Alvis’ Volunteer Spotlight: Kevin Maas

Q&A Session Celebrating National Volunteer Month #NVM

Why Alvis? 

  • I was drawn to Alvis after my company sponsored the organization as our quarterly non-profit group. I met with Molly shortly after to discuss volunteer opportunities and knew from the get go that Alvis’ mission was one that resonated with me. I love that Alvis is an organization that gives their clients the resources they need to live up the their God given potential. I firmly believe that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their socioeconomic status or the mistakes they have made in their past. Alvis gives their clients the resources and tools they need to succeed and thrive after they have served their time.

What is the impact you can make? 

  • Tutoring Math allows Alvis clients to get one on one or small group attention. The impact of this individual attention can mean the difference between a pass and fail on their GED tests. I leave tutoring every Thursday knowing if I helped them understand just one problem on the exam that it could make the difference between a pass and a fail. A pass opens a whole new set of opportunities for them that will inevitably better their lives. For me, the chance to impact clients by helping them open new doors in their life is the single most rewarding experience I’ve had as a volunteer at any organization.

Importance of volunteer work for the community? 

  • Volunteer work is especially important because it helps us build up the communities in which we live. The old saying goes, a rising tide raises all boats. It’s our duty as members of the Columbus community to do what we can to make sure the rising tide is raising all boats. Our Columbus community is what we make it, and by giving back we can make a huge difference in the lives of our fellow Ohioans. 

Any memorable moment you experienced while working as a volunteer at Alvis that you can share?

  • To be honest every tutoring session is memorable for me. It reminds me that despite a national climate that seems to try to divide us by gender or race or socioeconomic status, we have so much more in common than we do different. We might be doing math problems, but in between we talk about what’s going on in our lives, joke, smile, and laugh. Those small moments are what make my volunteer time special.

Any message you want to send to donors? clients? staff? community?

  • I’ve probably never appropriately praised the staff for all the hard work they do. It’s those folks that do the thankless work day in and day out, so thank you!

Thank you for all you do Kevin!! We all appreciate you!!

Social Work Spotlight: Carolann Gregoire

Carolann Gregoire, CSCC Practicum Coordinator

To continue with our celebration of the social work profession this March, we sat down with Carolann Gregoire, Practicum Coordinator for the Social and Human Services Program at the Columbus State Community College. She has been working as a social worker for decades and has received both her Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Social Work from the University of Kansas, which is her home state. In order to learn more about her work, we did a Q&A session with Carolann! Read on and watch the video series to see what this industry veteran has to say about the ins and outs of her practice!

Trends

You place students in internships. What is the value of practicum?

I work with students before they go into practicum and also while they are in practicum. I would say that one of the biggest challenges that the students experience is not fully understanding what it means actually to work with a client face to face, within an agency structure. That is why we do practicums, because they can have a world of information that they receive in the classroom, which they need and they embrace intellectually, and even on a heart level; but it’s very different than when you are actually in the same room with a client who is sharing their story and looking to you for help. It’s a very humbling experience. If it’s your 1st time in trying to be helpful with a client it takes practice and takes confidence before you feel like that what you know intellectually is something you can translate into practice.

Top 3 Skills

What are the reasons most students select a career in Social Work?

I think Social Workers choose this field in part because of some personal experiences, and it’s important whatever that personal experience is that we have worked with it sufficiently so that we can use it, rather than it using us, and really interfering with the work that we do with clients. So there is a fine line when you feel like you are on the other side of the experience. For me, it was a couple of things that shaped how I looked at the world. Experiences in my life that I had to work with on a heart level before I could really be present with myself and be present for others.

What do you believe to be the Social Workers biggest challenges?

I think for a recent graduate, you need an understanding of how an agency operates and how that impacts what they can actually do with a client. Because when they are in the classroom, it is a lot of information that is very helpful but until you start experiencing it, you don’t fully understand all the different influences that impact what you going get to do with a client. I try to prepare new folks in the field for that thought of “maybe this is not exactly what I thought it was going to be”. There can be barriers to providing good care that come from stigma from society, from lack of funding, lack of resources and I don’t think you really know what that feels like and how it really does impact what you are doing with a client until you are doing it.

Alvis impact in the community

Alvis commends social workers for going above and beyond to help those in need, whether it be through direct support or through providing resources that find solutions to complex problems. Their dedication to bettering their community facilitates healthier relationships, lifestyles, and practices that may not have been a possibility without this aid. Make sure to stay tuned in to our social media and blog this month to see some great interviews with social work leaders in the community offering direct insight on the who’s and what’s of the profession!

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Spotlight


Trip to NY City to see the Yankees

Since March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we wanted to enter spring with a celebration of those in this community both within Alvis and across the nation. This month of awareness first began in 1987 with President Ronald Reagan; in the ‘70s and ‘80s, our country went through a deinstitutionalization movement that promoted great social change, prompting Americans to provide those with developmental disabilities with the resources for success. Today, over 5 million Americans are estimated to have a developmental disability and this term, as defined by the DD Act, refers to a “severe, chronic disability that occurs before an individual is 22 that is likely to continue indefinitely, and results in substantial functional limitations in three or more areas of major life activity” (NACDD). These areas include self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. These conditions typically require the individual to live with assistance, and we commend those who are a part of this community for seeking out the support they need to succeed. 

Though there may be some stigma still surrounding those in the DD community, we at Alvis feel that it is time to blow this stigma out of the water. Through a variety of programs and resources, those in this community are now more equipped than ever to lead healthy lifestyles. Living with developmental disabilities is never a one-size-fits-all experience. Conditions that qualify as a DD can include autism, muscular dystrophy, learning disorders, attention deficit disorder, and many more. You can learn more about these conditions here

This week, we were fortunate to speak with our Managing Director of Developmental Disability services, Sandra Allen. Sandy has been with Alvis for ten years and has used her background in mental health and disability services to work with clients in the Columbus DD community. Through our supported living services to our intermediate care facilities to our Behavior Support Unit, we here at Alvis are committed to improving the lives of those through behavior-based programs so they can become integrated with the community. Our intermediate care facility currently serves 15 individuals and is aimed at equipping clients with the skills and resources to live in the community in a less restrictive environment. This program is based on skill building and has a cognitive focus. Being able to change the thought processes of our clients is the first step to them being able to live a more free, positive lifestyle. From therapy to finance management to medication regulations, our Alvis professionals are there every step of the way. Our supported living program currently serves 44 individuals, and it gives those who are a part of the DD community the ability to live on their own while receiving guidance from our qualified team of DD professionals. We have a couple of individuals in these programs pursuing a college degree, while some are working to receive a GED.  

#DDAwareness19

Though these programs, we have seen our clients hit huge milestones; whether they are riding the bus alone, holding a steady job, or becoming involved in romantic relationships, we are so thankful that we could be a part of their journey to success. In the future, Sandy would love to have volunteers become involved with these programs to help Alvis clients expand their skillsets and add to their activity options. If you or anyone you know might be interested in volunteering to help our DD clients, please contact our Intern and Volunteer Manager at Margaret.Seguin@alvis180.org! 

To be a successful DD professional, Sandy says that those in the field should be dedicated to caring about their clients and be invested in their success. Since this is not the most “cookie cutter” situation, she says that you have to be empathetic to their struggles and be willing to learn how we can make it better for them and the community. The end goal of all DD professionals is to help their clients create a life that they truly want to live and will have fun living. It is extremely important that they invest in their future and that we find out what motivates them. Through a multitude of events like the Harmony Project, Special Olympics, Bingo Night, bible study, and excursions all over the country; our DD professionals are sure to help our clients celebrate their successes, no matter how big or small. They see our clients as family. As Sandy said, “We need to work ourselves out of the job, we want to serve others that need us and celebrate those that don’t  need us anymore”. We thank those like Sandy in this field for all that they do, and celebrate those in the DD community for their commitment to their mission towards a better life.  

The Harmony Project

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective  treatment programs  in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about  how you can get involved, contact us  here

Social Work Spotlight: Erin Michel

Erin Michel is our Continuous Quality Improvement Director at Alvis

To continue with our celebration of Social Work Month, we got the chance to learn more about the profession in action through a conversation with one of our own, Erin Michel. We are fortunate to have Erin as our Continuous Quality Improvement Director and her background in the field of social work has been a great complement to this position. Though she has now been working as a social worker for close to 8 years, it wasn’t always her dream job. When she was in high school, a career assessment projected social work as her best-fit profession and she laughed at the idea of her being in the field. Today, she now calls social work her home; it is not just a career, it is her life and she was born into the professional values held by those in the industry. 

The culmination of all of her personal experiences ultimately led her to her holding a position here at Alvis in a transition that she described as “synchronous”. Her main task is to mobilize managers around making data-driven decisions; she stated that, “In social work, making decisions from your gut is actually not what you want to do. We want to trust our instincts, but when it comes to client interventions, we want to be acting based on research and evidence proven to create results.” Erin is leading our organization in benchmarking effectiveness measures for our programs and in addition to her assessment of this internal data, her department also surveys clients; they inquire about clients’ experience with the programs and if they are making connections between their learning and its real-life application, creating a feedback loop that promotes our ability to provide person-centered care to them.

She has also seen the value of feedback and collaboration first hand as a board member of the Ohio Counselor Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist (CSWMFT) Board. Here, she created and constructed meetings as a combined board in addition to collaborating with other members to align them to a strategic plan while she served as Chair of the Board last year. She is currently working on making big changes in the area of training supervision, as they have recently been receiving  complex hardship requests: social workers looking to receive their license are having a hard time finding independent social workers to supervise them. She recognizes that this supervision is extremely important as it is the main mechanism for how their scope of the practice is formed and how they learn to be an independent practitioner. Since the board does not typically grant these requests, she is now making it her mission to create smart rules around training supervision before her term ends in October of 2020. Lastly, she also serves on the committee for the Association of Social Work Boards where she supports the organization’s annual education conference that reaches all jurisdictions of the US and Canada. Her involvement in these boards shows her dedication to the field since these licensing boards protect the public from harm.

After spending some time with Alvis, serving some of the most vulnerable and complex populations, she knows that being with the company brings high risks with high rewards. She acknowledges the commitment of her coworkers. Alvis has brought her together with some of the “most powerful social workers and counselors that she has ever met.” The main draw of the profession are these dedicated workers that are committed to the mission and know change is gradual. She says that those who come to Alvis will find resilience and excellent clinical judgement, in addition to an amazing new training platform. New this year, Alvis offers continuing education credits for social workers and in the future, counselors.

Erin Michel

Alvis commends social workers for going above and beyond to help those in need, whether it be through direct support or through providing resources that find solutions to complex problems. Their dedication to bettering their community facilitates healthier relationships, lifestyles, and practices that may not have been a possibility without this aid. Make sure to stay tuned in to our social media and blog this month to see some great interviews with social work leaders in the community offering direct insight on the who’s and what’s of the profession!

