World Population Day. Did you know?

World Population Day was established by the UN in 1990 to spread awareness of population issues and how they impact our environment and deveWorld Population Day was established by the UN in 1990 to spread awareness of population issues and how they impact our environment and development. According to un.org, “Current estimates indicate that roughly 83 million people are being added to the world’s population every year.” That’s a lot of people! And in America, 2.3 million are currently incarcerated, 4.9 million have been formerly incarcerated, 19 million have been convicted of a felony in their lifetimes, 77 million have a criminal record, and a staggering 113 million adult Americans have an immediate family member who has been in prison or jail. That’s more than in any other country. In fact, 1 in 5 people who are incarcerated in the world are incarcerated in the U.S. (Prison Policy Initiative).  In Ohio specifically, it is estimated that one in eleven adults have a felony conviction and one in three adults have a criminal record. Does this just mean there are a lot of “bad” people to look out for? As it turns out…

Drug Offenses

One in five incarcerated people is locked up for a drug offense and 450,000 people are incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses at any given time (Prison Policy Initiative). But what is a drug offense? A drug offense is when an individual violates a law that prohibits the possession, use, distribution, or manufacture of illegal drugs (Prison Fellowship). What counts as an “illegal” drug also depends per state. In Ohio, marijuana, the most common drug, is illegal if not prescribed for medical purposes. Even just the possession of the drug can earn you jail time. In the US, there are over one million drug possession arrests each year. The average prison sentence for people convicted of federal drug offenses is more than 11 years. This is the greatest contributor to the federal prison population. In general, drug penalties at the federal and state levels tend to be disproportionate and overly harsh for the crime, causing good people to be jobless and even homeless after incarceration.

On the other side of that are drug-related offenses. These offenses come from the effect of drugs on individuals either while on the drug or from being motivated by their addiction to the drug. These people are not “bad” people. Many of them suffer from substance abuse disorders and other trauma. At Alvis, we believe the positive alternative to incarceration is to address the issue at the source with rehabilitation and addiction programming. See our Recovery Choices Program and Amethyst Program.

Mental Health

Tied strongly to drug offenses and substance abuse disorders are other mental health disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Multiple national population surveys have found that about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa.” Similar to victims of substance abuse disorder, individuals with mental health conditions of any sort are more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system than to seek medical help. In fact, NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Health, states that two million people with mental illness are booked into jails each year and the vast majority are not violent, don’t get convicted, or are serving time for minor crimes. In jail, it is hard for these individuals to receive the treatment they need, making their condition worse, and keeping them locked up for longer than others without a mental health condition. Then, once out of the criminal justice system, a criminal record makes it hard to get a job, find housing, and still leaves them untreated for their condition. Many times, this causes them to end up re-arrested, creating and endless cycle. Again, these individuals are not “bad” people. They deserve second chances, recovery, and treatment for their conditions. Besides Amethyst and Recovery Choices, Alvis also offers SHINE, CHAT, and Belmar Recovery Housing.

Bail

It is also notable to mention that 74% of people held by jails are not convicted of any crime. Additionally, people in prison or jail are disproportionally poor compared to America as a whole. Why is this? It all starts with bail. Statistically, high policed areas are low-income with people who can not afford to pay bail. To make a point about this, New Orleans professor Chris Surprenant spoke at the Institute for Humane Studies about mass incarceration and pulled up stats from the local Arlington, Virginia jail saying, “You’ve got 344 people incarcerated. 43% of these folks have not been convicted of anything…That there are any people who can get out if they can only put up that, if they only need to put up a thousand bucks, is a problem because these are people who probably don’t present any danger to the community. If you can get out for a thousand dollars, it means we don’t mind having you out in the community,” (The Institute for Humane Studies). As a result of this time spent in jail and the development of a criminal record, individuals who were already in poverty fall farther into debt and stay in poverty from inability to find a job that will hire them.

Second Chance Citizens

Over 600,000 people transition from prisons back into their communities every year and the unemployment rate among incarcerated people is five times higher than the unemployment rate for the rest of the US. Even greater than in the Great Depression (Prison Policy Initiative). Because so many Americans have a criminal record it is critical to provide second chance citizens with jobs. Not only will employment help these individuals gain economic stability after release, but it reduces the likelihood that they will return to the criminal justice system and promotes greater public safety, benefitting everyone in the long run. The alternative, with the rates of arrests continually climbing in the US and Ohio, more repeat offenders and no employees for hire. It’s time to break the stigma. At Alvis, we believe that everyone deserves a second chance and we offer a variety of reentry programs to help turn people’s lives around from past justice involvement including residential reentry services using the Equip Program (our studies show that 93% of those who completed the Alvis Residential Reentry program and were back in the community for at least one year did not return to the criminal justice system) and workforce development training including H.I.R.E. (Help In Reentry Employment education) and EDGE (Empower Development by Gaining Employment). To learn more about our reentry programs click here or here.

