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February 3, 2009

Great story on my Durham N.C. Homeboy – A Lunch Hour That Matters

This is me (left) and one of my oldest and dearest friends,the reason for my namesake “Nabs” and he goes by the name of Alton Lucas aka Luke Duke. Check out this story on a great friend and even greater person.

Source: The News & Observer

A lunch hour that matters
Barry Saunders – Staff Writer

So, how’d you spend your lunch hour?
However you spent it, it’s doubtful you accomplished as much as Alton Lucas did.

Lucas spent his lunch hour doing what he does every Wednesday: talking to — not at, to — young men who have one foot in prison and another barely out. He tries to show them there are options that don’t include exchanging your name for a number.

“Ain’t nobody in here holdin’ the bars at Central Prison yet … Your life is not gone, but there are guys your age whose lives are gone,” he told them.

Usually, about a dozen young men between the ages of 16 and 19 attend this “Last Stop” program run by Durham County. On this day, there are three.

Lucas, 41, starts out casually asking each about the status of their case, when they’re due in court again, how their job search is progressing.

He then talks to them about how to present themselves in court and to prospective employers. When one of the juveniles tells Lucas that he got a callback for an interview working at a senior citizens home, Lucas gets excited. “Have you thought about writing him a ‘thank you’ letter, basically thanking him for giving you an opportunity?” he asked.

The kid promised he would write it.

Amy Elliott, supervisor of Youth Services for Durham County, said Lucas “brings a unique background and understands. He doesn’t bring shame into it. They’ve already been shamed in school and at home. He anticipates the challenges they’ll face.”

It’s not hard to see why he anticipates their challenges: He’s already faced them himself.

An ex-offender and professed former gangbanger, Lucas did a four-year stretch in prison for robbery.

“I did four years. I’m trying to teach them to do their time differently. You know, to do four years in high school or college,” not prison, he said.

He is not paid, unless you count the satisfaction he said he gets from trying to help other young men.

Elliott said Lucas “contacted me a few months back and has really just come in” and connected with the young men. “I run this program on a shoestring, so I welcomed him.”

Jerome Thompson welcomes him, too, although it was hard to tell initially.

As part of his probation, Thompson, 20, was ordered to participate in the program at the Criminal Justice Resource Center on Main Street.

During the hourlong session, Thompson fidgeted in his seat, yawned a couple of times, looked, to the casual observer, uninterested.

Yet, when it was over, I followed him into the computer center and asked what he got from Lucas’ presentation. He sat up alertly, offered a firm handshake and said, “It’s teaching me how to look at situations and how I respond differently.”

Lucas said the main thing he presents to the kids, besides straight talk, is consistency.

“Me being consistent, spending time with them, they’re not used to that,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize you can pick and choose how you volunteer. They think you have to go through a volunteer agency. You don’t. You can go where your passions take you.”

Even if it’s just on your lunch hour.

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