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

Black History Month Spotlight: Keith Stevens

KeithStevens02 (002)

To continue with our celebration of Black History Month, we are focusing on accomplishments that are not only occurring within the black community, but in the Alvis community as well. Last week, we were fortunate to sit down with Alvis’ board chair and devoted entrepreneur, Keith Stevens. Keith has served on the Alvis board since 2012 and his dedication to philanthropy and out-of-the-box business practices have had a notable effect on those around him since starting his own staffing business in 1992. This Urbana, Ohio native started Proteam Solutions Inc. (PSI), with nothing but $500 and ambition for success. He located his office in a high unemployment area with a mission of helping neighborhood residents find gainful employment. The company grew rapidly once word spread about Keith’s mission. PSI thrived until the 9/11 attacks prompted his business model to pivot, placing more focus on higher end staffing including finance and accounting, human resources, and creative, to name a few.

After maintaining this structure for seven years, PSI was taken by surprise when the 2008 recession struck. It severely impacted their clients’ businesses, thus impacting PSI sales. Though this was a hit to the company’s stability, Keith used this negative event to drive positive change when he made the decision to double down on technology, positioning PSI for the future of the fast-evolving market. Not long after that, PSI, indirectly through partnerships with non-profits and other charitable organizations, was able to continue giving back to the communities where PSI started.

Over the past few years, Keith’s business has continued to develop and evolve, becoming more efficient and successful. After being involved in the day to day operations for so long, he decided it was time to shift his focus to working on the business. Keith elected to implement EOS, the Entrepreneur Operating System. EOS provided PSI with the leadership framework to better manage and grow the business. In turn, EOS has allowed Keith to be less involved in the day-to-day blocking and tackling and more focused on growing the company’s three business lines that include IT Consulting, IT Staffing, and Business Process Outsourcing for non-profits.

PSI’s Business Process Outsourcing provides non-profits with back office support services including Employer-of-Record Payroll services, Accounting and Finance, Technology and Marketing support. Non-profits with budgets of $5,000,000 or less often experience administrative headaches that take time and attention away from delivering on their core mission. PSI helps these organizations remain mission-focused, allowing them to use their resources to achieve better outcomes for those they serve.

Over time, Keith has learned that in business, it is not all about top line growth; it is about the bottom line and spending less than you take in. You must also pay attention to the need to scale and ensure that your infrastructure can handle growth. Most importantly you must “give to get.” Since practicing these positive principles, he has created a company culture that is dedicated to the core values of service and communication. The PSI team is driven to serve, solve, and deliver for every employee, client and the community in order to accelerate their success. Over the past 27 years and through this day, Keith proudly stated that his company has never missed a payroll. This is a statement that would resonate with all entrepreneurs.

Keith became involved with Alvis in the late 1990s when PSI began providing Alvis clients with employment opportunities. He joined the Alvis board formally in 2012 after his board involvement with Community Connection, another non-profit agency.  Community Connection  provided job readiness and related services to individuals with justice involvement who were reentering society.  Community Connection became a part of Alvis in 2012.  When Keith was offered a board position with Alvis, it was an easy yes since he already knew the Alvis mission. He is now in his seventh year on the board. As board chairman, he is focused on facilitating good board governance and collaboration. Keith’s favorite parts about Alvis are the mission, programming, and reputation. The Alvis leadership and staff are passionate and dedicated, achieving results with testimonials to prove it. As a board member, he focuses on strategy and vision, working with his peers to ask questions, test theories, and encourage healthy debate. He plans to continue contributing his time, talent and treasure to Alvis.

After learning about Keith, it is easy to see why he has become so successful. His business savvy is a source of great advice, so read on to see if you can take something new away from his words of wisdom!

Keith on mentorship:

Most great mentors have a mentor of their own that helped to shape them into the successful person that they ultimately turned out to be. For Keith, his business mentor, James Willis, was an African American business owner he first met as a 14-year-old working a paper route. Keith recalled that he would want to avoid going into this customer’s house due to the smell of diapers. One day while passing by the back of the house, he noticed a panel truck on the property with Mr. Willis’ name plastered on the side; he watched this man grow his business over the next seven years to have four locations, placement in retail stores, and a warehouse. Through a friend, Keith got a job working for the company selling beauty supplies for the owners, James, and his brother, Sherman Willis. Through this experience, witnessing a successful black family-owned business; seeing people that he could relate to being so successful gave him “nuggets of wisdom and the ability to imagine it for himself.” He also garners inspiration from others like the entrepreneurs on Shark Tank, and the many local Columbus entrepreneurs like Dawn Dickson and Rachel Freedman.

Keith’s advice for handling criticism:

When it comes to criticism, Keith says that being a good listener is crucial and facilitating an environment that promotes open communication is key to conflict resolution. Irrespective of where someone is in their social strata, constructive criticism can ultimately provide value. Keith’s rule of thumb? Do not respond to strong criticism until 24 hours has passed.

Keith on employee appreciation:

Keith is a huge believer in the strength of Alvis’ team. He says that those on the front line are “where the rubber meets the road” and there is a special concentration on the people and the culture within the Alvis community. He feels that there is great opportunity for Alvis to shine light on the spirit of what they represent, and that Alvis’ core values are key and should drive all hiring and firing decisions. A focus on culture needs to be a priority in all businesses, Alvis included.

Keith’s advice for young professionals:

He had three main pieces of advice for those just entering the workforce: Be respectful, communicate professionally, and don’t be afraid to fight for what you believe. If someone doesn’t initially appreciate your efforts and dedication, over time they can be proven wrong if given the opportunity. You should ultimately use these experiences as fuel, not a reason to stop moving forward.

Keith on discrimination:

Overall, Keith does not feel hindered by the discrimination he has experienced. He encourages those who may experience it to “lean into adversity.” One first-hand example of discrimination Keith experienced was with a client. After bringing in a mostly all-black team of employees to help a shoe warehouse meet their high demands, they found that they were the only people of color among the other employees and the difference was palpable. He feels that the prejudice stemmed from fear; nevertheless, Keith’s team rose above it gained the respect of the client’s team in just a few short months. People of color often know or feel that they have to work twice as hard to prove themselves in society, but that shouldn’t deter them from pursuing their passions.

Presently, Keith is continuing to pursue HIS passion for business and actively volunteers on multiple boards. His most recent endeavor? Becoming the chairman of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce board! We thank Keith so much for the opportunity to sit down and chat about his experiences. We are so thankful we him on our team. To keep up with Keith, be sure to follow him on LinkedIn.

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

Blog post written by Marketing & PR Intern, Paige McKirahan

Black History Month: Fast Facts

Here at Alvis, we like to celebrate diversity in all aspects and walks of life. Each February, we recognize African American excellence in honor of Black History Month. Americans have now been commemorating black history for almost 100 years, beginning with “Negro History Week” in 1926. Negro History Week was created by Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-educated historian who hoped to raise awareness about the contributions of African Americans to society during a time of great prejudice. Woodson was the child of former slaves and his strong will allowed him to overcome adversity. He left Kentucky coal mines at age 20 to enroll in high school. He completed the high school curriculum in just two years and continued in school until he received his Ivy League Ph.D. Throughout his course of study, he became increasingly aware of the lack of African American experiences being detailed in history books. For the most part, the black community was ignored by historians and when African American history was included, it tended to reflect period society’s racially intolerant view that African Americans were somehow inherently inferior. 

To combat this, Woodson ambitiously established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in 1915 and made it his responsibility to write African Americans into his country’s history. The following year, he founded the Journal of Negro History. The publication came to be widely respected across the nation. 

Though he was finding great success in his quest to educate and inform, Woodson wanted to continue making leaps for the African American community. In 1926, he and his organization announced Negro History Week. It was first celebrated in the second week of February which encompassed both Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’s birthdays. The creation of the event was received so positively by the public that it began igniting social change all over the country. Black history clubs were formed, educators began demanding changes in curricula, and progressive whites publicly supported ASNLH’s efforts. They also encouraged their more conservative counterparts to do the same.

Over the following 20 years, Negro History Week became a widely celebrated event and was a touchstone for substantial progress in race relations in American culture. By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, mayors across the nation were declaring their support for Negro History Week.  

The 1960s brought the Black Awakening, which was pivotal in highlighting the importance of black history to all Americans, regardless of color during the transformative Civil Rights movement. Finally, in 1976, 50 years after the first “Negro History Week,” President Gerald Ford extended the celebration to span the full month of February.  The President encouraged Americans to “Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” By this time, the vast majority of Americans understood the importance of black history and how integral it has been in the creation and telling of America’s true story.  The ASNLH, now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, has stayed true to its mission to educate the public about African American history 365 days a year.

For more famous factoids about rich history of African Americans in the United States, check out this article from History.com! Be sure to stay tuned all month long as we celebrate different examples of African American excellence in our Alvis community and across the nation. Up next week: a spotlight profile of Keith Stevens, Chair, Alvis Board of Trustees!

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

Blog post written by Marketing & PR Intern, Paige McKirahan


Mentoring Month Spotlight: The Whats and Whens of Having a Mentor


Whether you are a young student looking for guidance or an established adult in search of the same, using a mentor can provide inspiration and a safe space for you to grow without judgement. Though mentors can be used in a variety of different settings, their central function is essentially the same: to guide you to becoming your best self through a strong partnership. If this sounds like something you may need, you may be wondering where to find a mentor. These guides can be found in anyone you identify with in relation to your current struggles, from hardships in the office to battles with addiction. It is extremely important for these advising minds to cultivate positive relationships with their mentee, and for them to be friendly, knowledgeable, and committed to their success. According to Mentor.com, young, at-risk adults who have had mentors are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 78% more likely to be regular volunteers. Of those with mentors, 90% were interested in also becoming a mentor and 130% are more likely to hold leadership positions. Having more than one mentor can be beneficial to provide guidance in multiple facets of life; and this mentorship can be crucial to one’s personal improvements.

Now that we know a little bit about mentorship and its general importance, let’s examine what exactly these mentors do. In short, they generously lend their knowledge, wisdom, insight, and counsel to those experiencing challenges that the mentor is familiar with. The invaluable skills and lessons they teach can greatly alter the journeys of those they are helping, and they generally are able to see areas in their mentee’s lives where there is room for some sort of improvement. They function to offer helpful encouragement, keep the spark, and push for confidence from their mentees. They also commonly create reasonable boundaries and goals for their mentees as they have typically been in their shoes at one point or another. They have the experience to ensure that the mistakes made in the past will not be made again, shifting the mentee’s focus on how to prioritize and formulate strategies surrounding their growth. This can facilitate positive personal advancement, giving the mentor and mentee both a chance to celebrate their achievements.

