SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) A quarter century ago, a San Francisco man was looking at spending the rest of his life in prison. Today, he’s spending his life trying to keep ex-offenders from winding up back behind bars.

When you get out of prison, getting a job is one of the keys to staying out of trouble. But as an ex-offender, you have a hard time landing a job. That’s where Terry Anders comes in.

Terry Anders remembers facing 140 years in prison.

“I had robbed seven banks,” he said honestly. ” I got strung out on cocaine and alcohol real bad. I knew for all practical reasons that my life was over.”

But the judge considered his childhood of abuse, and instead of a lengthy prison term, sent him to drug rehab at San Francisco’s Walden House.

A quarter century later, the 70-year-old says he’s proud to be drug-and alcohol-free and retired from a rewarding career.

“The union, Ironworkers Local 377, gave me an opportunity to do something with my life,” he said.

In 2005, Anders founded a nonprofit to help ex-offenders gain job skills to turn their lives around.

“I created Anders and Anders to give back to the community.”

He recruits, and even helps train, formerly incarcerated men and women for construction careers, steering them into pre-apprenticeship programs at CityBuild Academy at City College and union apprenticeships.

His partners include contractors, unions, developers, and the city.    Participants do work like building the new library and demolishing the old Schlage Lock building in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley. They’re the same kind of union jobs that sustained Anders himself for 30 years.

He says about half of the ex-offenders he works with get into trouble again… but that’s still  better than the 60-70% recidivism rate for San Francisco.

As Director of the Senior Ex-Offender Program at the Bayview Hunters Point Senior Center, Frank Williams refers senior citizen ex-offenders to Anders.

“They could have nothing and he makes sure they get into a program,” Williams explained. “He get them the toolbelts, hard hats. He goes in his pocket and pays for some of these clients.”

When Cornelius Dubose got out of prison, Anders paid for his construction tools and union dues.

“Since I been an ironworker, I’ve gotten married, I just had a baby. Everything’s been positive and I’m thankful,” Dubose said. “I look to him like a big brother.”

“That’s a real good feeling – knowing that you can help one person,” Anders added.

So for equipping ex-offenders to start over with new skills and jobs, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Terry Anders.