FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – A new program in Florence County aims to help young people who go to jail, stay out once they’re released. 

Executive Director of Pee Dee Healthy Start Madie Robinson says the agency added the Dannon Project in 2017 with a $900,000 federal grant.

“We’re trying to help improve the workforce here. At the same time say to these young people ‘you can do it, you’ve got to believe in yourself, that you can do it.’ That we all make mistakes but the key is that you don’t wallow in it. That you get up and you try harder,” said Robinson.

Florence County was selected because of its poverty rate. U.S. Census numbers from last year say the poverty rate is 18.3%.

“The bottom line is to say to them, we believe in you and we believe you can do better if you want to do better,” said Robinson.

The Department of Probation and Parole office at the County Complex was the first to partner with the Dannon project.

Now when someone between 18-24 years old is released from jail they are often referred to the project to help get their lives on track.

The program provides transportation and helps with educational, job skills and even healthcare.

“We all need a hand up. Not a handout but a hand up. We all deserve a second chance, third chance sometimes,” said Robinson.

Marquise Wilson is a 19- year- old interested in turning his life around.

“I got into trouble a while back… my P.O. ended up telling me about the program,” explained Wilson. “I’m working on my resume. I already have my certification in the forklift. I’m just trying to work on getting certified in something else like welding.”

 Dannon Project Career Services Coordinator Barvetta Singletary says the program is not just for people who’ve served time. It’s for any interaction with the judicial system like a ticket or nonviolent crimes.

“What we seek to do is repair and restore lives,” said Singletary.

Wilson says he likes the program and looks forward to getting a job with his certifications.

“I’m trying my best to better my life and my future,” said Wilson. “They [my family] like the way I’m going, instead of going down the wrong path.”

The program is now being offered to Marion County. Dannon Project directors plan to expand to Darlington as well.

The goal is to recruit 150 young adults.

For more information email acer@pdhs.org or call 843-662-1482.