So, when do people use mentors? Whenever they need outside direction! You may have already had someone like this in your life without even realizing their impact, whether it be a family member, teacher, or professional colleague. Many people use mentors when they are confronted with an unfamiliar situation that seems impossible to navigate on their own. Business people in new positions, students needing academic guidance, those in recovery needing a pillar of strength, and many others find solace in knowing that mentors are available to them when they feel the challenges they are facing are insurmountable. Stars from Oprah Winfrey to Clint Eastwood have even spoken fondly of their times with mentors, and claim that encouragement from these sources early in their lives contributed immensely to their long-term success. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, you have many options regardless of your age, lifestyle, or profession.

After speaking to Harry Cox, who has experience in the mentoring community, it is evident why the practice is so important to both these guiding hands and those they are advising. He works with three separate mentorship companies, including working with first generation college students as well as working with his nonprofit benefitting the elderly. He ultimately helps thousands of people annually through mentorship opportunities. He meets with people daily and with groups of up to 16 individuals for him to support. Getting his mentees to open up “their can of worms,” be comfortable, and be willing to work with him is crucial to their growth. He is so dedicated to their success that offers his resources to his mentees as often as necessary. He himself was brought through Alvis following release from incarceration and credits a mentor from an Alvis program as being crucial in helping him to completely change his life. His mentor told him that you need to be able to separate your wants from your needs and he challenged him to find 90 organizations in 90 days to support those needs. Since then, Harry has used these resources to obtain his Master’s Degree and various other certifications. He credits his mentor with his great success today.

With those seeking peer mentorship following to incarceration, it is important for their mentors to be aware of the trauma associated with this experience.  In order to reach self-actualization, he says, “Mentors need to help them become resilient.” Mentors should look at their personal experiences and how they directly relate to their mentees, showing how they can overcome barriers based upon the way they personally worked through them. To Harry, mentorship is putting away personal vices in order to help a person ultimately get where they intend to go. It is about individuals and dedication to fulfilling their needs. Harry also feels that mentors can be any age because wisdom and knowledge knows no bounds.  He believes a person can learn just as much from a 15-year-old as they could from an 80-year-old.

No one should feel ashamed about seeking outside help through mentors or through other types of supportive programming.  At Alvis, we encourage everyone at any stage of life to care for their personal, mental, and professional health in the most efficient way that their lifestyle permits. We celebrate mentors for all that they do, and praise those aware enough of their own struggles for reaching out and utilizing this great resource.

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 51 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

The First Step Act

A bipartisan solution to the opioid epidemic

When a parent sees their child take their first steps, it is milestone that fills them with pride and joy. Those first steps lead to many other firsts throughout the child’s life. But infants are not the only ones who take momentous first steps. In a continuing effort to tackle the opioid crisis, the United States is taking its first steps toward new approaches to address this deadly epidemic and acknowledge that addiction is a disease that cannot be cured by locking a person up. 

The First Step Act is new federal legislation designed to help people who are involved in the justice system to obtain treatment for their addiction rather than simply imprisoning them. Signed into law by President Trump in December 2018, the First Step Act is a truly bipartisan piece of legislation with widespread support. It passed the Senate with a vote of 87-12 and the House approved the Senate’s version of the bill with a 358-36 vote. It provides incentives and programs so federal inmates receive treatment and tools to address their addiction. Addiction deserves the care, treatment and attention provided to other diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Addiction is deadly. Ohio alone loses an average of 38 people daily to opioid overdoses.

But why should someone who has never been involved with the criminal justice system or opioids be concerned with these kinds of first steps? The long and short of it is that this could be closer to home than you think. Of the 321 million people living in the U.S. in 2015, an estimated two million  – one in every 160 people – were addicted to opioids. The possibility that you personally know someone in the throes of addiction is high. It could be your neighbor, coworker, friend or even a family member. Watching your child take their first steps into toddlerhood can be stressful as a parent. Similarly, if you personally know someone who has battled addiction and justice involvement, then you understand its devastating toll.

Beyond personal connections and its potential to save lives, the First Step Act is also expected to reduce the risk that someone in the justice system due to addiction will return to prison. That will result in significant savings to taxpayers who will no longer have to bear the $33,274 average cost per inmate per year. This adds up to millions of dollars in savings each year.

Decades of experience have shown that our nation cannot arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic. Today, the federal government is taking critical first steps to ensuring that the individuals in our justice system who need treatment for addiction are able to receive it. In doing so, they look to the positive experiences from programs like Alvis’ Recovery Choices. When combined with accountability and programs to address justice involvement, such as Alvis’ Reentry Programs, there is a proven track record of reducing the likelihood that a person will relapse into addiction and return to the justice system.

Everyone has a story. Some people just need to be given the opportunity and tools to take their first steps to change their story and begin their journey to full and productive lives. For more stories about lives changed by Alvis, please click here.

This blog post was primarily written by Douglas Lamont, Alvis Communications Intern, January 2019.

Addiction catches up to Jamie

December 18, 2018

Addiction catches up to Jamie

Growing up in an unstable home, Jamie developed an addiction to drugs as a way to cope with her pain. Her addiction caught up with her when she was pulled over with drugs in her car. 

“It was the first time I’d been in trouble. First felony,” says Jamie.  Her 5 year old daughter was also in the car when she got stopped, resulting in her daughter’s immediate placement into foster care.  Jamie was left feeling helpless and hopeless.  

It became a turning point for her and it was the beginning of Alvis’ 180 degree impact on Jamie’s life.  Because when she went to court, the judge said that Jamie could go to the Alvis program and complete treatment as an alternative to going to prison.

Jamie arrived at Alvis in July of 2018.  Over the next four months, she participated in treatment services, trauma counseling, workforce development programming and more.  Along with her two older daughters who were living with other family members, Jamie also completed the Family and Children’s Program.  This is a specialized treatment program that helps to reconnect, rebuild and strengthen families torn apart by addiction and justice involvement. 

The stable living environment that Alvis provided her and the counseling and support she received from staff turned out to be the change Jamie needed.  “I completed all programming in four months,” said Jamie.  Alvis also helped to connect her to sober housing that is close to her family in Wooster, so that when she was discharged from Alvis, she still had support for her new way of life.

Jamie’s story isn’t complete yet, but because of Alvis and her commitment to sober living, the odds for success are in her favor. She is working to regain custody of her youngest daughter, has secured employment, and has a whole new outlook on life.

Alvis was able to help Jamie change her story thanks to the investment of others in our programs and services.  You can join them and help to change one more story before the end of the year.  Please consider donating to Alvis today and giving one more person the tools they need to turn their life around by 180 degrees.

Rachel turns her life around

October 10, 2018

Thanks to Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program, Rachel has been clean and sober for more than 3 years.

Rachel turns her life around

When you look at Rachel today, she looks like a typical adult student at Columbus State who’s juggling parenting, employment and classes.  What you can’t see is the trauma she’s worked through in order to be where she’s at in her life today.

Growing up, Rachel witnessed physical abuse, parental drug use, and much more that anyone so young should have seen.  At 15, she went into foster care. By the time she started her senior year in high school, she was old enough to leave the foster care system and was able to begin living with a generous woman from her church. School had become a bright spot and a source of accomplishment. Rachel lettered in four varsity sports.

But the emotional pain that had been with her throughout her young life was crippling.  She met someone who introduced her to hallucinogenic mushrooms and she believed that it helped her to cope – for a time. Within five years, Rachel was doing heroin as well as smoking pot and drinking. Because she was unable to hold a job, she relied on theft and other nonviolent criminal activity to pay for her habits.  

As a result of her justice involvement, Rachel ended up in drug court. She went in and out of treatment a few times and was able to put together a few months of sobriety here and there. But the treatment she had just wasn’t enough to help Rachel work through the trauma of her childhood. When she was hurting, she returned to old friends, bad habits, and places that led to relapses. Finally, when she ended up in a shelter in June 2015, Rachel hit her bottom and felt ready to go to the Amethyst program.

When Rachel arrived to the Amethyst program, she began an intensive treatment program. This includes classes, trauma counselors, group therapy and other therapeutic activities designed to address behavioral healthcare needs, such as substance abuse and trauma. The dedicated and caring staff finally broke through Rachel’s carefully constructed defenses.  One day, she just screamed all of her pain and frustration out while sitting in her car in a parking lot. It was the beginning of Rachel’s new life.

Today, Rachel is in the “Community” phase of the Amethyst program. In this phase, clients are furthering their education, working, parenting, and learning to be productive members of their community.  Rachel is living with her daughters in Amethyst’s recovery housing, and applies what she’s learned in the many sessions of parenting classes. Her children are in counseling and programming at Amethyst which is designed to help them heal from their own trauma.  They also participate in a range of prevention programming to reduce the risk that they will become addicted in the future.

Today, thanks to Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program, Rachel and her daughters are a family again. Rachel has over three years of continuous sobriety. She is also taking classes to learn to become a trauma counselor and wants to help others heal, just as she was helped to heal.  Best of all, Rachel and her children have a bright future because she committed to being a part of the Amethyst program’s community of recovery rather than just attending a treatment program.

The Basics are a BIG Deal


Give to Alvis’ Back To School Backpack Drive

The Basics are a BIG Deal

Education or Incarceration. Which would you choose?

CLICK HERE TO GIVE TODAY!

Education is the single most effective weapon against incarceration. Sadly, as the new school year approaches, as many as 700 children of Alvis clients face a tremendous obstacle to their education. They lack basic tools to achieve their full potential.

You can help remove this obstacle by providing a child with a new backpack full of school supplies. These basic tools are the fundamental first step to improving their chances for success.

A donation of $30, $60, or $150 is all it takes to choose education and change a life.

Education is the most effective weapon against incarceration. Give to the Alvis Back To School Backpack Drive

You can break the cycle. Studies have proven that when kids have school supplies of their own, classroom behavior and grades improve, self-esteem strengthens and kids develop better attitudes toward school and learning. Transforming not just their own lives but changing the pattern in their families and communities.  

Your donation will give children a chance to start the school year better prepared. Thank you in advance for giving them the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Tracy Kirby: An Alvis Success Story

May 21, 2018

“Change is possible” is the message Tracy Kirby lives by every day.

Tracy Kirby: An Alvis Success Story

Tracy was told that change is possible, but he didn’t believe it until he had been sentenced to prison, served nine years, and found his faith again. Then, he emerged a new man.  Growing up in the multicultural streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a single parent house hold, Tracy found ways in which he could be a kid despite his environment.  “Kids forget to be kids” and holding onto those memories of just being a kid is an important value that to this day he instills in his own family. 

