Bronx man gets 2nd chance through Dept. of Probation program

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CONCOURSE VILLAGE -

A Bronx man who had a run-in with the law has been given a second chance.

Restocking the sugar is just one of Mario Perez's jobs in the food pantry that he manages.

"It just brings a smile to my face to help people," he says.

The Nutrition Kitchen, as it's called, is one aspect of the New York City Department of Probation's "NeON," or Neighborhood Opportunity Network. With an outpost in each borough, it aims to help people on probation by providing services such as education programs and bringing probation officers closer to clients to make checking in easier.

Four years ago, Perez was put on probation and had to do 300 hours of court-mandated community service.

"I made a big mistake and I had to pay for what I did," he says.

Perez says he found his calling by volunteering and later running the Nutrition Kitchen He's even received an award for his service, which he says "gave me a sense of pride."

NeON managers say Perez is exactly the type of person they're looking for, who can grow and want to help more people in the community.

NeON opens its food pantry to people not on probation once a week, letting anyone in the community come get food on Fridays.

Perez says he now wants to become a probation officer himself and to keep helping others.

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