Personality: Oludare Ogunde

Spotlight on founder of nonprofit Project Give Back to Community

7/7/2017, 7:54 a.m.
Facing life outside of prison can be almost as daunting as surviving life behind bars. As an ex-offender, Oludare Ogunde ...

Facing life outside of prison can be almost as daunting as surviving life behind bars. As an ex-offender, Oludare Ogunde knows about these challenges.

The 48-year-old Nigeria native founded Project Give Back to Community to help ease the transition. He began the nonprofit in 2015 with 99.3/105.7 KISS FM radio personality “Miss Community” Clovia Lawrence only a year after he was released from prison. She now serves as executive director “and the voice of the organization,” he says. “She mentors all the members who are returning citizens.”

“The program was started as a platform for prisoners, former prisoners and citizens of Virginia to give back to the community,” he says. “We believe in second chances for everyone and that no one is infallible.”

The organization promotes peace, safety, and security with the goal of communities free of substance abuse, united families and an end to gang violence.

To accomplish this, Mr. Ogunde says the organization has sponsored several programs to help people who have served their sentences and are looking to re-enter society. Among the programs: Emergency housing, employment and transportation resources, life coaching, voter registration drives and working for restoration of rights for convicted felons.

But full rehabilitation of formerly incarcerated individuals does not rest solely with the former inmates, he says.

“We hold prisoners accountable for their crimes, but as a community, we must hold ourselves accountable as well,” Mr. Ogunde says. “Nobody is born a criminal, so we have to ask ourselves, ‘How did we fail this person?’ ”

Forgiveness is critical, he says. In addition to services for individuals once they are released from prison, the organization regularly visits prisons to motivate and share information with inmates to help their successful re-entry into the community.

In an effort to help the wider community, the organization hosts “Barbershop Talks” to help inform the public about the root causes of the heroin and opioid epidemics that have afflicted the community.

“The knowledge and experience of prisoners and former prisoners are critical in solving problems of public safety and finding solutions that will help make us safe,” he says. Meet community service advocate and this week’s Personality, Oludare Ogunde:

Occupation: Self-employed.

Community work: Founder and president of Project Give Back to Community.

Date and place of birth: March 18 in Lagos, Nigeria.

Current residence: Richmond’s East End.

Education: Bachelor of science in botany and diplomas in graphic and communication arts design; computer-aided design and drafting; automotive brake and manual drive train repair; and building maintenance and repair.

Family: Married with one son.

When and why Project Give Back to Community was founded: I founded Project Give Back to Community in 2015 with my friend, KISS FM radio personality “Miss Community,” Clovia Lawrence.

Main element of program: Promoting public safety.

Top two goals: Promoting public safety and providing relief for the poor and economically disadvantaged, including men and women returning from prison, through affordable housing and shelter.

How many members: 11.

Background of members: Regular volunteers in the community, individuals who have been convicted of felonies and/or misdemeanors and former prisoners who are focused on re-entry and willing to give back to the community.