Tracy’s grandparents were major influences in his life and helped shape him into the man he is.   Both were heavily involved in church. His grandfather was a minister and his grandmother was a Sunday school teacher.  They taught him how to appreciate everything he had and to respect his elders. The “old school principles” eventually came back to him after witnessing the death of a fellow inmate.  “You don’t want to be like this,” filled Tracy’s thoughts.  Then, he began looking deeper into reasons that led to his incarceration.  He had always resented his absent father but ultimately came to the realization that, “He didn’t put me in prison, I put me in here.  Everyone is struggling and trying to get it right.”  For Tracy, like many others, the process of reentry into the community began by addressing the underlying internal issues. As thoughts and behaviors change, external changes will follow.  While incarcerated, Tracy completed 30 different programs. In doing so, he was able to reduce his sentence by two years. More importantly, he learned new ways of doing things and new skills for living.   

Tracy came to Alvis on July 3, 2010 and said, “It was the happiest day of my life.  Alvis gave me my life back.”  He learned how to be accountable for his actions, he practiced humility, and he took to heart the importance of time management.  The support he received from the staff and from his case manager, Joy Greer, was particularly inspirational and helped Tracy to believe, “Change is possible.”  He also came to believe that in order to get to the top, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up.  After Tracy’s first week at Alvis, he began working as a dishwasher at Bob Evans.  Tracy has found that being honest about his past has been a big factor in his employment success.  “Having a felony doesn’t limit your opportunities, if you have the right attitude.”  With the help of his case manager, Tracy also became one of the first Alvis clients to get married while still in treatment. 

Today, Tracy works as a chef at Coopers Hawk and is a motivational speaker for others who are struggling with addiction and reentry.   Tracy credits his success to his recommitment to God and everyone who supported him.  He is especially grateful to his wife Angela; his four children, Michael, Destiny, Kelly and Ashanti; and his grandchildren, Dariana and Kaveion.  “Them giving me love, allowed me to love back,” said Tracy.  “They have played a huge role in my recovery and new life.” 

Tracy Kirby is a living testament to the fact that by changing internally, external changes will follow. Reentry can be difficult, but it is not a road anyone has to travel alone. For Tracy, Alvis and its caring staff provided the tools and support he needed to begin doing the work to turn his life around.

Molly Rapp, Communications Intern, is the primary author of this article.

In Celebration of Reentry Week: How Alvis is helping individuals overcome their past justice involvement

April 25, 2018

Effective reentry is essential for safer, thriving communities

In Celebration of Reentry Week: How Alvis is helping individuals overcome their past justice involvement

In the United States, roughly 1.7 million people are currently in state and federal prisons.  Millions more are on probation, on parole, or are cycling through local jail systems. More than 95% of all the individuals in jail or prison will return to the community.  Life after prison is an enormous challenge:  justice involvement impacts the likelihood of being hired, being able to get housing, and much more. Reentry programs (or lack thereof) make the difference between a person successfully transitioning back to the community as a law-abiding citizen or committing a new crime and reenters the justice system.

Effective reentry programs, like Alvis, use evidence-informed practices to provide support and to work with individuals and get to the root of why they became involved in the justice system. In a majority of cases, justice involved individuals need treatment services to turn their lives around. More than 80% of justice-involved individuals have substance abuse treatment needs and about 40% have mental health treatment needs.

Therefore, Alvis provides a range of treatment programs. Based on each client’s assessed needs, we create a program plan designed to address individualized needs and help that individual to turn his/her life around.  Research has shown that by changing the way our clients think, how they address problems, and to have healthy relationships, our clients will be able to lead more successful lives.

Effective reentry programs are essential in building safer, thriving communities. Each time a person returns to prison, the result is devastating – and not just for that person.  It costs our society an estimated $118,000.**  In addition, each person with justice involvement has a family and lives in a community that will be affected by the loss of  that person’s contributions to their family and community.  

Children are some of the most invisible victims of a parent’s justice involvement.   “Losing a parent to justice involvement is different and more difficult for children than it is to lose a parent to divorce or even death,” says Denise Robinson, Alvis President and CEO.  “People are empathetic when a child’s parents are going through a divorce. School counselors will reach out to a child whose parent passed away. A child whose parent is justice involved has the same emotional shock as a child who has been separated from a parent for other reasons, but they are also ashamed and isolated.” 

So in addition to the programming Alvis provides for individuals, we also have a Family and Children’s Program.  This program helps reconnect families through educational parenting and coping classes to help rebuild the relationship between the parent and the children.

The people Alvis serves are some of the most vulnerable and misunderstood citizens among us.  Our clients cannot will away or punish away their addiction or their disability any more than a person can will away heart disease.  But with the right tools, they can change the direction of their lives toward a bright future. 

Alvis is proud to have a range of evidence-informed and data-driven reentry programs which address individual, family and community challenges.  Most importantly, our programs are effective: Three years after completing our residential program, 79% of our clients were successful in staying out of the criminal justice system.  This compares to a national success rate of just 56%. 

Circumstances bring people to Alvis. It is our mission and purpose to make a 180 degree impact on their lives, so they leave Alvis with the knowledge and tools they need to create a successful future for themselves, their families and our entire community. 

Notes:

**An Illinois study determined that victimization, system, and economic costs average $118,746 per instance of recidivism.  The full report is available at: http://www.icjia.state.il.us/spac/pdf/Illinois_Results_First_1015.pdf

Rev. Foster, whose picture accompanies this article,was profiled in an earlier Alvis Blog.  Click here to read it.

Gloria Iannucci, Sr. Director, Communications, and Molly Rapp, Communications Intern, are the authors of this blog post.

Shannon’s Alvis story

Shannon, a self-described soccer mom, was just trying to be the perfect mother.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on “Life at Alvis” in March 2018, shortly after Shannon completed the Alvis program. Now, over a year later, Shannon continues to live in recovery and her life, while still not perfect, is full and fulfilling for her and her family.

Shannon's Alvis story

Shannon and Phillip have been together since high school.  In the 16 years they’ve been together, they’ve had three children, ages 14, 13 and 10.  Shannon is a self-described soccer mom who was trying to be perfect for her children, each of whom is involved in multiple sports and other activities.  She and Phillip worked full time, but most of the childcare and transportation of the kids to their activities fell to Shannon.

It became harder and harder to keep up with everything, so Shannon started taking Ritalin and Adderall to give her extra energy.  In 2014, her best friend was diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly thereafter.  In 2016, her mother died after a brief and intense illness. In response to these losses, Shannon began using the Percocet she had been prescribed for back pain to numb her emotional pain so she could keep going and “be there” for her children. 

Shannon never used anything other than prescription pills, so she said she didn’t feel like an addict. But things spiraled out of control and in the fall of 2016, she was arrested and charged with having unlawful prescriptions in her car.  She was sentenced to 14 days in jail and three years of probation.  While on probation, she was unable to leave the pills alone.  Shannon’s addiction had convinced her it wasn’t that bad and she was a better mother with pills.  She said one set of pills gave her the energy she needed to work and take her kids to up to four different activities a night and the other set helped Shannon to keep her emotional pain at bay and prevent her kids from seeing her grief and sadness.

While on supervision, Shannon tested positive for drugs and as a result, she went to prison.  Shannon says that day will be etched in her mind forever as the day she “was ripped out of my kids’ lives.” She also felt certain that it was the end of her relationship with Phillip.

Instead, that day became a turning point.  Phillip didn’t leave. He stepped in and became a single father. He and Shannon worked together to ensure their children didn’t suffer as a result of her absence. Shannon actively participated in programs in prison to address her addiction and the pressures she put on herself to be a perfect mother.

After prison, Shannon transitioned to Alvis, participated in a transitional treatment program that consists of substance abuse treatment, cognitive behavioral treatment, parenting education, workforce development and other services that have been proven to reduce the risk that Shannon will return to the justice system.  Shannon, Phillip and their children also completed the Alvis Family and Children’s program.  This is a specialized program designed to help families heal from the trauma that results from having a parent in the justice system.

“I know my kids were impacted by my behavior,” says Shannon.  “Before, I was there but not there. Sometimes I couldn’t remember conversations and I would nod off. I was late to some of their events because I was getting pills.”  As a result of her time at Alvis, Shannon came to realize that even though her kids didn’t show it, they were hurt and needed their own time and counseling to heal.  Alvis made sure her children got the help they needed, too.

Shannon is grateful for her new perspective.  “I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect. I wrapped my whole life around my kids,” she says. “I hated asking for help back then.  But today I know Phillip is my partner and I don’t have to do everything on my own.”

The time Shannon spent in the justice system was the longest time she had ever been away from her kids. She is determined never be separated from them like that ever again. She took the things she learned at Alvis with her.  “I know I have a lot of making up to do,” says Shannon. “But I also need to make a life for myself so the kids aren’t my whole world. That’s healthy for all of us.”

Thanks to Alvis, Shannon and her family have a bright future ahead of them. It won’t be perfect – but today, Shannon knows that’s okay.

Your support of the Alvis Family and Children’s Program makes stories like Shannon’s have a happy ending.  Thank you.

Gloria Iannucci, Sr. Director, Communications, is the author of this blog post.

Why Alvis matters to me

January 22, 2018

“After a great experience, we wanted to keep volunteering with Alvis.”

Why Alvis matters to me

Lori Robinson-Terry, Insurance/Risk Manager at M/I Homes, has been a volunteer at Alvis for about five years.  She first came to know the agency when, as a new employee at M/I Homes, she was part of a group planning to participate in United Way of Central Ohio’s “Community Care Day,” (now called the Columbus Volunteer Challenge).  Lori and her group came across a project at Alvis to help paint the interior of one of our supported living homes for individuals with developmental disabilities (DD). None of them had heard of Alvis before but the project sounded interesting and like a good group project.

After meeting some Alvis clients and hearing about the agency’s work to turn lives around, Lori and other members of the M/I team decided they wanted to do more with Alvis. During that same year, M/I  was looking for a new “Holiday Cheer” recipient and decided to sponsor the holiday events for all of Alvis’ clients in our DD Services Division.  Working with individual gift lists that included such items a CD player alongside of less traditional items like an unabridged dictionary, the group purchased gifts, helped to fill stockings and volunteered at the party.

In January, a group of DD clients came to M/I to personally thank all of the staff who had contributed to such a great holiday. The client’s energy and enthusiasm was contagious and from that day on, M/I was hooked on helping Alvis clients and began looking for additional ways to become involved.

As the new head of the Employee Activity Committee at M/I Homes, Lori wanted to make the Holiday Cheer program an even bigger event. Lori also was looking for opportunities that provided a personal connection to the people in the program. “Alvis isn’t a big name,” said Lori.  “It’s not an agency that you see on billboard and know is getting a lot of stuff, so for us, it provides a more desirable experience to work with a nonprofit that we can touch and feel.”

