A quarter of a century ago, James Giles sat in his jail cell thinking about how he was going to turn his life around. When he was released, he longed for a community of support around him. When he found that support system did not exist, he decided he would build one in the city of Buffalo.
In 1994, James founded Back-to-Basics Outreach Ministries, designed to address the problems of addiction and the resulting issues. Its services include reentry and restorative justice programs to assist formerly incarcerated individuals with their transition to becoming productive community members. The program offers direct services such as counseling, mentoring and job training, which has benefitted thousands of people since its inception.
Every step of the way, James asked what more was needed. In 2004, he helped build the Stop the Violence Coalition with a goal to develop strategies to resolve gang conflicts. The following year, the Coalition held a meeting with 73 members from nine of Buffalo’s largest gangs, who sat down to establish city-wide peace. In 2007, James helped establish the Buffalo Peacemakers, which today includes over 50 individuals who mentor and redirect youth to healthy lifestyles, mediate conflicts and work with law enforcement officials to support safer neighborhoods. In 2012, James joined VOICE Buffalo, and in his role as President, the social justice organization created Peace Circles in the city of Buffalo.
James has developed leaders and inspired others by increasing cooperation, understanding and teamwork, building the collaborative support system he could not find 25 years ago.