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Inspiring stories of people who are paying it forward, in a big way.

The social return of employment social enterprise has been well-documented—$2.23 in benefits to society for every dollar invested. Beyond the numbers, there is also a powerful “ripple effect” – what happens when people whose lives were so transformed as a result of social enterprise, they dedicate themselves to helping others.

Some stories are exceptional. Like Kevin, who was once homeless and addicted to heroin, and today, owns a social enterprise that earns $10 million a year and employs 35 people. But the less dramatic stories of success are no less inspiring. The social enterprise model works, providing the support, structure, skill development, and paying jobs that help people transform their lives and fulfill their potential. An impact so profound that it ripples beyond the individual—to their families, communities, workplaces, and ultimately, to our entire society.

JaShawn’s Story

JaShawn is a woman on a mission, paying her experience forward in a big way. After struggling with substance use and unstable housing for years, Cara, a REDF-supported social enterprise, provided her with the support and coaching she needed to fulfill her potential. Today, with a master’s degree in social work, she is a Youth Program Manager for the City of Chicago, counseling young people who have been impacted by violence.

Read her blog: Woman on a Mission: Helping Others.

Jolena’s Story

Jolena had a hard time growing up with a mother who was addicted to heroin. She spiraled into addiction, and it wasn’t until her four children were placed in foster care that she began to take the steps that would eventually lead to her recovery. She found drug free housing at REDF partner Central City Concern and a job at their social enterprise Central City Coffee. With that support, she was able to get her kids back and now works as a Peer Support Specialist helping others overcome addiction.

Read her blog: The Ripple of Recovery.

Yehiah’s Story

At the age of 16, Yehiah’s grades were dropping and he realized he was on the wrong path. His high school counselor connected him with REDF partner More Than Words. MTW empowered Yehiah to become a leader through their hands-on job, leadership, and business operations training. This fall Yehiah starts college at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with the goal of becoming a lawyer to help address social injustices.

Read his blog: Responsibility, Leadership, and a Passion for Change.

Pablo’s Story

After spending 15 years in and out of prison, Pablo began working at REDF partner Goodwill Silicon Valley determined to turn his life around. Four promotions later, Pablo is the Re-Entry Programs Manager, providing mentorship and hope to men and women who’ve served their time and are ready to start a new chapter. Pablo is showing success is possible and paying it forward.

Read his blog: The Ripple Effect of Social Enterprise.

Brandon’s Story

Brandon felt embarrassed after falling short of the credits needed to graduate high school. With the help of Conservation Corps North Bay, he was able to get the support he needed to earn his diploma and a livelihood. Today he’s paying it forward as the Recycling Program Coordinator at CCNB, teaching and empowering the next generation of green workers.

Read his blog: Save the Environment, Transform a Life.

Meghaan’s Story

Meghaan turned away from a life on the streets, and with the help of REDF partner New Avenues for Youth, she gained the job experience and skills that provided a foundation for her success. Now she has her sights set on returning to school to get her degree in drug and alcohol counseling so she can help those experiencing homelessness.

Read her blog: From Life on the Streets to a Job in City Hall.

Kevin’s Story

20 years ago Kevin McCracken was homeless and struggling with addiction. “Social enterprise didn’t just change my life, it saved my life.” Today Kevin is paying it forward in a major way. He leads his own social enterprise business that generates over 10 million in revenue, and employs 35 full-time employees, most who come from an at-risk background. That’s a big ripple.

Read his blog: Kevin McCracken: Creating the Same Opportunities that Saved His Life.

Anthony’s Story

Anthony is a remarkable young man who grew up in one of Los Angeles’ toughest neighborhoods, plagued by poverty, crime, and gang violence. With the help of REDF partner Coalition for Responsible Community Development, he stepped away from the gang lifestyle, and changed the trajectory of his life. Today he is a manager at CRCD, and a positive role model to the youth he works with, his young son, and his community.

Read his blog: Anthony Jackson: Continuing to do Bigger and Better Things.

Celena’s Story

At a young age, Celena struggled with addiction and found herself in prison at the age of 18. Her probation officer recommended she go to Women’s Bean Project where she received the support and gained skills that helped her to overcome addiction, stabilize her life, and pursue her passion for helping others.

Read her blog: The Power of Purpose.

Dan’s Story

Dan overcame addiction, rebuilt his family, and found his path to purpose with the help of REDF partner Farestart. Now he’s making a difference as a Farestart Chef Instructor. He’s sharing his passion for culinary arts and lessons from his own life to help students build a better future.

Read his blog: Dan Tiffany’s Recipe for Life.