Mount Zion Baptist Church

Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville

PLEASANTVILLE — Atlantic County residents will have a chance for a second chance this weekend.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, the Coalition for a Safe Community will partner with Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville on an event called “Rebuilding Lives for a New Beginning,” offering legal help to those in need.

The event is open to county residents who need assistance with record expungement, outstanding bench warrants, unpaid tickets or fines and suspended licenses.

The goal is to help people move forward after a challenging past to become productive members of society.

“We really, honestly do want to see folks get a second chance,” said Ernestine Smith, vice chair for the coalition. “They might have something that is in their past that they can’t get rid of. Can you start rebuilding your life? Absolutely.”

Anyone who comes to the event will sign in and be screened for proper information and what they need assistance with.

Pleasantville residents can be escorted to the Pleasantville Municipal Court to address what they need. Others will be assisted at their respective courts Monday.

The Rev. Willie Dwayne Francois III, the senior pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church, said this is the second event of its kind.

Last year, the event helped about 200 people get their records expunged. Because of the turnout, Smith said they decided to expand it, helping to mend other issues residents might have but don’t know how to address. This year’s event also will feature help with juvenile complaints.

Organizers ask that people who plan to use the services bring a driver’s license, photo ID, youth school ID or a birth certificate.

The event will also make available community resources, such as criminal justice and bail-reform information, along with housing and food-stamp assistance.

Francois said part of the vision for the church and congregation is to engage with the “structures and systems that have a long history of limiting and restricting people or color and the poor.”

The event also aims to be a safe space for people to not worry about being judged, arrested or antagonized, Francois said. This is a chance to begin fresh and get a new start, organizers said.

“These types of events are really designed to give persons another chance, an opportunity to re-imagine what is possible in their lives,” Francois said.

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Contact: 609-272-7239 ESerpico@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressSerpico

Covering breaking news for The Press of Atlantic City since September 2016. Graduate of the University of Maryland, Central Jersey native.

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