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Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEWORLEANS-- What do you do with a blighted neighborhood bar that for years attracted violent crime?

One Central City woman has turned it into a community center and is already creating jobs opportunities for young men.

On Wednesday night in true New Orleans-style, neighbors came out to celebrate the official opening of Exodus Place.

'I'm like an all around go to man, roofing, under the house, framing, painting, the whole nine. I learned and I'm still learning,' said Kevin Boyd.

Looking at the work site the 29-year-old works on, it appears run of the mill, as does the man operating the power drill.

But Boyd is far from average.

'I just try to stay out of the whole scene. A lot of people say you're supposed to keep your past behind you. I try to keep my past in front of me so I can see it,' said Boyd.

The Uptown native served three-years behind bars. Eight months ago he returned home and for the last six months, he's been working under the watchful eye of Candince McMillian. She's the founder of Exodus Place in Central City.

'A lot of times that's what most people need. The opportunity or just that love,' said Boyd of his new job.

McMillian's company is hiring. Many of those she employs have troubled pasts. Her contracting company offers paid apprenticeship-type work.

'They only qualify to do laborious work. If we're gutting a structure, or doing basic level painting, they can do that. But once those opportunities run out, unfortunately we have to let them go,' said McMillian who is trying to change create more long-term economic opportunities for participants at Exodus Place.

The center will offer up technical classes to participants. Even providing free computer access and resume writing to members of the community. The goal is to empower a neighborhood riddled by violent crime and unemployment.

'They need something to belong to, they need economic opportunities and they need job training and they need it ASAP,' said McMillian.

On Wednesday night neighbors and community leaders showed up to celebrate a milestone - the center opening its doors.

'We are ultimately responsible for what our community center becomes and how it services every child and family and enters,' said New Orleans City Councilmember LaToya Cantrell.

It's a center that McMillian hopes will encourage more and more people to dream big.

'Hopefully I'll have me something like this one day,' said Boyd.

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