Meet Gage Atkins, Class of 2020

Throughout the years, Alvis has helped the lives of not just individuals, but also families, turn around #180degreeimpact.  

Gage Atkins is an incredible example of breaking the multigenerational cycle of addiction and involvement with the justice system. During his childhood, his father struggled with alcoholism, and his mother and father both struggled with drug addiction. His father passed away when he was younger, and his mother served two sentences in prison. 

As described by Gage, “They were always in and out of my life. My dad wasn’t a big part of my life, and neither was my mom, with her being in and out.” 

Given this, Gage discussed how he would often have to help raise his two younger siblings: 

“When my mom was on drugs real bad, I would have to help take care of my little brother, give him a bath, put him to sleep, feed him, like, help my sister out. And like, I would have to, like, do the dishes, sometimes cook and stuff, so it wasn’t – so, I didn’t really have a childhood.” 

However, Gage does not look back on this time with regret or malice. Instead, he is thankful for the person it led him to become. 

As he said, “It shaped me for who I am today, and I’m grateful for it, because like – if that wasn’t it, I might not be as responsible as I am now, and so… it just shapes me for who I am.” 

Through all this hardship, Gage graduated from high school this year with honors and leadership positions in multiple organizations and also worked towards a license in cosmetology. And not only was Gage able to graduate – his mother was able to be there with him. 

Gage’s Mother, Nikki, has been with Alvis in one of their half house locations for the past 3 months. Nikki says she was determined to make it to Gage’s graduation, and recently, with the help of Alvis, transferred to ankle monitor to be there. 

As Gage said, “I got to walk the stage, my mom got to give me my diploma, which was wonderful.” 

This dedication to be supportive together shows something consistent throughout this family’s story: how strongly they rely upon one another. 

When asked where his strength came from, Gage had a very clear answer: 

“My siblings. Man, like my little brother, my sister, you know, like, I just love the to death. Like, it’s like they’re my kids – and I just want them to have experiences and have things, and you know, get what they want, and have the life that I wanted to have… so if I’m able to do that, then I’m going to.” 

In the same vein, Nikki had just as clear of an answer: 

“Gage reminds me every day how strong I am and how not to, you know, want to go back to that old lifestyle, and he is just there for me, and he is just so strong and so passionate about everything, he is very compassionate in his life, he truly is. I just love him. I couldn’t be more happy – I could not.” 

With each other as their strength, this family continues to grow and heal. With each other’s help, they continue to turn their lives around. 

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.

Alcohol Awareness Month

Today marks the beginning of April! In addition to Easter, Second Chance Month, Volunteer Month, Sexual Assault Prevention Month, Internship Awareness Month, National Month of Counselors and Month of Hope, this month is also known as Alcohol Awareness Month.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 90% of people with addictions to alcohol, or other drugs begin using substances before age 18, and according to youth.gov, American youth aged 12-20 comprise 11% of the country’s monthly alcohol consumption, and approximately 23 million people over 12 years of age used illicit drugs in 2010. In many cases, addiction begins early in life.

Many of Alvis’ clients have co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health disorders. In the past, a number of them have asserted that one of the most important things they’ve learned through treatment is that they simply aren’t alone. Solidarity and understanding are key in facilitating recovery from substance abuse, but what about prevention?

In terms of Alvis, one of the primary ways we aid in substance abuse prevention is by treating our clients as people without stigmatized pasts, because of how early addiction may develop. We believe that a person’s potential is more important than their past, and our vision is of a future when communities believe this, too. We can decrease substance abuse in our communities through continuing reentry programs like Alvis, which shatter the boundaries between those with justice system involvement and the greater community. By reducing stigmas, advocating for support systems, and shifting attitudes surrounding the negative effects of addiction, we can make it easier for individuals suffering from addiction or substance abuse to seek help.

Alvis also takes measures to specifically prevent substance abuse through our Family and Children’s Program. Across different areas of Alvis, the Family and Children’s Program works to reunite families, motivate youth to pursue education and success, and maintain transparency about the harmful, life-altering effects that drugs can do to one’s life.

While most of the time, Alvis is known for its reentry and recovery programs, many of which include individuals with substance abuse disorders, we also advocate for preventing it from developing in the first place by emphasizing the consequences and impact substance abuse can have, as well as working to reduce the stigmas that prevent healthy discussion and openness from taking place.

It is much harder to face addictions or co-occurring behavioral health disorders alone.

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 2020

This February at Alvis, we proudly celebrate Black History Month. Black History Month commemorates the pivotal role that African Americans have played in shaping our U.S. history, and allows us time to acknowledge the stories, struggles, and achievements that past and present members of the Black community have experienced.