In 2014, Alvis began a new program to help parents and children rebuild relationships that have been broken apart by addiction and justice involvement.  Lori and the rest of the M/I team wanted to get in on the ground floor of working with this new program, so they decided to make the Alvis Family and Children’s Program the annual beneficiary of their Holiday Cheer program. Each year, M/I’s involvement in the Family and Children’s Program has grown. For Holiday Cheer, Alvis families are sponsored by one of M/I’s departments. This helps to build the personal connection between one department and one family.  Kids are asked to make a list of one need, one book and one want and mothers also make a list of needs.

In 2017, 52 kids and their families in the Alvis Family and Children’s program were overwhelmed with gifts that surpassed their lists and even their dreams. But the Holiday Cheer program is more than just gifts – it also provides hope and a second chance to become a family again. Each year, M/I volunteers also came to the party to celebrate with families and bring a professional photographer so families will have a happy holiday memory keepsake.

M/I staff get a lot out of the experience, too. “I can still remember a little girl who met Santa for the first time.  I will always remember her smile, her excitement, and the hugs for bringing Santa,” said Emily Smith, formerly with M/I and now the Communications Manager for Pelatonia.  “At that moment I knew we were truly doing something to better the lives of others and helping them to make memories with their moms.”

“Every year gets better and better and the kids are so appreciative.  The joy that comes from seeing the look on a child’s face when she gets what she had hoped for can’t be beat,” said Lori.  “The personal connection and the fact that Alvis works with people that have kind of been run over by society keep me volunteering at Alvis.  I share the story of working with the families at Alvis with my family and friends – I love sharing this experience and I could look at the pictures of the kids at the holiday party for hours.”

“Volunteer work is important to everyone,” continued Lori.  “There’s just too much hate and anger around us these days and I think volunteering is a great way to feel better.”  In addition to her volunteer work at Alvis, Lori is also President of the PTA at her daughter’s school. “Parents should be involved in their child’s life and making their community better,” said Lori.  “Children learn by watching what their parents do.”  Lori also brings her daughter with her to volunteer at Alvis so she can see people who have different circumstances and be part of reaching out with a helping hand.

Giving back to those in need, seeing appreciation radiate through their body, and coming to know that all of us are more alike than different is an incredible experience.  It allows people from all walks of life to come together and help to turn lives around. Pelotonia Communications Manager Emily Smith summed it up, saying, “I think we all have times in our lives where we do things we regret, and for these women [at Alvis] to acknowledge that and work to better themselves – I think that speaks volumes.” 

At Alvis, we’re so grateful to people like Lori Robinson-Terry and to companies like M/I Homes, who regularly demonstrate their commitment to turning lives around – by 180 degrees.

For more information about volunteering at Alvis, please contact Margaret “Molly” Seguin by phone at 614.252.8402 or by email here: Margaret.Seguin@alvis180.org.

Alvis clients providing service to the community

December 14, 2017

“Be the Change you wish to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Alvis clients providing service to the community

A community is a population of people who not only support one another, but who take the time to provide services that benefit their environment and everyone living in it. Each person’s home is part of the larger community. For clients living at Alvis, doing community service is part of their transition from justice involvement to becoming a vital part of their home community. Service to the community also provides tangible examples of the steps our clients are taking to change for the better and help to make their community a better place.

So far in 2017, Alvis clients have contributed more than 33,000 hours of community service in Columbus, Chillicothe, Dayton, Lima and Toledo, Ohio.  Our clients participate in a range of community service projects which include: sorting, organizing and wrapping toys for holiday drives; serving meals at shelters; helping as needed at senior centers; picking up litter; stocking food pantries; caring for rescued animals; and even making hats and gloves for babies and children.

“Community service creates a sense of purpose,” says Melanie Hartley, Alvis Regional Director, “It demonstrates just how committed our clients are to making a positive impact in their community.” Knowing that they made a difference in someone else’s life can enhance a client’s motivation to continue making positive changes. 

“When I do service, it makes me feel better and it makes me feel like a part of things,” said Tom P., an Alvis client. “I especially liked helping to wrap gifts for a toy drive this year.  I was in prison last year at this time and being a part of this reminds me how much better it is for me now.”

Hartley also notes that staying busy in and of itself can be helpful for some clients in their drive to keep moving forward.  “Community service can play a huge part in a client’s evolution.  Some of the clients who have come to us with the biggest challenges can be the best volunteers, because they can see the positive difference they are making and it gives their confidence a boost.”

The Alvis program provides clients with the tools to successfully return to the community. As they do community service, the clients are demonstrating that they are capable of changing their lifestyles.  Giving back to the community is a great way for clients to become more involved in their community in a positive way and it demonstrates that they are turning their lives around.

Molly Rapp, Communications Intern, is the primary author of this blog post

Celebrating Success: The Amethyst Graduating Class of 2017

October 27, 2017

A new beginning with a different ending.

Celebrating Success: The Amethyst Graduating Class of 2017

“Nothing is impossible.  The word itself says I’m possible!” Audrey Hepburn

 These inspiring words resonate well with 13 ladies at Amethyst who recently celebrated the completion of all five phases of treatment with a formal graduation on October 20, 2017.  For some, it took longer than others, but all of them came to understand their worth as a result of the Amethyst program, and it kept them pushing forward.

The Amethyst program was established in 1984 and became a part of Alvis in May 2017. Amethyst is a community designed to support a lifetime of recovery through treatment and long term supportive housing for women and their children.  The community that has been built over the last thirty years has been a beacon of hope for women struggling with addiction.  Amethyst shows how important it is to have people who stand behind you when you think you might fall.  Women in the program get to experience the importance of holding onto hope and learning to accept the changes that are going to come in everyone’s life. 

Amethyst makes it clear that everyone in recovery should celebrate how far they’ve come and how strong they have remained.  Positivity and determination can go a long way in supporting recovery from addiction. Beyond that, each client also has the support of their community to ensure they will make it. This support creates the resilience to survive and thrive.  “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” is an African proverb that captures the essence of the program.

Addiction is a disease that cannot be fought alone and Amethyst has built a community of women who respect, support and love one another. Amethyst helps women with substance abuse problems see that they can be happy and deserve a second chance. The 13 women who graduated shared how far they’ve come with current Amethyst clients and how their lives have changed for the better.  The inspiring thing about all of these women is that they never gave up and never stopped fully believing that recovery is worth it. They kept going, no matter how difficult, and became survivors.  In the process, they encouraged current Amethyst clients to stand up and be recognized for all their positive potential and hard work.

In today’s society, we hear a lot about the tragedy of the opiate epidemic, but it is very rare to hear about the successes of people in recovery. If success stories were more common in today’s media, it could help someone who is struggling with substance abuse gather courage to change their life.  Fortunately, there were a lot of success stories to celebrate at the Amethyst Graduation, which will lead to even more success.  It’s because of the Amethyst community that these women are able to see the way out of their previous lives and enter into a lifetime of recovery. Having a group of strong, positive and hopeful women to encourage other women only makes the Amethyst community even stronger.   These women are survivors.  What they thought impossible when they arrived at Amethyst proved to be possible.  By “suiting up and showing up,” they have encouraged other women to keep moving forward toward their own lifetimes of recovery.  

Molly Rapp, Communications Intern, is the primary author of this blog post.

Thanks to you, Alvis clients are changing their lives for the better!

September 29, 2017

Your gift to Alvis is making a BIG IMPACT on our clients.

Thanks to you, Alvis clients are changing their lives for the better!

Your donations empower the STORY OF RECOVERY, like this one:

Devony struggled with addiction for years and is now on her journey to recovery. She and her son are in recovery housing at Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program.  She’s also in college and studying to become a nurse – so she can help others. Stories like this inspire us all to be a part of the change, making the story of recovery IMPACTFUL.

Your donations empower the STORY OF STRONGER FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES, like these: 

Robert is currently at an Alvis residential reeentry program.  As a father of three, he is determined not be separated from his children again. By participating in the BIG GIVE, donations like yours will go to substance abuse treatment, employment skills training, GED assistance, and parenting classes. With your help, we can provide fathers like Robert with the treatment services he needs to be able to truly be a present, prominent, and positive figure in the lives of his three children.

Clyde is a great example of someone who is working hard to ensure his potential is far more meaningful than his past. Clyde is not going to allow the time he spent incarcerated to define his future. Right now, Clyde is working three different jobs at some of Columbus’ finest restaurants. While in Alvis’ Career Pathways Workforce Development Program, Clyde has earned two different employment skills credentials and is now pursuing additional certifications that will increase his value to potential employers. That’s good for Clyde – and it’s good for the employers who will be hiring an individual with a demonstrated drive to succeed.

Daewyne came to Alvis in August 2016 with a criminal record and no expectations. By the time he graduated from the Alvis program in October 2016, he had a job at Jiffy Lube, had earned skills certifications, and was enrolled at Columbus State Community College. He also had outstanding recommendations that reflected his commitment to a new way of life. With the tools and programming offered at Alvis, such as case management, job readiness, resume writing workshops, job placement and retention services, our clients have the ability to turn their lives around 180 degrees. Donations help to fund workforce development programs that lead to living wage jobs that support families and communities.

Kastaisja Harper, Special Events Coordinator, is the primary author of this blog post.

Creating “Lean on Love”

August 21, 2017

Jillian Ober, a program manager at The Ohio State University’s Nisonger Center, helped to connect Tyrelle, an Alvis client, to the Dick & Jane Project so he could collaborate with others and create an original song titled “Lean on Love.”

Creating "Lean on Love"

Tyrelle is one of over 40 clients being served by Alvis programs for individuals with intellectual / developmental disabilities (IDD). Alvis programs promote independence, personal accountability, creativity, community connections and growth. Alvis’ IDD Services programs are equipped with highly skilled, trained professionals and staff who are experienced and who have been successful in working with individuals who have developmental disabilities and behavioral challenges.  Alvis also works closely with numerous other individuals and agencies to help all consumers reach their goals.  

Tyrelle is so proud of the song he helped to create.  Click here to listen to “Lean on Love.”

The Nisonger Center at The Ohio State University has been one of Alvis’ key partners dating back to 1981, when Alvis first began serving the IDD population. The Center’s Friendship Connection promotes social connections and community inclusion for people with IDD through a range of cultural events and experiences.  Participants engage in many facets of culture – from art, music, and literature, to food, sports, and pop culture.  

In addition, many Alvis clients participate in the Nisonger Center’s Next Chapter Book Club and some are also in the Jot It Down writing group.  The Next Chapter Book Club and Jot It Down promote literacy, social interaction, and community inclusion for individuals with IDD.  Book clubs and writing clubs meet weekly in local bookstores, coffee shops, and cafés and are assisted by volunteer facilitators.

