I was fortunate enough to attend a recent luncheon for the women’s group known as the “Queens of Purpose.” One thing is certain: the staff at A Better Way and their Executive Director, Perry Shaw III, are truly people of purpose.
Perry, a retired New Jersey State corrections officer who spent a significant amount of time in gang intelligence, had initial plans of being a psychiatrist in the F.B.I. after a mailing mix-up led to him receiving a check meant for a Dr. Perry Shaw. While Perry was unable to pursue that path after suffering an injury that forced him to retire a bit earlier than expected, he decided to find a better way to serve his community and returning citizens. With deep experience in law enforcement, the Shaw family understands that just because a person is incarcerated doesn’t mean their life is over.
Ultimately, Perry Shaw III, his father Perry Shaw II, and two partners founded the organization A Better Way in 2006. The organization’s mission is to help veterans in need, those re-entering society, at-risk youth and families find a better way to live. They seek to better their communities by providing 360 degrees of support to those who need it most, stressing empowerment through education.
The Women’s Group or “Queens of Purpose,” which is a safe place for women to share experiences and advice, covers topics such as self-esteem, domestic violence, physical well-being. There is also the Men’s Group referred to as “My Brothers Keepers,” which is a space for men to be honest with each other and themselves, to share experience and hope, and work on developing self-responsibility and self-awareness. There are also counseling services provided such as an anger management group and individual counseling. When discussing these programs, Perry Shaw III mentioned the focus is on meeting people where they are in order to make a connection and promote personal growth and development.
A Better Way also strives to serve and impact at-risk youth by offering employment training and civic engagement programs. Youth work as part of the summer youth employment program from Monday to Thursday and then on Friday will spend time on civic projects and engagement by meeting with local legislators and organizations.
Another one of their notable youth programs is a youth home improvement and technical training program available during summers which A Better Way partners with Isles Youth Build in order to teach construction and handiwork skills. Youth are then empowered and challenged to improve both their homes as well as to do home repairs and modifications for their neighbors in order to connect and engage their neighborhoods.
A Better Way also offers GED tutoring, employment and job training for veterans, returning citizens, and underemployed adults through their “Game Changers” program. Game Changers started in 2011 and offers an official forklift certification course at their training facility. This program empowers individuals to go from minimum wage to $15 an hour or more with this quick training. Since its launch the program has graduated over 2100 individuals and boasts a 98% employment rate for graduates. They also help individuals develop their employment skills by offering individualized counseling is available on topics such as business etiquette, resume building, interview strategies, computer skills and job searches. These services are offered at Shiloh Baptist Church.
In order to address food insecurity, A Better Way sponsors a food pantry
serving 250 families a week. The pantry is open Mondays and Fridays from 12-1:30 PM at Turning Point Church (15 South Broad Street). The organization also sponsors Thanksgiving baskets for over 200 families every year.
In addition to all of these programs, A Better Way strives to collaborate with several community partners on a whole host of initiatives. For example, they partner with other organizations such as by being part of the East Trenton Collaborative, partnering with TCNJ for their CELR courses to address issues including homelessness and mental health awareness, hosting annual community service events such as for MLK Day, and partnering with MCCC and Children’s Futures to distribute 300 toys and have a family meal during the holidays. All of Perry’s work with reentering citizens has also led to him becoming the chair of the Mercer County Re-Entry Task Force.
A Better Way serves over 750 people annually through their variety of programs and the impact they enable others to have far exceeds this. This work is made possible by the people of purpose that run the organization and dedicate their time. Perry Shaw III is quick to remind everyone that this work is only made possible with the understanding and support of his wife Jennifer, daughter Zoey, son Perry Shaw IV, father Perry Shaw II, and mother Charite who is a nutritionist and helps to provide healthy foods and promote healthy diets through her work operating her catering company, Perry’s Catering.
To find out more about how these people of purpose are creating A Better Way for many, visit https://www.abetterwayinc.org/.