Last year, the nonprofit relocated to a warehouse in northeast Indy, nearer most of the workers. Now visitors enter a high-ceilinged, woody-smelling lobby with gray walls and linoleum floors. One wall displays bright photos of workers saying how Purposeful Design helped them change: “I used drugs and sold them. Then I had an encounter with a man named Jesus,” says one placard. Another reads: “God picked me up, sanded me off, put a new coat of stain over me, and set me back on the shelf.”
The workshop is large and open, with shelves of tools and tables of wood boards waiting to be cut, sanded, or glued together. The room smells like sawdust, though plastic hoses attached to the machinery keep the air clear. Along one wall are a pingpong table and pool table. The men play so frequently they are considering forming a competitive pingpong team. Fans whir, the sander squeals, and Zach McClintock, wearing protective glasses, jeans, and a blue and white striped shirt, guides a rotating saw blade through a board.
To get hired, a man must be able-bodied, clean and sober, and ready to follow instructions. Experience with power tools is preferred but not required. McClintock had zero experience when he came to ask for a job, but he bumped into Justin Christian, the production manager, on the way in. That day the workshop was understaffed with several orders to fill, so Christian asked, “Can you sand?” and sent him to the workshop. Once hired, McClintock learned the basics: selecting raw material, measuring, cutting it to size. Simple projects followed, then the more advanced: He made a wooden cutout of Indiana, now hanging on the wall of Christian’s office.
McClintock came to Purposeful Design for carpentry experience after a descent into addiction: “All my entire check, everything I was working for, was being turned around and going to drugs. I wasn’t even feeling good from it anymore because the shame and guilt was just overpowering it. And my tolerance had increased so much that the only reason I was doing it was to not get sick.”