Southside re-entry council holds first job fair for ex-offenders

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) For ex-offenders trying to build a new life after their release from prison, finding a job is one of the most important, and most difficult, steps.

Tuesday, the re-entry council serving Martinsville, Henry County and Patrick County held its first job fair for ex-offenders.

"We've had a huge turnout, right at ten o'clock," said Emily Johnson, one of the organizers. "We actually had people in the parking lot that were lined up in the parking lot waiting to come in."

Johnson estimated that more than 200 people came to speak with 20 employers, and other organizations providing re-entry services.

"You know for a convicted felon, it's kind of hard," said job fair participant Deshawn Reynolds. "They look at your felony background and a lot of jobs don't want to hire you."

"They just want to work," said Mandy Folman, who organized the event with Johnson . "They just want to be given a second chance. And just knowing that there's people out there that are willing to support them and give them that chance is encouraging."

Organizers plan to hold the job fair again next year during National Re-entry Week, but they say they'll probably need to find a bigger location.