffolk.

Facilitators Gary Ellis and Pat Stockwell, Charlie reports, “created direction in my life. There were times when I thought about quitting the group, but thoughts of leaving were short lived. I get so much from hearing the thoughts from Gary, Pat and others, and I believe others benefit from learning about my experiences. I’ve been attending the group for 3 years and have no plans of leaving anytime soon.” Charlie believes the give and take from different points of view are mutually beneficial.

The support groups led by Gary and Pat help formerly incarcerated men understand how their traumatic past affected them, give them concrete life skills to use, provide education on relationships and controlling anger and allow them to share their stories in a non-judgmental manner.

“I spend a lot of time alone thinking,” Charlie recounts. “Some of that time is devoted to figuring out the details of this ambitious business venture. Other times are spent pondering the constructive messages provided by Gary and Pat.”

“They give me the structure in my life that I need.”

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