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The F.I.S.T. Story & Our Founder: Joe Schmidt

A former career criminal, that spanned over 3 decades, Joe Schmitt has been charged with 13 Class X drug felonies’, DUI, Unlawful use of a weapon, Domestic Violence, and Deceptive practices. This resulted in an accumulative total of 15 years of incarceration, 6 years on Parole, and 6 years’ probation. Upon his release from prison for the last time, he was armed with something different. A VISION. Having been raised Christian, Joe had relinquished his personal relationship with GOD, a path he had chosen to renew while in prison, which he attributes to the VISION of F.I.S.T.

 Joe’s vision was to create a place called F.I.S.T. (Former Inmates Striving Together), a resource center that people upon being release from prison could quickly gain access to services in the community. His vision included creating a space where ex-offenders could find support amongst themselves and spend time volunteering in the community to help men re-establish part of the moral compass required to successfully exist in society. It seemed simple enough at the time. Armed with a pencil, piece of paper, a gifted desk and a lot of faith, Joe opened the first F.I.S.T. office in downtown Waukegan.

9 years later, we have relocated our office to the south side of Waukegan, obtained 2 housing units for a capacity of 17. We have integrated ourselves into the prison system, local jail, ATP, Waukegan police dept., probation, numerous communities, and parole. We take on endless letters and phone calls from people who are looking for a place to live for themselves or a loved one. F.I.S.T. has implemented a 6 month program to help our residents keep moving forward to becoming self-sufficient. We have housed every type of ex-offender that has been released. Joe’s basic principle from the beginning at F.I.S.T. is that we do not judge you, or your past, but you must be willing to change who you are and become who you want to be.