Set Yourself Free by Being Considerate of Others
In 2008, Derek Evans quit his job in Indianapolis, packed his belongings, and moved to Nashville to pursue his dream of opening his own business. Bold. Decisive. And Driven.
After establishing relationships, getting some initial projects off the ground, and some eye-opening experiences, Derek and his business partner, Matt Blinco, created Project 615. Derek says, “We came here to service the music industry with our products, and since then it has grown into something so much bigger than we had anticipated.”
Project 615 is a philanthropic t-shirt & apparel company; the company partners with Set Free, a national ministry that strives to help transform the lives of those in our society that struggle with homelessness, addiction, and mental illness. Project 615 is unique in that even though it is a for-profit business, through its charitable efforts, it employs individuals that actively transform their lives through the Set Free program.
In 2010, Derek traveled to Los Angeles on a mission trip to work with those in poverty, specifically in the Skid Row area. “As we were walking in one of the most poverty-stricken areas, the pastor leading our tour pointed to a garbage can and said, ‘I used to sleep right there,’ and that moment captured one of the greatest examples I’ve seen of God’s grace.” As Derek had grown up in inner city Indianapolis, he was no stranger to witnessing the effects of addiction and poverty. He says that seeing some of those close to him struggle with these types of adversities had always remained in the back of his mind, and the trip to Skid Row solidified his future role in helping others.
“What I’ve found is things like homelessness are a symptom of a bigger underlying issue…whether that is addiction or mental illness or some other contributing factor.” With this in mind, after returning from Los Angeles, Derek was determined to make a difference for those suffering from these issues in Nashville. “When you purchase products from us or hire us to print t-shirts for you or your company, you are helping others recover and make a better life for themselves.”
And helping others to make a better life for themselves is the focal point of Project 615. The company’s office and print shop is located next to Set Free, on South 6th St. Set Free is a church that also houses over 40 men that are in some form of recovery. Over the years, Project 615 has employed over 35 individuals. Derek recalls one particular individual who happened upon Set Free after being released from prison. “He was young, didn’t really have a sense of direction of spiritual foundation, and he just checked in to the church. He wanted rehabilitation from drugs, and so he sought recovery, worked for us for a period of time, and now works for Set Free in California, ministering others…so it’s nice to see this program work ‘full circle’ for him and people like him.”
Consider Others First
But Project 615’s efforts are not limited to employment opportunities. Each year, the company partners with Set Free and other nonprofits in three to four campaigns, wherein they work with an organization to help with fundraising efforts. For example, this month (July), the “Consider Others First” campaign is helping to raise funds to be able to continue to provide resources for those seeking recovery. Since 2010, Project 615 has raised over $55,000 in donations for Set Free. 100% of the profits from this campaign go towards assisting those recovering from homelessness, addiction, and mental illness. All t-shirts by Project 615 have been printed by individuals that have been housed through Set Free.
It was clear after talking with Derek that his passion for helping others is the driving force behind his business. He encourages anyone interested in helping those in need in our Nashville community to simply come by the Set Free facility. “Our goal is to continue hiring individuals from the Set Free program so that we can get to 100 individuals within the next four years.”
Although it seems every day, we hear stories of tragedy or perhaps even divisive rhetoric, it is important for us to focus on how we, as individuals, can make a positive difference in the lives of others. Is this goal extravagant? I think not. Opportunities are abundant. Derek Evans and Project 615 recognize this, and make it part of their daily practice.
In what ways can you help transform lives through a daily practice of your own?
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