PHOENIX - “We wanted to change our life and not only that, we wanted to help other people change their life as well,” Keith Krenklis said.
Krenklis and Frantz Beasley are changing lives with AZ Common Ground. Their
non-profit organization gets ex-convicts back on their feet after serving time.
“They have to start setting goals right away,” Beasley said. “We have to start reaching goals right away, simple goals, things that you thought were unattainable inside.”
The two men know what it’s like to be on the inside. They met in prison. Beasley served time for kidnapping and armed robbery while Krenklis for possession and sales of a dangerous drug.
“I took the last seven years of my time and began the process of educating myself,
re-educating myself about believing in me,” Beasley said.
They both made the decision to start fresh when they got out but quickly realized not everyone has the tools and support to make the transition.
“Most people don't have that when they're coming out and that's one of the reasons why I wanted to come out and do this,” Krenklis said.
They're organization provides ex-inmates with life skills training such as how to get a job. They also help build character and self-esteem.
“You don't necessarily have to be in prison or be in trouble for him [Beasley] to accept you, because at one time we we're not criminals, we weren't felons,” Angie Carballo said.
Carballo got out of prison in March. Since coming to the group, the 29-year-old now knows the meaning of hope. She's reconnected with her four children and also got a job.
“There is a chance out here,” Carballo said. “You know, the doors aren't closed.”
AZ Common Ground also educates communities about re-entry and crime prevention. One of the board members is Phoenix Police Lieutenant Michael Kurtenbach.
“They realize I'm a person just like they are,” Kurtenbach said. “I have issues just like they do, but life is about making choices. If you make the right choices, we can actually be friends, we don't have to be adversaries.
Making those right choices is what this is all about. “I'm just happy and blessed to be a part of it, to be able to repay some of the wrong I did in my past,” Krenklis said.
“I don't want the community ever thinking that we do this to try and make up, you can't make up for what you do to a victim,” Beasley said. “But you come to a point that I made bad decisions, but I can't let those bad decisions hold me back. I choose to live today.”
For more information on AZ Common Ground, go to www.azcommonground1.com.