WHITTIER (CBSLA) — More than two decades have passed since Wesley Crunk was incarcerated. In that time he has not only rebuilt his life, but helped others do the same.

“The guys I’m coming into contact with may have never held a hammer, don’t know how to read a tape measure, probably have never held a job before,” Crunk said. “I know what it’s like to not know what you’re gonna do and to not know what you can do”

Crunk, who 21 years ago never could have imagined his role as mentor-in-chief for the Brother’s Keeper program in Whittier, now helps train people in the art of carpentry in a program sponsored by the Southwest Carpenter’s Training Fund.

“It was back in 1999, I was actually just released from being incarcerated,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to do something. I didn’t want to be in that boat anymore, but I actually didn’t know what I was even eligible to do.”

Crunk was sentenced to Folsom State Prison at the age of 18. He got married while there and was out for a month before being sent back for another five years.

“My wife, she had supported me the entire time that I was incarcerated,” he said. “So, when it was time for me to come home — you know, I’m a man, I got pride — I was trying to figure out how I was gonna repay the favor and carry my load.”

The training program taught Crunk how to not only build a structure, but how to build a life. During his training, he learned how to drive a forklift, read a tape measure, hammer a nail and, ultimately, highly-skilled, highly-paid carpentry.

Now he works to make the same difference to for the next generation of young men, many of whom are trying to rebuild their lives just like him.

“We mess up, but he give you that tough love that you need to motivate you and push you out there,” Jonathan Johnson said.

The new recruit is just a couple of weeks into his training, but he’s already learned a number of life lessons — “punctuality and hustle” — that have served Crunk well.

Crunk has been free for the past 21 years and is a proud father, provide and lifelong Brother’s Keeper.

“They call us the organization of second chances,” he said. “If you are willing to be punctual, willing to hustle and have a good attitude, it can be a very rewarding career.”

And as for the young men he’s helped mentor?

“I actually consider them all success stories,” he said. “It’s more rewarding than my paycheck sometimes.”

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