Recently, a grant from The Columbus Foundation enabled some participants of the Next Chapter Book Club and Jot It Down writing group to work with the Dick & Jane Project to create an original song. 

The Dick & Jane Project is a Columbus-area nonprofit that hosts collaborative workshops where students are partnered with local musicians and producers to create radio-ready songs. The students write the lyrics and the musicians transform their words into song. In the past, the Dick & Jane Project has only worked with middle school students but the grant allowed them the flexibility to work with a new population.

Tyrelle’s first step was a meeting with his song writing partners to talk about ideas and list songs they already liked. Then they listened to a lot of different types of music.  This was followed by rewriting the lyrics and listening to even more music before working with professional musicians to put together the final cut.  The whole process took about three months and at the end, Tyrelle and his songwriting partners debuted the song, Lean on Love, on WCBE during its Song of the Week radio segment. 

You can hear Lean on Love (track 4) and the other songs created by the partnership between the Next Chapter Book Club, Jot It Down, and the Dick & Jane Project by clicking here: Next Chapter Book Club and Jot It Down 2017.

For more information about the Nisonger Center at The Ohio State University and the wide range of programs and services available, click here: Nisonger

For more information about the Dick & Jane Project, click here:  Dick & Jane

If you’d like to volunteer to work with Alvis clients with IDD or would like more information about volunteering in general at Alvis, please contact Margaret “Molly” Seguin by clicking here: Molly

Gloria Iannucci, Sr. Director, Communications & PR, is the primary author of this blog post.

Back to School

July 18, 2017

Carolline, a mom, and Charlie, a child, share their perspectives

Back to School

August is approaching quickly and the back to school shopping has officially began. The cardboard bins of colorful notebooks, sparkling pencils, and graphic binders that every child “needs” are in the middle of the isles, blocking the way to the groceries. Children begin to get excited to go back to their friends, classroom projects, and their favorite swing on the playground. Every household has their own traditions when it comes to preparing for school. These unique rituals are fun for most parents and their children, but some, like Caroline and Charlie, are approaching Back to School with worry and fear. 

Caroline

Caroline is a mother of 4 children between the ages 3-13. She loves her kids very much and wants nothing but the best for them when it’s time to go back to school.

Caroline is currently a client in the Alvis residential reentry program and is steadily on track to rebuilding her life. As Caroline talks about sending her kids back to school, she is very excited for her kids, but it’s also overwhelming for her. She has one starting preschool and one starting high school. Caroline said just hearing the words “Back to School” stresses her out.

In past years, Caroline would have started school shopping back in June in order to cut down on the stress on her time and her budget. She always started with buying school clothes for her children. As time gets closer and sales start, she begins shopping for school supplies. The extra time makes it easier to spread out the cost and reduce the stress.

Caroline wants her kids to feel comfortable and welcome in school so they can earn a great education and feel loved at the same time. That’s what every child deserves!   But since she’s at Alvis, she can’t do her back to school shopping all summer like she was able to do before.  It’s making her anxious she feels like she’s going to let her kids down this year.

Caroline was asked, “What if you could provide your children with a backpack full of all the items they need for back to school. How would that make you feel?” Her eyes lit up and she said it would truly be a blessing and make her and her children feel fortunate. It would also lift the weight off her shoulders to know that they had everything they needed to start the school year with confidence.   

Charlie

Charlie is sitting in the kitchen talking to his grandma about school starting soon. He was entering the second grade and was pretty nervous. He didn’t know what to expect this year but was really hoping for the best.

Charlie is smart. He always tried hard in school and looked forward to being rewarded for doing something well. Last year, when his mom went to prison, Charlie had to go through a lot of changes. He had to move in with his grandma and started going to a different school.  He didn’t have all the school supplies he needed, either. He remembered feeling nervous, confused, shameful, and unprepared on the first day of school last year. This year, his grandma brought home a red notebook, a 12-pack of #2 pencils, and a box of crayons. Knowing money was tight, Charlie resolved to make the best of it and put everything into his fraying backpack. He was thankful for his grandma and what she was able to get for him, but he also remembered feeling small when he saw what all the other kids had in their new backpacks on the first day of school last year. It just never seemed fair.

The night before school, Charlie went to bed extra early and tried to get to sleep while wondering what would be on the menu for lunch.  Now, it’s 8:30am and Charlie is getting on the bus to go to school, hoping that this year will be better.

As summer starts coming to a close, most parents begin preparing children for the new school year. They buy new pants, new shoes, maybe a new lunchbox or backpack and, of course, the laundry list of school supplies.  For other parents and caregivers, however, “Back to school” preparations can be agonizing.

Some, like Charlie’s grandma, are unable to provide the basic school necessities for their children.  Charlie is like a lot of kids who have a parent in an Alvis program.  Alvis is home to a population that faces the “Back to School” fear each year. These previously incarcerated parents are working to improve their lives and the lives of their children, as well. But kids like Charlie can still experience feelings of embarrassment, confusion, shame, and worthlessness, which can lead to negative behavioral changes and poor academic performance. These children don’t deserve to start the school year with an unfair disadvantage.

Addressing the problem is the first step to fixing it. The second step is taking action. There are multiple ways to take action against the destructive cycle and provide children with a good start to a new school year. One easy action you can take is to donate to the Alvis Back to School drive.  

Last year, Alvis held a backpack drive and accepted donations of backpacks and school supplies. Thanks to our amazing community, hundreds of children attended their first days of school adorned with colorful new backpacks that were filled with school supplies.

This year, we have raised our goal to prepare 700 children of Alvis clients with the tools they need to be successful students. A donation of just $30 dollars provides two children with backpacks. But truly, any donation – of money, school supplies, and/or time to come to Alvis and fill the backpacks – is greatly appreciated.  

Each child and each parent face different challenges as they start the school year. There are some easy ways, however, to help. With something as fundamental as school supplies for their education, each child we work with at Alvis can start the school year on the right foot, prepared to grow to their full potential. That is the Alvis 180 degree impact.

Click here to learn more about helping the Alvis Backpack drive.

Brandon Muetzel, Donor Relations Coordinator, is the primary author of this blog post.

Growing Opportunities

June 21, 2017

Nature’s Touch, a landscaping and lawn care business, provides work experience and helps Alvis clients to grow their skills and be able to branch out into new opportunities.

Growing Opportunities

Being able to obtain a living wage job can seem nearly impossible to a person like Joshua, who has a felony record and additional barriers, including major gaps in his employment history.  Many Alvis clients have significant barriers to employment, such as not having a high school diploma or GED, not having any references, not having a legitimate work history at all, and more. In response, Alvis provides workforce development services designed to address the specific needs of justice-involved individuals.

Some clients need more than a job readiness class, though, and the one thing Alvis hadn’t been able to provide was that “first job” for clients who were struggling to build an employment record.  Alvis believes that there is always room for growth, and quite literally, that’s what happened. Alvis launched Nature’s Touch, a social enterprise that provides:

  • Landscaping:  mulching, edging, trenching, weeding, pruning and trimming
  • Lawn Care: scheduled mowing and edging, weed treatment, fertilization, aeration

Alvis’ first foray into landscaping was simple: One of the board members had a friend who had some extra equipment that the agency was able to use like a starter kit for a lawn care businesses. Nature’s Touch took on another level of sophistication when the decision was made to ensure it was going to be a Green Enterprise. The next step was to look at personal, business and governmental landscaping trends and projected needs in central Ohio and then seek out the right training that would offer a long term benefit to our clients, to our business and to our customers. Alvis found the right training fit at Columbus State Community College’s Green Infrastructure Workforce Development program.

Today, Nature’s Touch covers the cost of training for up to 10 qualified participants in each session of the Green Infrastructure Workforce Development program. Upon completion, graduates receive a green infrastructure landscape certificate, and OSHA10 certification.  This qualifies them for jobs with the Blueprint Columbus project of the Columbus Department of Public Works.  

While they are in training at Columbus State, they are also learning on the job with Nature’s Touch.  Nature’s Touch goes beyond Columbus State training, providing work experience and developing customer service, time management and other “soft skills” that employers need.  It enhances the personal brand of Alvis clients, ultimately making it easier for them to succeed in the job market.  It’s a formula with proven success:  Nature’s Touch has expanded its customer base by more than 300% since it started in 2015.

Beyond the business, though, the best part of Nature’s Touch is seeing the growth in Alvis’ clients.  Joshua R., a graduate of the fall 2016 Green Infrastructure Workforce Development training class at Columbus State, was proud to complete his training. The certificate he earned was the first major educational achievement of his life.  Joshua has been very excited to see doors open in a way he never thought would be possible before coming to Alvis.

Join the other satisfied customers of Nature’s Touch and support growing opportunities by getting a bid on your next lawn care and/or landscaping project.  It’s as easy as visiting the Nature’s Touch website at http://naturestouchlandscaping.org/index.php.

Gloria Iannucci, Sr. Director, Communications & PR, was the primary author of this blog post.

End the stigma of addiction


To be successful, we need to embrace best practices for medically treating the disease of addiction.

End the stigma of addiction

“I come to you in the form of comfort. I’ll be there when no one else seems to be. I’ll provide the escape you’ve been seeking and I won’t tell a soul. I’ll make your biggest worries disappear and make you feel whole again. I do, however, get jealous.  Like a possessive lover, I will turn you from anyone who tries to take you from me. I will give you instant gratification in return for your long-term commitment to put me first.  You thought you knew the price when you invited me, but you didn’t know the cost over time. You have chosen me over reality because I help dull the pain and those feelings that can be overwhelming. Many of your friends and family members do not take me very seriously; they take diabetes and lupus seriously, but not me. Those people think your willpower alone is strong enough to get rid of me.  They don’t know that I live in the part of your brain that tells you to breathe. I hate those times when you put up a fight. You talk to doctors and counselors and go to meetings to try to learn a new way of life. You seek the support of others who have learned to overcome me.  Even while you are learning how to quiet me, I am just laying here and waiting for a moment of weakness. I am addiction, your viscous disease.“

Addiction is defined as, “a chronic relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking use, despite harmful consequences.” – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH)

Addiction is considered a disease because drugs change the brain’s structure and how it works.

Drug addiction does not receive as much sympathy as other diseases because for many years it was viewed it as a choice people were making.  It was believed that people brought it upon themselves and they could stop, if only they tried harder. Thanks to countless medical researchers and behavioral psychologists, we have found that addiction is deeply rooted in physiological changes in the body’s chemistry. “First, decades of scientific research and technological advances have given us a better understanding of the functioning and neurobiology of the brain and how substance use affects brain chemistry and our capacity for self-control. One of the most important findings of this research is that addiction is a chronic neurological disorder and needs to be treated as other chronic conditions,” (Surgeon General’s Report on Addiction, 2016).

