Black History Month Spotlight: Keith Stevens

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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

Human Trafficking Awareness: Things to Know

Dana Jackson, CHAT Clinical Program Manager

In a time where enslaving another person for one’s benefit or profit seems like an outdated practice, it is important for us to be aware that this convention is still alive and prevalent in today’s society. Human trafficking is very much a thing of the present as billions of dollars are being made from the trapping of millions of innocent people around the globe. These traffickers use a variety of fear inducing tactics in order to force those in their possession to provide services against their will; these services can include anything from sex acts to involuntary servitude. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are over 40 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, 75% of which are women and girls. Of this 40 million, 81% of them are trapped in forced labor, with 25% of them being children. In a 2017 analysis, it was found that around 1 out of 7 of runaways who were reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely victims of human trafficking.

Human trafficking isn’t something that takes place oversees or in big cities like New York or Las Vegas. Here in Ohio, we are ranked fourth in the nation for human trafficking cases. This startling statistic means that human trafficking in Ohio is more prevalent than in some of our biggest population centers. Ohio is home to some of the most visible and dramatic human trafficking cases in this century, such as the three women who were held captive for more than a decade in Cleveland. It is estimated that 1078 children are trafficked in Ohio every year.  The most common age of children who are reported as victims of trafficking is just 13.  Children who were sexually or mentally abused in their homes are at a higher risk of becoming trapped in the nightmare of human trafficking, and 91% of female victims experience this type of abuse prior to their abductions. Though we may be familiar with cases like those which occurred in Cleveland or Ashland County over the past decade, for the most part, human trafficking is a hidden crime. Fortunately, in both Ohio and around the globe, there are some amazing resources to help victims of human trafficking reclaim their lives. .

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a great way for victims and survivors to receive around the clock support, and acts as a resource for advocates to continue doing work in the anti-trafficking community. Their website offers a variety of services, and even allows victims or those aware of any type of abuse to report crimes online or by phone. Their website has multiple support options for those all over the United States, and provides specific information on what services are available right here in Ohio.

Here at Alvis, we are so thankful for the opportunity to be able to help some of these victims through our CHAT (Changing Habits, Attitudes and Thoughts) program. CHAT has been giving women the chance to recover with ample support since 2013.  The program combines safe and secure housing with comprehensive treatment for trauma and individual and group counseling.  Program participants can also take part in job skills and certification training programs that build skills, independence and confidence. Dana Jackson, CHAT Clinical Program Manager, told us of many great therapeutic activities that contribute to the positive growth of these women.  They include classes such as jiu-jitsu provided by the Relson Gracie Academy and equine therapy through Reins of Freedom. CHAT also has a variety of partners like Ohio Guidestone, Freedom A La Cart, Mount Carmel CTAP, and Camp Mary Orton that provide other trauma services and professional mentorship opportunities.

The CHAT program is funded by the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board of Franklin County.  Individuals in the CHAT program are referred exclusively by Franklin County Municipal Judge Paul M. Herbert, who holds almost legendary status among individuals and organizations who are working to extinguish human trafficking. Judge Herbert has worked tirelessly to change the stigma surrounding human trafficking in Ohio. He created the state’s only specialty court designed to address the needs of human trafficking victims and help them to begin new, transformed lives. His CATCH Court, formally known as the Changing Actions to Change Habits Court, aims to shift the paradigm between human trafficking and prostitution. This means that rather than seeing women who were convicted of solicitation as a result of sex trafficking as criminals, they should be seen as victims who need the proper support to successfully transition to a life free of substance abuse, mental and physical abuse, and crime.

CATCH Court takes place every Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. During that time, women are in a safe space and can celebrate their wins and work within a supportive community that is dedicated to their success and prosperity. Alvis celebrates this advocacy so close to our home base and we know that with the effort these women put in comes great rewards and success.

Judge Paul M. Herbert and a client celebrating her 1 year of sobriety at CATCH Court

Want to check how much do you know about the CHAT Program? Click it here: https://www.tryinteract.com/share/quiz/5c4934e7909b82001409e9ff

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.

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.

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.