JBM’s Fair Chance Program: Meet Nikki Keeton
Born and raised in Xenia, Ohio, Nikki Keeton is a mother of five kids—Slade, Lileigh, Kane, Khloe and Kolton. After a series of decisions led her into incarceration, Nikki made a commitment to build a better life for herself upon her release from Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio. Having previously worked with Alzheimer’s patients as a certified nurse aid, Nikki had always wanted to become a nurse, but a drug addiction stripped everything from her, including custody of her five children.
In prison, she participated in Tapestry, an intense behavioral modification program that treats alcohol and drug addiction. Equipping her with essential life skills that would prepare her for success after her release, the program also required her to hold a job where she worked alongside the other women who also wanted to create a better life for themselves. Graduating from the program in one year, Nikki was one step closer to her goal of becoming an example her children could follow and breaking the cycle of addiction that had taken hold within her family.
Her manager says you can always find Nikki (pictured in the front row, second from the right) smiling and bringing enthusiasm to her job.
But uncertainly loomed around her release. She’d established solid relationships and a tight-knit community in prison, and she wasn’t sure how she would do when out on her own. Still, she remained committed to creating a better life for herself and her family, entering a halfway house upon her release.
With COVID limiting many job opportunities, she found herself surrounded by drugs at the halfway house, but Nikki remained committed to her path. However, having a felony on her record and no vehicle for transportation, she struggled to find employment. Around that time, she received a call from a friend she’d met at Marysville, and her new life began to take shape.
“I’d signed up to learn more about JBM when in prison, but COVID messed everything up,” she recalled. “When I heard from Amanda, I was looking for a job, but I had no idea that job would be life-changing.”
Better Lives: A Domino Effect
While she held jobs in prison, Nikki hadn’t had a paying job in years—and lacked any manufacturing experience. But at JBM Packaging, Nikki found more than a job. She found a welcoming community of people through their Fair Chance Program, who have supported her at every step.
In her first few weeks at JBM, Nikki was given bus cards to assist with her transportation from work to the halfway house. Meeting regularly with JBM’s Better Lives Coach, Allison Steele, she set goals for herself, including setting up her bank account and saving money.
Starting at JBM’s second location in downtown Cincinnati, she eventually transferred to the Lebanon plant, which allowed her to see her kids more often. Through JBM’s Roadmap to Wheels program, she received a donated car that provides her with reliable transportation until she can purchase a vehicle of her own, which she hopes to do in September. In addition, she received a loan to secure her first apartment.
Nikki joined 11 other Fair Chance team members as a graduate of JBM’s Cultivate program in April 2022.
To help improve her financial discipline, Nikki also meets with JBM’s Financial Peace Coach, Kevin Mullendore. Admitting that saving money isn’t one of her strongest suits, the additional accountability and knowledge have helped her establish a budget so that she can pay her rent and bills, including electricity, phone and vehicle insurance.
“At first, I thought I was going to mess up,” she admits. “I was worried that I would miss a bill and my electric would be shut off. But I have an app on my phone that allows me to see how much money I have in my account to manage everything and stay on track.”
In April, Nikki was one of 12 JBM’s Cultivate Program graduates. Able to invite one guest, Nikki asked her daughter, Lileigh, to share the special evening with her. She loves showing her children what you can achieve through hard work and determination.
“When they say ‘better lives,’ I don’t think they realize just how many lives they are changing,” she said. “Many Fair Chance employees have families who also benefit from seeing their success. Their children become stronger and communities become stronger. It’s really a domino effect.”
Nikki’s daughter, Lileigh, joined her at the recent graduation celebration in July
As she continues to build her new life, Nikki’s has continued growing relationships with her mother and children. She’s realizing the vision she dreamed for herself while at Marysville.
Empowered by her success, Nikki continues to set ambitious goals. In addition to her job as a Machine Operator at JBM, she’s currently enrolled in college courses and is working to earn her associate’s degree. She eventually wants to earn her master’s degree so she can work as a chemical dependency counselor and help others as they recover from addictions. Before that, however, her number one goal is to regain full-time custody of her children.
She credits her growth and success to the supportive environment she’s experienced since her first day working at JBM.
“I love JBM—people are so happy,” she said. “Marcus and the leadership team always walk through the building and say hello. They treat their employees so well.”