One way to explain what research is finding is to think back to your childhood, when you received a balloon filled with helium.  You ran outside and released the balloon into the sky, then watched it float up for a minute before the wind carried it away. Then, you realized you didn’t want to let it go forever and you regretted your decision. As children, we didn’t understand the consequences of letting the balloon go. We didn’t foresee that willing it to “Come back,” or yelling “Go to the left,” could not control the balloon after you let it go. 

Drug abuse is very similar. Why a person started using and “let go” is beyond you and I.  Some people become addicted to opiates as a result of pain medication prescribed by their doctor after surgery or an accident.  Others turn to drugs or alcohol to numb overwhelming feelings for a period of time.  Addiction doesn’t distinguish why a person started taking drugs or drinking.  Once addiction has taken hold and the brain chemistry has been changed, a person cannot simply will their control to “Come back.” 

Every 25 seconds someone is arrested for drug possession. Gary Mohr, director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, estimates that 80% of the more than 50,000 of Ohio’s state prison inmates have histories of drug and/or alcohol addiction. But locking addicts up is like yelling at the balloon to “Go to the left.”  It doesn’t have any proven effect on changing a person’s addiction.  There is no data to demonstrate prison time alone reduces substance use.

With the knowledge that addiction is a medical disease, we must start to treat it like one. Individuals with other diseases that also have behavioral components, such as diabetes, are not subject to criminal penalties and revocation of their medical care if they consume too many sweets.  Yet that is the approach that has often been taken with people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. The Surgeon General’s Report highlights, “We must help everyone see that addiction is not a character flaw – it is a chronic illness that we must approach with the same skill and compassion with which we approach heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.”

Alvis’ substance abuse treatment programming works to change behavior by changing thinking in a structured, therapeutic way.  Every Alvis program uses research based programming to effect changes in the way individuals think and behave. This kind of programming has been proven to be effective in treating addiction.  Medication-assisted treatment protocols are showing even further promise in improving success rates.  Unlike a punitive approach, such as a prison sentence, many individuals who participate in community treatment programs are able to stay with their families, continue to work, and otherwise continue to be a part of our community as a whole.  In turn, these “pro-social” activities help keep individuals motivated to stay in treatment.

We must minimize judgment while referring to the disease of addiction. A person wouldn’t say, “Gosh, diabetics are pathetic.” Yet people do say, “Gosh, addicts are pathetic.”   Our goal should be to end the negative stigma that addiction carries – it is counterproductive to successful treatment and no disease should be treated like a character flaw.

To learn more about myths vs. reality in addiction treatment, click here to access information in the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report on addiction.

If you or a family member are struggling with addiction, please call 2-1-1 for a list of treatment resources in your area.

Mariah Haitz, Communications Intern, is the primary author of this blog post.

Breaking the Cycle

April 12, 2017

“I have always been there, but not ACTUALLY there.” – Mother of two from Alvis’ Family and Children Program

Breaking the Cycle

By Mariah Haitz, Alvis Communications Intern

Last week I had the honor of interviewing some of the precious children and growing mothers who participate in The Alvis Family and Children’s Program. This program was established to heal families affected by a parent’s involvement in the criminal justice system. 

Having the opportunity to connect with and learn from these families was a truly touching personal experience.  Here’s just a small sampling of some of the heartwarming and hopeful insight I gained from a quick Q&A with some of the remarkable and courageous families who participate in this program.

Children’s responses

Q: What has been your favorite activity in the Alvis Family and Children’s Program?

“Christmas, when Santa Claus came and hung out with me and my mom.”

Q: What is your favorite thing about your mom?

“I like how she is very pretty.”

“How far she has come.”

“How strong she is.”

“How she’s funny.”

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?

“A brain surgeon. I want to go to college for twelve years and I like learning how the brain works.”

Q: If you could give your mom advice, what would you say to her?

“Stand your guard.”

“Stay strong.”

Mother’s responses

Q: What has this program meant to you?

“It has rekindled and rebuilt my entire life.”

“It’s actually given me my second chance.”

“It’s allowed me to meet myself.”

“It’s given me time to think about what I want for my children when I am out of the program.”

“It’s allowed me to bond with my children.”

Q: What is something you have learned about your child during this program?

“EVERYTHING.”

“I have always been there but not actually BEEN there. This program has taught me things every mom should’ve known: (her) shoe size, allergies, favorite colors, her best friend’s name.”

Q: What do you believe is the best advice you’ve received in this program?

“Stay encouraged.”

“The best advice wasn’t spoken, I could tell they loved me before I could love myself.”

“Stay positive.”

“Don’t let your past dictate your future.”

Q: Has the program changed you and your child’s relationship?

“Yes, when I was in prison, I was 2 ½ hours away and my mom only brought the children once. Now I get to see them every other weekend thanks to Alvis.”

Q: What is one thing you want most for your child’s future?

“I want to be there in it.”

“Be a positive role model.”

“A bright future.”

The Family and Children’s Program at Alvis works to heal families affected by a parent’s involvement in the criminal justice system. Children in this program range in age from three to fifteen, and most have been separated from their mothers for months and sometimes years. Now that their mothers have completed their sentences, Alvis is helping them through the process of returning to their communities and reconnecting with their families.

Never in our nation’s history are services like this needed by so many. Nearly half of U.S. children have a parent with a criminal record**.   Often times, children of incarcerated parents face mental health problems, school failure, stigma from peers, and trauma on the same scale as divorce, abuse and domestic violence.  This leads to a higher risk for substance abuse and involvement in the justice system.  It’s an unhealthy, unproductive, dangerous repetitive cycle.  

The Alvis Family and Children’s Program seeks to end this cycle by helping to reconnect parents who have spent time in prison with their children.  Since it began in 2014, it’s served over 400 children, and, as some of the comments I shared earlier indicate, it’s making a significant impact. The program is currently offered to every mother who participates in Alvis’ residential reentry program in Columbus, Ohio. Alvis would eventually like to expand this program to other facilities, and to fathers who have been involved in the justice system, too. This opportunity awaits funding and resources.

The Family and Children’s Program consist of two indispensable components the first is educational, and the second is in-person contact.  Mothers receive parenting education and training, often for the first time in their lives. They are taught effective communication and discipline strategies, they learn how to set appropriate boundaries, and they receive guidance to help them understand basic parental responsibilities. Moms are then given the opportunity to demonstrate their new skills in part two of the program, during which they are given the opportunity connect with their children. They write letters, poems and make crafts for their children, which Alvis mails to their children to help maintain the mother-child connection during their stay at Alvis.

The mothers also have the opportunity to visit with their children twice each month. Research shows that families who eat meals together are stronger, which is why meals are at the center of family visit days, as caregivers and children join their mothers for a bonding experience. It’s during these in-person visits that moms get to put into practice the tools and training the program provides – and these visits are also where we see the magic of reconnecting families. By the end of the program, the majority of participating families report closer relationships. To date, 113 women have graduated from the program and will receive case management services for up to two years now that they have completed the program.

Are you interested in helping families rebuild and end the cycle of incarceration? If so, contact Jackie Haight, Alvis’ volunteer and intern manger via email at Jackie.Haight@Alvis180.org about volunteering with Alvis’ Family and Children’s Program. Alvis is always seeking community volunteers to help organize activities for family visit days – which provide a meaningful, hands-on opportunity to connect with Alvis’ clients and their children.  You can also make a donation to support the Family and Children’s Program, or attend Alvis’ annual Evening of Light celebration, which raises funds for and awareness of this important program.   

**Statistic provided by, Center for American Progress 2015

Alvis through the eyes of a volunteer

March 29, 2017

It takes love, compassion, and motivation to give back and make a difference. This extraordinary volunteer thinks anyone can do it.

Alvis through the eyes of a volunteer

“Don’t look at them for where they are now, look at them for where they could be.” – Dick Wolf

Dick Wolf, 82, an experienced salesman and business owner in Columbus, has been volunteering at Alvis for six years. He has dedicated his life to helping others, and his experience at Alvis is only a small portion of his lifetime of volunteerism. He started his legacy of service on a weekly basis through his church, by helping in a food pantry and in community outreach.

During Wolf’s tenure as a food pantry volunteer, the organization received a large monetary donation that they could spend however they wished. While searching for a good way to incorporate the funds, Wolf presented an idea that was inspired by one of his favorite quotes, from an old Chinese proverb, “You can give a man fish and feed him for a day, or you can teach a man to fish and you can feed him for life.” They implemented his recommendation – a new program to help the homeless and unemployed learn effective strategies for goal setting, finding jobs and careers, and better managing their finances.

Wolf began building connections all over Columbus to improve this program – and one of the most impactful was Al Young, the employment services director at Alvis at the time.  These two men created a strong relationship, based largely on their shared commitment to getting people off the streets and into employment that provided both income and self-worth. This common goal united these two men and their agencies. Wolf eventually began volunteering at Alvis through its H.I.R.E program (Help in Reentry Education), becoming a lead teacher and motivator to help individuals with a criminal record learn how to overcome barriers to employment.

A man who takes sincere pleasure in lifting up others, client success stories are Wolf’s favorite part about his time volunteering with Alvis. He proudly tells the story of Gina*, a mother on welfare who was living in a two bedroom apartment with five children, all of whom resisted going to school. Gina told Wolf that she knew there had to more to life than how she was currently living – and she desperately wanted to prove to her children the importance of hard work and education.  He helped Gina find a job that ultimately gave her hope, purpose, and most importantly, the opportunity to be the example she so desperately wanted to be for her children. Gina’s children followed their mother’s lead – and each graduated at the top of his/her class.  Today, they are working as dietitians, managers, and, of course, hardworking volunteers.

Wolf also proudly shares the story of James*, who came to the Alvis H.I.R.E. program upon release from prison after serving 22 years. While in prison, James held multiple jobs and had earned respect from fellow inmates and the prison administration alike. When he arrived at Alvis, he told Wolf that he was determined and believed he could succeed in anything he set out to achieve. Impressed by James’ motivation and healthy mindset, Wolf helped James prepare a resume and personal coaching to help him successfully complete the H.I.R.E. program. Unfortunately, James applied for countless jobs and secured countless interviews, only to consistently lose job opportunities once potential employers learned that he had spent 22 years in prison. Wolf suggested that James write a formal “letter of explanation” to provide more detail about the sentence and why the circumstance that led to it are a part of James’ past, not his present or future.  When asked the question on his next interview, James handed the interviewer the letter. This time, the outcome was different: James was hired at an entry level position and was promoted to a direct manager within six months. 

The stories of people like this, who have turned their lives around – by 180 degrees – are all the motivation Wolf needs. When asked if it took any special skills to volunteer at a place like Alvis, he humbly responded that “love, compassion, and motivation – skills that everyone possesses,” are all that’s needed to give back and make a difference. “Nothing outstanding, anyone can do it.”

