The son of a church pastor admits that he made some bad choices about illegal drugs as a young man.

And he paid for it by serving 70 months behind bars.

“I lost my freedom,” said Stephen Barbee.

But after serving his time, Barbee said he began making positive changes in his life.

“My past has equipped and prepared me for my passion to serve,” Barbee said.

These days, Barbee is helping other people find direction as the community outreach manager for Connections to Success, a nonprofit organization that teaches people how to have a better life in the workforce.

Staff members of the organization help clients with their interview skills, resumes, attire, personalized needs and more.

“We also, importantly, give them hope and confidence,” Barbee said. “We show them a pathway to success.”

According to Barbee, 75 percent of the clients find employment, 74 percent keep a job for more than one year and 82 percent increase their wages after six months. 

Leavenworth Mayor Jermaine Wilson is affiliated with the organization as a community outreach coordinator.

Representatives of the organization made a stop in Leavenworth this week at a meeting of the women’s division of the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce at the Riverfront Community Center.

The organization holds free, three-week sessions each month to “empower people to a career path,” Barbee said.

Barbee said there are approximately 400 people in the Kansas City area each year who participate in the free service.

Barbee said clients include former inmates, single women, homeless people, victims of domestic violence and more.

Barbee said the program is effective. For example, he said the recidivism rate for former inmates in the United States is 65 percent. For those in the program, the recidivism rate is 14 percent. For those in the program with a mentor, the recidivism rate is 8 percent.

Connections to Success representatives brought a promotional vehicle called the Moxi truck, a mobile boutique, on their visit to Leavenworth. The Moxi truck sells clothing, shoes and accessories as a fundraiser for the organization. The truck travels to job fairs, chamber of commerce events, block parties, church socials and more to sell merchandise and raise awareness of the organization.

All proceeds from the Moxi truck go to operating expenses for the organization.

Barbee said Connections to Success has 14 paid staff members in the Kansas City area.

Connections to Success has offices in Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas. Other offices are located in St. Louis, St. Charles, Missouri, and East St. Louis.

The organization started in 1998 and has had offices in the Kansas City area since 2004.

For more information about the organization, call the Kansas City, Missouri, office at 816-561-5115 or the Kansas City, Kansas, office at 913-948-5968. Visit the organization’s website at www.ConnectionstoSuccess.org