PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) — When redemption came knocking on Shane Gerald’s door, he not only answered — he sprinted toward it .

The Paterson native was a promising star athlete at East Side High School back in the 90s, but a bad decision involving a fight landed him behind bars for nearly four years. 

“When I came home, my whole goal after being locked up from 18 years old to 22 years old, I just wanted to help people my age and younger avoid some of the mishaps that I had in life,” he told PIX11 News.

Gerald hit the ground running, launching the local basketball program New Jersey Sparks for young girls. It was inspired by his three daughters. 

The program would eventually go national, but it was the love for his city of Paterson that would propel him to his next move. In 2020, he opened the sports-themed eatery Fast Break Café.

The fast food joint offers tasty American comfort food to the community — with a side of opportunity for local teens, who make up a large part of the staff. 

“My mindset was, let’s keep them off the street and put some change in their pocket,” Gerald explained. “It’s now teaching them how to interact with the community.”

One of those workers is 16-year-old Danielle Wiggins.
“I learned how to deal with money, the register … so, anywhere that I go next, I know I could be a cashier,” she said. 

Despite COVID having its fair share of ups and downs, Gerald and his team haven’t slowed down. The café even rolled out a food truck, making it easier to get to customers.

After years of giving so much to his community, the father and soon-to-be-grandfather isn’t looking for adulation. He says he just wants to see the young people in his city win.

‘I don’t look for anything in return but to see them be successful,’ he said. ‘I want to see their kids go to college, I want them to see them graduate college, I want them to come back and be a productive member of our city.”