🍫 A South Jersey chocolate company is looking to hire former inmates

🍫 It can be difficult to find a job for someone looking to re-enter society

🍫 At Hope Chocolates they will learn how to mold, package and distribute chocolate

Hope Chocolates, which is located in the city of Camden, provides premium chocolate products.

It officially started at the end of 2022 and went live with its e-commerce site in February 2023, said Mark Walton, the company’s business and technical advisor.

For men who have spent time in prison, it’s difficult to find a job when they are released. If there’s a break in the resume and they can’t explain it. If they don’t have driver’s licenses or modes of transportation, finding a job can be frustrating.

And if they’ve been in jail for a long time, their skills may not be up to date, Walton added.

There are so many factors working against former prisoners, so Walton wanted to develop a company that would hire people out of prison and provide them with not just jobs, but careers.

Hope Chocolates
Hope Chocolates

How did Hope Chocolates start?

When Walton wanted to start a company, he and his team looked at 50 types, and before long, decided on chocolate.

“One of our guys whose a volunteer knew the chocolate industry really well and the other attributes of that business worked out well for hiring the type of person we’re looking for,” Walton said.

They started a business making and selling premium chocolates, where they mold the chocolate into candy shapes, package them, and ship them out.

Hope Chocolates
Hope Chocolates

Why the desire to hire men out of prison?

Walton, who was involved in prison ministries in the past, said he always had the heart to start a company in Camden, hiring people who had a hard time.

He said he met a man named Bill Antinore, who is the executive director of a ministry called Seeds of Hope in Camden. Antinore also had an interest in starting a business to employ some of the guys involved in one of his ministries called South Jersey Aftercare.

It’s a ministry of men who came out of prison trying to re-enter society.

When Walton and Antinore met in 2020, they realized they had a common alignment of goals. Antinore wanted to hire men in his ministry and Walton had the desire to hire to start a business hiring people in Camden.

Hope Chocolates
Hope Chocolates

What do workers at Hope Chocolates do?

Since they are a brand new company, Walton said there are currently only five part-time employees. But the goal is to hire as many as possible former inmates in the near future, and hopefully turn some of these part-timers into full-time workers.

“They are doing the actual molding of the chocolate products. There’s the packaging, the shipping, the distribution, and the delivery. We deliver in South Jersey within 20 miles of Camden. We also have a pick-up location in South Jersey where people can come and pick their candy up,” Walton said.

In the future, he said he would love to create a retail store to provide more jobs, but more importantly to create a career path for these men.

“We’re looking at how can we get some of the guys involved in doing some of the financial and purchasing work, and how can we get guys involved in doing some of the technical work that’s behind the scenes, and how can we get guys that might be willing to help us on the sales side,” Walton said.

They’re trying to think beyond the typical jobs of manufacturing chocolates, and in addition, broaden the opportunity so eventually the company can provide a different career path for them, he added.

The company is even looking for mentors to help train these men to help them land bigger and better positions.

Hope Chocolates
Hope Chocolates

What does Hope Chocolates mean?

Walton said the company’s motto is: “Premium chocolate - Premier calling”

“We’re all about bringing hope and much of that hope comes through employment. There is so much for a person’s self-worth that can come through employment,” Walton said.

Anyone who was in prison and is looking to re-enter society by way of a job can apply to work at Hope Chocolates on the website or they can send an email here.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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