The 2020 theme for this year’s Black History Month is “African Americans and the Vote,” honoring the 100-year landmark since the 19th Amendment, which granted women across the U.S. the right to vote, and the 150-year anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which gave African American men the right to vote in 1870.

Black History Month Alvis Blog

We thank our incredible African American staff members, clients, and leaders who represent Alvis and its mission to the fullest. 

Some of the talented individuals who have we have previously spotlighted in written pieces include Harry Cox, Keith Stevens, Terrance Hinton, Camilla Jackson, and our President and CEO, Denise M. Robinson. 

Keith Stevens is an Alvis board member, who began connecting with our organization in 2012 through his company, Proteam Solutions Inc. (PSI), in the late 1990s. Stevens previously served on the board of Community Connection for Ohio Offenders, another nonprofit that became a part of Alvis in 2012. He acknowledges the significance of Black mentorship, which he received during his teenage years working for and witnessing a successful Black family-owned business. Seeing people that could relate to him being successful gave him “nuggets of wisdom and the ability to imagine it for himself.”

He also touches on discrimination, finding that while he has faced his share of struggles and experienced racial discrimination firsthand, he encourages those who do experience adversity to “lean into” it, so they may grow and pursue their passions to the fullest—even if that might mean working twice as hard compared to people who do not experience the same hardships.

Harry Cox, Senior Cognitive Behavioral Specialist at Alvis, has directly mentored and served as a role model to our client population. After experiencing the justice system firsthand, he’s dedicated his life to helping others navigate similar challenges and experiences that he did many years ago. In a recent interview, Cox stresses the importance of client-centered therapy. “It’s not about me,” he continues to repeat. “My whole day consists of allowing a person to be themselves. Allowing them to get rid of some of the pain while they’re in the group room.” Our job at Alvis, according to Cox, is to give clients the tools they need to turn their own lives around.


Cox also acknowledges that his job doesn’t end when he leaves the reentry center for the day. After moving to Gahanna, he realized that he was further removed from the experiences of his clients, most of whom resided on Columbus’ East Side. “When I closed my door at night,” he reflects, “I couldn’t see my environment. I couldn’t see my community.” This led him to sell his house in Gahanna and move back to the East Side. Now, he’s involved with a number of local organizations, and engages with the community from the ground floor. “You ever walk into a place and every day you know that it’s going to be a new beginning? Not for you, but somebody else? That’s what I look forward to, walking in here every day.”

In one of our recent blog posts, we spotlighted Dr. Terrance Hinton, Program Manager of Reentry Services at Alvis, who oversees both EDGE and the H.I.R.E. program. The EDGE (Empower Development by Gaining Employment) Program is a five-month program assisting justice-involved individuals to overcome barriers to employment. It is a partnership between Alvis, the City of Columbus, and the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio (WBDCO).

When it comes to our clients, Hinton holds the same perspective as Cox: “Reentry has always been a part of me, because I value second chances. I believe everyone should be given a second opportunity to become successful and become a productive member of society.” Helping clients unlock their maximum potential is a key motivator for Hinton to get out of bed every day.


Camilla Jackson is a Direct Support Professional (DSP) with Developmental Disability (DD) Services at Alvis. Jackson was recognized in June by the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities, winning two awards that commend her work as a DSP with Alvis: the Horizon Award and the Constellation Award. The Horizon Award celebrates Jackson’s ability to match people’s interest to events, and helping them expand their horizons, while the Constellation Award credits her capacity in providing opportunities for growth and advancement, helping co-workers become the brightest stars. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of Jackson’s job is simply being there for clients and listening to them. “I make sure that the guys are in good health, make sure they’re safe at all times.” She finds, too, that an essential component of the job is “making sure you treat them right,” and making sure “they have a good day.”

Finally, our President and CEO, Denise M. Robinson, has illustrated through her actions that she not only understands the plethora of key problems facing our community, but that it takes unity, empathy, and understanding to enact any sort of fundamental change. At our recent Amethyst graduation, she perfectly summed up what it means to be a true community advocate, telling graduates to keep us nearby “in case you need to shout down the voice of addiction when it tries to tempt you into returning to old habits,” and to know that they would “always have a personal cheering section” as they continue throughout life’s journey. 

As we celebrate this month, we recognize our own African American staff and leaders, many of whom, like the ones spotlighted above, are performing key roles (on and off the clock) in producing widespread, positive impact throughout the state.

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.