Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nashvillian's Dream Center is finalist for national honor

Richard runs nonprofit to help men in need find work By Andy Humbles • THE TENNESSEAN • July 21, 2009 Recognition isn't why North Nashville's Terry Richard established and operates a nonprofit organization to help homeless, low income and ex-convict men find suitable employment. triggerAd(1,PaginationPage,11); But, if being named one of 10 finalists nationwide for the 2009 Energizer Battery Company's fourth annual Keep Going Hall of Fame can elevate Richard's Dream Center, that's more than fine. "(The more) the community knows about it, that will help a lot,'' Richard said. "It spreads the work we're doing.'' Richard was initially selected out of more than 1,000 nominations by a panel of judges to be one of the top 100 semifinalists, said Energizer Hall of Fame spokeswoman Samantha Fisher. One winner will be honored Sept. 3 in St. Louis, determined by a public vote through Aug. 7. The winner will win a $10,000 prize and an additional $5,000 to a charity of his or her choice, Fisher said. "This guy is the Energizer Bunny,'' said Dream Center board member Suzanne Lafond. "He's been working at this in small steps, and he has a full-time job on top of it.'' It's been a year of change for the Dream Center, which Richard established in 2004. The Dream Center operates Gear 4 Career, which accepts suitable clothing that is generally donated for men in need to take and wear for interviews and employment. Richard moved the Dream Center and Gear 4 Career office on Jefferson Street, where he operated for about 3 ½ years, to 406 Harding Industrial Drive in the Antioch area. The new residence was donated by a Dream Center board member, Richard said. Hopes are to use the Industrial Drive location as a warehouse and find an office location, perhaps around the Metro Center area near Richard's home or on Charlotte Pike. The economic downturn has brought an increase in clients, Richard said. And clothing donations have dropped. But Richard has not had to turn anyone away yet. Richard also does job readiness workshops, often at area churches, through the Dream Center. He estimates putting in 28-32 hours a week with the Dream Center on top of his regular job as a banquet manager for the Nashville Marriott Hotel at Vanderbilt. In 2008 Richard was named Outstanding Manager for Large Properties at the American Hotel & Lodging Association Stars of the Industry Awards. Richard came to the United States from Nigeria and said the help he received is one reason why he has put the effort into the Dream Center. Lafond, 78, came on as a Dream Center board member after operating Nashville's Dress for Success, which provided suitable work clothing for low-income women. The Nashville based Dress for Success closed in 2007 after nine years because of lack of funding. The Dream Center recently was awarded $10,000 out the money Dress for Success turned over to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee when it closed two years ago, Lafond said. Richard said he may consider providing work clothing for women in need because of the void left by Dress for Success's closing.

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