Brett Yater was sitting in the Columbia River Correctional Institution thinking about his future. Addiction had separated him from his family and landed him in prison. He was chairing the AA 12-step meetings and regularly attending counseling to work through issues related to his upbringing, as well as the guilt he experienced from walking away from his family.
Six months prior to his release, Brett heard about and Sponsors, Inc. through friends in prison and wrote a letter asking for admission.
“I knew that Sponsors was a place where I could put my two feet on solid ground and receive the services I needed to integrate back into the community,” he said. “The most important end goal for me was to once again be part of my children’s lives.”
During his three months at Sponsors, Brett found employment through the Reentry Resource Center and started school. And then he became active in the Mentorship Program.
“My mentor allowed me to break away from the day-to-day grind and give me a chance to reboot by showing me how people in a positive, healthy relationship relax,” he says. Brett still stays in touch with his mentor – they’ve become great friends and continue to spend time together.
Brett’s experience at Sponsors had such an impact on his life that he was thrilled to be hired as Sponsors Mentorship Program Case Manager, where he is using his own positive experiences to help others develop healthy relationships and lifestyle activities. Each time he creates a successful match with a volunteer mentor and program mentee, he feels ecstatic.
And that’s not all he has to celebrate. Brett is now in contact with his boys, seeing – and fathering – them regularly.
“Every day I wake up and I just feel that all this is amazing,” he says. “To think of where I was a few short years ago compared to where I am today, it’s unbelievable.”
A Leg Up
Melvin Potter was a client at Sponsors in 2014, having spent 3 months in Transitional Housing here, and leaving successfully in July of 2014. He is doing very well in life now, living in permanent housing, working a rigorous 12 step program and working for a company doing a $50 Million contract to paint Apple Inc.’s Prineville facility. He has begun some repair on relationships, and is back in touch with his mother.
Mel started out life with all the advantages of a family and the blessing of being a strong, healthy athlete. By 7th grade, he was a star football player and class president with a 3.76 GPA. He treated his body as a temple and life was good. And then he was introduced to drugs. Things spiraled out of control for him and he ended up in a foster home and doing drug treatment. He had years of struggle, which included the birth of his son and a marriage.
Mel landed in prison and while there, got clean, got his GED, attended recovery groups and took classes on parenting and cognitive behavioral therapy. While incarcerated, he went and spoke to 300 middle and high school-aged kids, giving them a brief history of his life and telling them firmly to never, ever start using drugs.
In May of 2014, Mel arrived at Sponsors. He named nearly every case manager, when asked who was helpful to him, and said that our staff encouraged him to ask himself some questions:
-Who am I?
-What is important to me?
-What do I want in life?
Mel says that people who do not avail themselves of the opportunity to release to Sponsors are missing out on the opportunity to find themselves. He said Sponsors gave him a leg up. He feels very strong in his sobriety and works the steps of AA and NA. We here at Sponsors are happy and proud of Mel’s success and wish him continued progress in all areas of his life.
Meet Ferry Street Quads Manager Jim Minter
Having grown up in Southern California, Jim has been an Oregon resident since 1977. He has lived in several cities, and considers Eugene his beautiful home. Jim was a client several years back, and says “I feel my life has come full circle and I am back where I am supposed to be…helping others and giving back.”
Jim is also attending Lane Community College full-time. His days and hours are completely full, which he really likes. He is studying towards a degree in Human Services and would like to earn a certificate for drug and alcohol counseling. Additionally, he is working towards an Applied Science degree in Construction Technology.
Jim has highest praise for his experience at Sponsors: “I want to tell you what a wonderful program this is here at Sponsors. I feel blessed and grateful for the opportunity to work for Sponsors. Special thanks to Paul Solomon and John Hawley for having the (sic) faith in me to take on this position.”
We welcome you, Jim!
Ty Haworth: “Art is My Passage to Breathe”
Born and raised in Springfield, Tyler “Ty” Haworth has been an artist all of his life. He currently spends close to 20 hours a week on creating art and the medium he most consistently works with is spray paint art. He also does airbrushing, portraits, still life, oil paintings and he has always been into ‘fantasy art’.
Studying drawing and painting in school, he says that he was inspired by encouragement from his grandmother and that one special teacher, Mr. Hass at Briggs Middle School. Ty was talented and Mr. Hass encouraged him to spend lots of time on his artwork; Ty worked on a painting of Model T Fords on a dark and rainy street corner, and got to spend nearly 2 months on just that one painting.
In middle school Ty got into drug use and experienced his first contact with the law. When he looks back, he notes that his addiction stole his drive to do art. He did graduate from Springfield High School but fell deeper into his addiction and his life changed drastically, his criminality peaked. At age 18, he entered prison for the first time. One positive about being incarcerated was that he spent lots of time working on his art. He would paint for hours, by his own admission that being the release from his hell.
