Darryl Cousins was a promising college basketball player before he fell in with a hard-partying crowd and dropped out of school. "I got definitely seduced by the street life and the drugs and the selling and … I just got consumed," he says. "You get caught up in that, and before you know it, it's 12 or 13 years later, and you're sitting around wondering what happened, because you're living your life in a way that you know you shouldn't be."
It took 15 months behind bars for him to turn things around. While serving time in the Richmond City Jail on a drug conviction, Cousins, now 38, joined a program called MOVE, which stands for Men of Valor Empowered. Founded by Jerome Bell, a former addict, the faith-based program aims to change inmates' attitudes toward their lives and then assists them in finding housing and work. "[Bell] used to come in every day and say, ‘It's a beautiful day to change the crazy thinking that you've had before, [and realize you're] good men who've made bad decisions,' " Cousins says.
The message stuck, and when Cousins was released in September 2010 — about nine months before the end of his two-year sentence — he began rebuilding a catering business that he and his wife, Frances (pictured with him), had started out of their Richmond home called Parties Made to Perfection (218-9663 or pmtpcousins.com). Frances was unable to keep the business going while Darryl was in jail, but when word spread that he was being released early, the couple had a wedding, a bridal shower and a picnic booked for the first week of his return.
Darryl says he learned about catering from a family member who was a chef; Frances also learned about cooking from her family. She focuses on main-course dishes such as seafood salad, crab cakes, pork ribs, barbecued chicken and fried tilapia, while he creates fruit and cheese trays, and bakes brownies, cakes, pies, cheesecake tarts, cupcakes and peach cobbler. This fall, they plan to open a restaurant called Family Blessings inside the Scottish Inn on Robin Hood Road. "It took a lot, staying [together] through thick and thin, but that's my husband and I love him," Frances says of the couple's relationship. "I was just blinded by everything else that was going on with him. I didn't want to see it." Darryl says he is glad to be able to contribute to a better life for his wife, five daughters and three grandchildren. "Mr. Bell and MOVE — they saved my life," he says. "They saved my family, because they cared enough to give somebody like me a chance."