SHERIDAN - How many of us can truly say we found our life's calling? Sewing found Johnny Wimberly as a teenager, long before he found this work as a small business owner, running Jed's Custom Services in Sheridan.
"It's definitely a passion, especially on the boat side of it, since I'm such a big fisherman and I like to be out on the water," Wimberly said.
Before he ever found a sewing machine, Wimberly needed to find his way in life.
"You know, I was a young man, 16 or 17 years old. I didn't really have respect for the law. I definitely did a lot of things in hindsight I wish I wouldn't have done. I ended up doing some robberies," Wimberly said.
In 1992, Wimberly was convicted of aggravated armed robbery and spent six years in prison.
"I went to prison basically with no skills," Wimberly said.
Then he discovered sewing in an inmate training program which led to several jobs in prison and work after his release.
"I didn't go try to get a job that had anything to do with banking or money, because most people, their first thought of talking to a felon is that they can't be trusted," Wimberly said.
He sent out resumes to several canvas shops and heard back. If they didn't ask about his prison time, he wouldn't tell. He just wanted to work.
"It was definitely hard, but with that skill, this is all I have. I didn't have family at the time in Colorado, I didn't have anything. I know how to sew," Wimberly said.
Since 1992, he has much more: a loving wife who eventually helped him start his own business, and a daughter who helps run it.
Even during a credit squeeze when getting a loan is unheard of, Wimberly is no longer alone in this new struggle.
"Everything I have is in this company. I can't imagine doing something without it. So what do you do? You quit and take a loss? Or do you just keep going and depend on your customers to come and bring you work?"
Wimberly says most of the employees he's hired through the years have been former inmates. He says it's his way to give them a second chance in life - much like he received several years ago.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Sunday, November 08, 2009