According to Alvis’ volunteer manager, Jackie Haight, Alvis values the time, talent, heart and compassion that each and every volunteer shares with Alvis clients. 

“Every single one of our volunteers has unique knowledge and skills that help diversify our programs,” said Haight. “But what we appreciate most is that every volunteer has his or her own story, each one has different motivations and experiences to share. And, when we’re really lucky, an extraordinary volunteer like Dick Wolf will come along – with the unique ability to truly transform the lives of the clients we serve. He motivates and inspires our clients because he sees something positive in each client that they may not see it in themselves.”  

You can make a difference, too. Just click here to learn more about a variety of opportunities including:

  • Mentoring someone who is job seeking; 
  • Facilitating activities to help reconnect mothers and their children; and 
  • Special projects, such as painting, gardening, or helping at a special event.

*Names of Alvis clients have been changed to protect their privacy.

Mariah Haitz, Communications Intern, is the primary author of this blog post.

You didn’t do the crime, but you’re still paying for the time

March 12, 2017

Would you be shocked to see this bill in your mailbox? Would you be even more shocked if you knew you’ve been helping to pay for it?

You didn’t do the crime, but you’re still paying for the time

The bill pictured above is the estimate of ONE person’s time in prison. This amount takes into account room and board, security, health care, operations, administration and other services. This is completely covered by taxpayer dollars, to the tune of more than $25,000 a year, per inmate (Vera Institute of Justice, Price of Prisons in Ohio, 2012). That’s like sending one of your children to a public university and paying tuition and rent for a year. Add on a court room, price of lawyers, and the average taxable income loss, and the price tag begins to equal a sizeable down payment on a new home. These “hidden” bills don’t just affect one person. They’re paid for by every tax-paying citizen in our nation. Even worse, these are only the short-term costs.

The long-term costs of imprisonment are even more expensive. Even after completing a sentence in prison, the transition back into the community is not an easy one. After release from prison, many people convicted of crimes have no place to live, no means of transportation and no money. They may have not have access to a change of clothing, a shower or even food. They may not have a family support system to help them start over, and if they do, many families don’t have the financial means to support anything beyond their most basic necessities.  Having been out of work while serving time in prison takes a significant toll on both the offender and his or her family, as well as the community. Finding a job with a criminal record is exceedingly difficult, and can become an impossible task, given the barriers that are created when an applicant is lawfully required to disclose felony convictions on job applications. According to studies by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), this requirement alone reduces the chances of a person being hired by as much as 50%.  

The result is like a risky game of dominos. One piece falls and the others fall soon after. No employment means no income and no income means relying on governmental and community funding. The cumulative related expenses are paid by taxpayers in the form of social services and public assistance, but the emotional toll is paid by the families and neighborhoods that are powerless stop the cycle.

These factors need to make us all deeply reconsider how our society handles low-level, non-violent crimes, and the people who commit them. The reality is that community corrections programs, like those offered by Alvis, are both cost efficient and have been proven to be more effective in preventing a person’s return to the criminal justice system when compared to a prison sentence.

The per-person cost for treatment at a community corrections facility, like Alvis, is around $6,000 per year. That’s a $19,000 difference from the cost of sentencing the same offender to prison for a year. That’s a significant savings that captures only a small portion of the overall savings opportunity that comes with community corrections programs.

Community corrections programs also offer intangible forms of return on investment. The reality is that individuals who spend time in our state’s correctional system are our neighbors, our family, our friends and our community members who have made mistakes. Many suffer from addiction and/or mental health issues. Community correction programs understand the factors that often drive criminal behavior, and they offer a safe, stable environment where individuals can address the issues that led to their crime, so they can work on creating a new path forward.

Clients in Alvis residential reentry programs live in a dorm-like environment while participating in evidence-based programming. Our trained professionals provide cognitive behavioral treatment and substance abuse treatment.  Being at Alvis means our clients have the opportunity to stay connected with their family and with the community. Alvis offers programming that reconnects and rebuilds healthy relationships between parents and children, preparing them for moving forward together, after Alvis. Our reentry services team works with a plethora of companies that hire our clients during their stay in our program – providing invaluable job experience.  We mentor and coach clients on how to address the “convicted of a felony” box with potential employers. We offer job training and certification programs to increase employability and to widen career opportunities for clients after leaving the program. 

Why does this matter? Because we not only prepare clients for a successful transition back into the community, but while clients are involved in our programs, they earn more than $2.5 million in taxable wages and pay over $100,000 in child support, restitution, fines and court cost each year. These milestones help clients continue to be productive members of our community during their stay with us. That doesn’t happen in prison.

Community corrections programs have also proven successful in reducing recidivism, which saves taxpayer dollars.  Each instance of recidivism costs taxpayers, on average, over $40,000, which includes costs for the arrest, trial, court proceedings, incarceration and supervision. Adding in the costs of future victimization and indirect costs takes the total to nearly $120,000 per incident of recidivism (Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, 2015).

Ohio’s recidivism rate is only about 28%, compared to the national average rate of recidivism of almost 50%.  Many believe this dramatic difference is the direct result of Ohio’s commitment to evidence-based programming. As Director Gary Mohr, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), notes, “We know treatment in the community is twice as effective and one-third of the cost as comparable treatment in prison. The relationships with our community partners are critical as we work further to reduce Ohio’s already low recidivism rate.”

A felony is expensive. And not just for the person who committed the crime – it’s expensive to all of us.  Knowing the facts, what would you choose? To pay less for programs that are about twice as effective; or pay far more for a program that is much less effective?  At Alvis, we believe in paying less and getting better results. That’s the impact of turning lives around – by 180 degrees. 

Mariah Haitz, Communications Intern, is the primary author of this blog post.

Rev. Josephus Foster – An Alvis Success Story

February 8, 2017

In 1971, Alvis helped Josephus Foster turn his life around. He has never turned back.

Rev. Josephus Foster - An Alvis Success Story

“You can’t tell how a person is going to turn out just by looking at them. You must be willing to risk something, to give something to help that person grow.”

In 1971, when a young Josephus Foster first came to Alvis, he had just completed a nine-year prison sentence for armed robbery and burglary, served at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus. (The penitentiary operated from 1834 to 1984 and was demolished in 1998.)  Open for less than five years at that point, Alvis consisted of just one house on Bryden Road that only served men. This “halfway house” provided a place to stay and meals as well as guidance from staff that would help each client successfully transition back into the community. Nine months later, Josephus completed the program and left equipped with new skills and behaviors that helped him turn his life around.

At Alvis, we like to call that 180 degree impact. And if you’re wondering what 180 degree impact really looks like, look no farther than Rev. Josephus Foster’s story.

“When I grew up, I got wrapped up and caught up in a life of crime and deviant behavior,” said Rev. Josephus Foster. This lifestyle earned him two prison terms. When he came to Alvis, he was not only ready, but hungry for a change. “At Alvis, I began a new life experience. I went to school, went to groups on employment, self-esteem, budgeting, dress for success – I never missed a group.”

With the help of Alvis, Josephus forged a new path, one full of determination and restored confidence.  He successfully secured a job at TICO (a program for juvenile offenders), working as a youth leader.  He also met Clara and they were married in 1973.  He attended school and started working toward his long term goal of helping others. Eventually, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from The Ohio State University, and a Master’s Degree in Divinity from Mt. Vernon Nazarene College. – earning the title of “Reverend.” Years passed with one impactful accomplishment after another. Rev. Foster and Clara also raised 10 children.

Today, Rev. Foster serves as the Executive Director of the Fountain of Hope, an intercity program which he founded in 1981. The organization offers drug prevention and counseling programs, and seeks to help young people improve their self-esteem.  At Fountain of Hope, “Rev. Joe” (as the kids call him) provides the same kind of life changing services to others that he had received when Alvis helped him to create his own second chance all those years ago.

Rev. Foster also served as member of the Alvis Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2008, and was selected by the Board of Trustees in 2008 to receive the Founders’ Award – Alvis’ highest honor.  Rev. Foster also continues to give back to the community by loyally serving on the Board of Trustees for Mt. Vernon Nazarene College.

Rev. Foster attributes his success to two factors: his desire to change and Alvis, which provided the tools he needed to turn his life around.  Whenever he speaks about his experiences, he always reinforces that every life is worthy of a second chance. And whenever we take a chance and helping a fellow member of our community grow – we also take a chance at creating a true, 180 degree impact.

Gloria Iannucci, Sr. Director, Communications & PR, is the primary author of this blog post.

Who was Ralph Alvis?

January 12, 2017

When re-naming the Franklin County Halfway House, founders used the name of legendary corrections leader

Who was Ralph Alvis?

Although Ralph W. Alvis may not be well-known today, when founders of the new Franklin County Halfway House considered re-naming the agency in 1968, he was the ideal namesake. A well-known and highly-respected community leader, Alvis had been warden of the Ohio Penitentiary from 1948 to 1959.

Alvis didn’t look or act the part of a traditional warden. Just 43 years old when he arrived in Columbus for the job, “Big Red” was a former college and professional football and baseball player. “His wife, Charlotte and two young daughters live in an apartment over the entrance to the pen,” a 1949 Columbus Citizen-Journal article reported.

Another story about Alvis described his “baby pink Cadillac, which looks out of place parked in front of the gray walls on Spring Street.” A few years later, the burley former athlete was driving a yellow convertible.

Despite the fact that in 1955 the penitentiary population was at an all-time high of 5,235 men – the second-largest such institution in the country – “things go smoothly,” a Dispatch article noted. By that time, Alvis was renowned for reforms he had made, earning him admiration from inmates and corrections professionals alike.

“Among the advances in prison administration credited to Alvis and his staff were the abolition of lock-step marching, extension of privileges in smoking, visiting and writing, extended educational, recreational and religious programs, establishment of social and psychological services, establishment of a vocational training program and training programs for employees,” the Dispatch later wrote in his front-page obituary.

Alvis had been the first man selected for the original Ohio State Highway Patrol class in 1933, and spent his entire career in law enforcement. He was a staunch opponent of capital punishment, having witnessed the deaths of 53 men and women in the electric chair.

Although regarded as one of the outstanding prison administrators in the country, he left his post as warden after 11 years. His reason for leaving: “The executions will remain.”

Early in his tenure at the Ohio Penitentiary, Alvis was asked about his approach to his work with inmates. He knew hundreds of them by first name.

“Each man has a problem,” he said. “He’s an individual and he should be treated as such if we’re ever to rehabilitate him and make him useful to society. That’s our one aim here. The better we do it, the better we’re doing our job.”

Alvis died of cancer on August 5, 1967 – the same month the Franklin County Halfway House purchased its first facility. A year later when seeking an appropriate name, the answer was simple: Alvis.

Cathy Blackford, Communications Consultant, is the primary author of this blog post.