Real-estate developer Bill Butler, who describes philanthropy as “central to my purpose in life,” spearheaded establishment of the Life Learning Center in 2006. It has gone on to become one of the most successful nonprofits in the country at helping struggling people heal and get jobs so they can support themselves in independence and dignity. Forty percent of the people who come to the center have a criminal record. Many have had family or substance-abuse problems. Fifteen percent dropped out of high school, 35 percent earned a high-school diploma or GED, 25 percent have some college coursework, and 25 percent actually hold some college degree (showing that education alone does not guarantee life success). The center has a highly structured curriculum that runs for 16 weeks. They want to deal with the whole person—intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually—and nurture a commitment to long-term change. The training culminates with an employment-readiness component.
“The Life Learning Center is for the person who is ready to do something drastically different in all aspects of life,” says Butler. “The attitude we look for is ‘I don’t just need food or transitional housing. I need to change what I’m doing so that everything improves.’ The center strengthens individuals so they are ready for real and lasting change, and we only admit candidates who are willing and able to commit. One must rise above a state of mind, or addiction, or illness that prevents success. Programs are most effective where there is both an economic platform and a love-centered environment that provides support.”
The Life Learning Center does not accept government dollars, but it is generously supported by Butler and a range of philanthropists and businesses in northern Kentucky and southwest Ohio. In 2014, the group opened a new $3.2 million facility with expanded classrooms, computer labs, partner-agency offices, a child-care center, a 221-seat lecture hall, a fitness center, a cafeteria, a commercial training kitchen, a credit union, room for future on-site medical services, and more. The LLC’s growth and success with difficult populations have made it a national model. Sixty-two percent of its candidates are employed by the time they finish their program. One-on-one life coaching continues beyond completion of the curriculum, and people can stop back in at any point, especially if they hit a stumbling block in their
- Interview with founder, philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/economic_opportunity/when_they_want_to_start_over
- Life Learning Center, nkyllc.org