Huge turnout for Restoration Saturday underscores need in Memphis

 MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Turnout exceeded organizers' expectations at the second Restoration Saturday event at Metropolitan Baptist Church.

The event organizes local and state agencies in to one place to help people with record expungement and drivers license reinstatement.

Many people said they got in line before 8 a.m. to be ready for doors opening at 10. Police ended up having to close traffic on Walker Avenue in front of the church.

Church officials and police said they did not plan for such a large crowd. One organizer estimated more than 1,000 people had lined up outside.

But inside, people went around to different stations with purpose, determined to get their lives back.

They met with agencies including the Shelby County District Attorney, which handles expungement, and the Tenn. Dept. of Safety, which handles drivers licenses. The contractor that handles child support fees was also there.

David Sharp, a 36-year-old father, said he got to the church around 3:30 in the morning.

“Trying to get my license back so hopefully I can get a good job," he said.

Sharp said he first had his license taken away when he was 16. He never recovered as the child support checks added up.

“There’s things I wanna do as far as truck driving, jobs as far as driving, have to have a license. It doesn’t stop,” he said.

WREG also spoke with Lisuch Jones, who has two felonies on his record. He wants to work but he can’t get a job.

"I can go through two interviews. Once they do the background check, I’m not qualified anymore,” he said of his job search efforts.

Attendees and organizers all said the huge turnout underscored the huge problem in Shelby County.

“There are people working driving to work with suspended licenses but that’s their dilemma. What are they gonna do? The alternative is to not work, not make any money, not help your family. Either way, it’s a desperate situation," Pastor Reginald Porter said.

"If your only obstacle is financial, this is why we do these things; to come, get questions answered, perhaps there’s relief. The situation may not be as bad as you think," District Attorney Amy Weirich said.

In fact, Weirich said they'd already planned another Restoration event for March. But given the turnout, they might have to do one sooner than that and coordinate better with police.

She also emphasized the DA's office provides these services daily, so if you missed out, you can contact them at 901-222-1300.

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