Happy World Population Day!

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience. We believe in the power of second chances and coming together as one community to affect change. With our reentry, behavioral health, developmental disabilities, workforce development, family and children services, and the community, we can make a lasting 180 impact. Learn more about Alvis and how you can get involved at www.Alvis180.org.

SummerQuest Kickoff

SummerQuest Kickoff

The SummerQuest kick-off takes place May 31st from 1-3 PM outside of the Amethyst program’s primary location at 455 E. Mound Street. SummerQuest is a day camp for children whose mothers are in treatment at Amethyst, an Alvis Recovery Program. The camp fosters fun, new experiences for kids, while allowing mothers to focus on their treatment. 
Kick off festivities include: DJ, face painting, picnic foods and a popcorn machine, a bounce house, a craft table, kids’ games, and pictures with the camp mascot, Ace. Food will be donated by the Powell location of Jersey Mike’s Subs (thank you Stephen Inskeep)! 

SummerQuest coincides with summer vacation for Columbus City Schools’ students, so the kick-off takes place on their first day of summer vacation. Open to kids aged K-12, the program is funded by the ADAMH Board of Franklin County, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and private donations. 

If you would like to donate to SummerQuest, click on this link: https://alvis180.org/forms/summerquest-donation/

Kids arrive daily to SummerQuest, where they participate in outdoor activities and take trips to exciting, interactive places like COSI and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, as well as going to summer staples, like swimming pools.
 
All children are divided into appropriate age groups, which each have one counselor and one counselor assistant. Amethyst’s other specialty programs for youth take place during other breaks (such as winter break) in the middle of the school year. These programs allow children to receive similar rewarding experiences, while their mothers continue to progress in their recovery. Mothers receive peace of mind, knowing that their kids are in a safe environment. SummerQuest also gives kids the opportunity to make friendships and enjoy the fun of the summer alongside peers who’ve had similar experiences. 

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.

Alvis Volunteer Spotlight: Rosemarie Geahart

As we continue celebrating National Volunteer Month, we did a series of Q&A sessions with Alvis volunteers. Read on..

Why Alvis? 

My introduction to Alvis was through a sewing group I belonged to about 18 years ago.  One of the women in the sewing group was familiar with Alvis and through her we learned that the ladies of Alvis could use hats and scarves so we made 35-40 sets of hats and scarves for several Christmases. Once our group disbanded, I continued to support Alvis via monetary contributions through work.

I retired in January 2016 and once I had settled in to retirement, I began looking for a way to give time as well as money. I was present at the Martha meeting in 2018 when Alvis gave their presentation. I had previously had contact with Paige so I reintroduced myself to her and asked about volunteer opportunities. I filled out the application, was background checked and here I am.

What is the impact you can make? 

Sewing has been a hobby of mine since I was very young and over the years it has given me a sense of accomplishment as I completed projects. I have learned many skills over the years, not only actual sewing techniques but also intangible skills like problem solving, patience, seeing a project through to the end and the self-confidence to succeed at something. My hope is that through the crafting classes, the ladies can develop a sense of accomplishment in the completion of a project that they can then take and apply to bigger projects or other areas of their lives.

Importance of volunteer work for the community? 

We are all in this world together. Sometimes someone needs a helping hand to give him/her the opportunity to succeed.

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

My favorite part of the crafting class is seeing how creative the ladies are. Basically, I just provide the raw materials and some basic instructions. They have created some of the most beautiful necklaces, pins, jewelry bags and hats/scarves. The joy I see in their faces when they have created something beautiful for themselves or a loved one just reinforces that I am in the right place.

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

Working with the ladies of Alvis has been a very rewarding and wonderful learning experience for me. I would recommend volunteering to those who might be interested in sharing their expertise or gifts in helping support someone on their path forward.

Thank you Rosemarie! We appreciate all you do for Alvis and the community as a whole!

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

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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.  Some of the individuals in the CHAT program are referred 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.

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.

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.

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.