World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons Alvis Blog Post

Today, July 30th, is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Human trafficking is the illegal transporting of women, men, and children, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sex. It’s a modern-day form of slavery.

The following paragraph consists of information from the United Nations:

The number of convicted traffickers and reported victims is rising, implying that efforts to combat human trafficking and human trafficking itself are both on the rise. Trafficking occurs worldwide, and 58% of victims are trafficked within their own country. Women and girls account for the majority of sex trafficking victims, and make up 35% of those trafficked for forced labor. In response to these staggering numbers, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and a chief provision of the plan allows for victims to receive assistance through grants to specialized NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Another recently-instated New York Declaration, produced at the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, includes three concrete actions against human trafficking adopted by the countries in the Declaration.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime created this international day as a means to evoke government action, and stress the responsibility governments have in engaging with this world crisis. According to Human Rights First, approximately 24.9 million people are current victims of human trafficking, and 25% are children. The majority of trafficked persons (64%) are exploited for forced labor, and of those 16 million people, the highest percentage work in construction, manufacturing, mining, or hospitality. 4.8 million people (19% of victims) are estimated to be undergoing sexual exploitation, and the rest are exploited by state-imposed labor. Prosecutions regarding human trafficking are also exceedingly low in comparison to the estimated crimes.

Alvis stands with survivors and current victims of human trafficking. A percentage of our clients are survivors of human trafficking, and we house some of them in our CHAT House, which is specifically designated to provide reentry services for women who have been caught in the system of human trafficking. There are also a portion of human trafficking survivors enrolled in our Amethyst program. Many of these women are graduates of the CATCH Court, which is a creation of Judge Paul Herbert that focuses on rehabilitation and reentry services for women trafficking survivors.

CATCH Court, contrary to a regular court session, does not focus on sentencing, but rather, ensuring trauma-informed, rehabilitative care, so that survivors of sex trafficking are able to escape that damaging way of life. In turn, they receive support and resources so that they are empowered to take life back into their own hands. Alvis commends the CATCH Court for being an effective form of governmental intervention against human trafficking.

We call for increased government action against human trafficking nationwide and worldwide, while also standing with victims and survivors.

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.

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.

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.