Personal Success 'Paying it forward'

Posted: February 13, 2012 at 2:02 am


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Photo by Brandon Dill, Brandon Dill/Special to The Commercial Appeal
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Stonie Fitzgerald is a graduate of the LifeLine to Success program. LifeLine offers ex-offenders counseling, education on re-assimilating into society after being incarcerated and work opportunities around Memphis.

Photo by Brandon Dill, Photos by Brandon Dill/Special to The Commercial Appeal
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LifeLine to Success founder DeAndre Brown (left) talks with one of the program's participants, Mario Shaw, during a break in the group's class. LifeLine offers ex-offenders counseling, education on re-assimilating into society after being incarcerated and work opportunities clearing and cleaning blight around Memphis.

Stonie Fitzgerald takes notes alongside fellow participants in the LifeLine program during class at the group's facility in Frayser.

Webster's dictionary defines stony as "manifesting no movement or action." Residents of the North Memphis neighborhood of Frayser define Stonie as the total opposite -- a manifestation of movement and action.

This Stonie is Stonie Fitzgerald of Frayser, ex-offender and graduate of the LifeLine to Success program.

Lifeline to Success, run and directed by DeAndre and Vinessa Brown, would be just another faith-based reintegration program if it weren't for people like Fitzgerald, who grabbed that lifeline and ran with it. Not every program reaches every person, but this program reached Fitzgerald, and he is reaching back to offer lifelines of his own.

He works with LifeLine to Success and the Frayser Community Development Center, but his real goal is to meet at-risk individuals on their own turf.

Fitzgerald recites his personal mission as, "Hopefully, doing things like going to the parks and playing basketball with the kids and recruiting them for good, like the gangs do for bad, I can make a difference, be an example. I know what it's like. I've been there."

He admits that as a teen, in his search for something in which to be involved, he stole a skateboard and became so good at the sport he was represented by a skateboard company in competitions.

Still in the gang scene, however, he went on to commit other crimes and finally served six years in a correctional facility. It was when he went from being incarcerated to living in a halfway house that his life really changed. That was where he met the Browns and began the LifeLine to Success program.

Fitzgerald has repaid his debt to society and now he is "paying it forward" through community service work over the last two years.

The next step he hopes to take is to get children involved in music and theater.

He wants to audition teens and cast them for the play he has written.

He said his goal has never veered from hoping that he can help others get off their own personal stony paths, smoothing out the way for them to also contribute to a better Memphis.

Julie Ray is a resident of Uptown.

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Personal Success 'Paying it forward'

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February 13th, 2012 at 2:02 am

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