One day, while on the inside, Ty was reading his Bible and felt compelled to set his book down and look out the window. What happened next has immensely changed his life for the better: he heard the voice of God say to him “This will be your last time if you only choose to follow me”. Tyler heard that message, took it to heart, and has endeavored to be a better person ever since.
When an unfortunate event landed him in the hospital and proved to be his loneliest time in life, he took that week to lie in bed and think about his life. He asked himself tough questions about where he had been, where he was, and where he saw himself going. He did not like the answers he had to those questions, and so he decided to push to be a better version of himself and to have the faith that God would help him.
Ty has been at Sponsors since his release last Spring. Not only has he gotten a job but he was quickly made a manager there. He realized that all of the time spent creating art while in prison was just as easily spent doing that same thing while out. His addiction was the real prison, he says, and “Art is my key out of my prison, it is what unlocks the door”.
A big part of Ty’s staying clean and sober is his relationship with God and his focus on his art. He gives a lot of the art away, since he just MUST create it. Some he sells, and he has applied to be a vendor at Saturday Market. A typical spray paint piece might be completed in 10 minutes.
God inspires Ty to be better. His girlfriend Brittany, with whom he is expecting a child, inspires him. “I’ve always been a real soft-hearted person”. He cannot wait to be a great dad.
Of Sponsors, Ty said “It is exactly what I needed. I had an easy transition from prison back into the community” with the help of many dedicated Sponsors employees who are a large part of his daily life. Ty said that there are really no words to adequately express his gratitude; Sponsors has provided the family he wanted.
Ty graduated from drug treatment recently. He even received the feedback that in treatment, he led someone else to God—a fact for which he is very proud. He said that he feels great every day when he wakes up. Even normal, mundane things make him smile. A trip into Starbucks for a coffee makes him smile, especially now that he has released himself from the worry that people look at him and think he is a criminal or a drug addict…he just goes in to the café and people basically go about their own business. Maybe they even see him as a ‘real citizen’, and this fills Ty with happiness. He now knows now that he can get past hard things; that if one thing in life goes wrong, that does not mean that everything is wrong.
In his future, Ty wants to go to back to school, pay off debt and help others like him. The restorative power of creating art, a community of support, meaningful work and a commitment to one’s own reemergence into life are the driving forces behind this client’s success. Go Ty!
2013 Mentoring Match of the Year!
June Fothergil and Pam Miller have been matched over a year in the Mentorship Program, and have been consistent, persistent and dependable with not just the program expectations but in their relationship with each other.
Throughout their match they have reached out to one another, gotten together on a regularly basis, and attended and participated in activities that the Mentorship Program provides.
June has supported Pam for the last year by being someone she can reach out to and spend time with. Having to abide by the rules and regulations of the Community Correction Center when they were first matched was a barrier they overcame by taking the time to schedule ways they could see each other.
June and Pam have only positive words to say about each other and their relationship. When asked how she feels about her experience with Pam and the program, June says “I feel honored to be Pam’s mentor. I needed a sense of community and friendship as a new-comer to the area and she has given me that. And because of my relationship with her and with Sponsors, I took the Non-Violent Communication class. That experience enhanced my life and improved my communication skills. I truly enjoy getting together with Pam and hope that she has received benefit from our times together. ”
We at Sponsors are thrilled to hear of matches like this, which enhance the lives of the mentor and mentee as well as others in the program. Congratulations, June and Pam, on completing your year and on finding each other as friends!
NCSHA Features Story About Sponsors Grad Bobby Boyd
This article is reprinted with permission from the National Council of Housing Agencies (NCSHA)
Bobby Boyd, 36, landed at Sponsors’ new Roosevelt Crossing facility after serving time in prison. Sponsors, located in Eugene, Oregon, builds and services housing for prisoners transitioning back into society. It has several sites for men and women in the area. The Oregon development was funded with equity from Low Income Housing Tax Credits issued by Oregon Housing and Community Services.
Bobby has served several prison sentences for crimes related to his meth addiction, but his last time in, Bobby decided to help himself. He enrolled in the Oregon Summit program, which offers a chance for convicts to rehabilitate, get clean, work through their issues, and become accountable.
After successfully completing the program, Bobby was eligible for transitional housing, and moved in to Roosevelt Crossing.
“It’s a really beautiful place–the rooms are great,” says Bobby.
“My first night out of prison, I walked in and there were brand new sheets, blankets, towels and an alarm clock all there on my bed. I thought, ‘Wow, I have a place to live.’”
Last time he was released from prison, Bobby tried to fend for himself. “I went right back to my old ways because I didn’t have this.”
At Sponsors, Bobby says, “I have all the help I could ever ask for and them some. It’s awesome.”
Sponsors workers are willing to work hard with those who make a real attempt at improving their lives, says Bobby. An advocate helped him land a construction job just a minute’s walk away.
“We call it our family dinner and it’s a real homey environment. Some of us never had that before.”
Because Sponsors lets NA meet onsite, Bobby is hoping to start his own crystal meth addiction recovery group meetings, “to give back” as a way of saying thanks for getting the support.
Bobby’s future dreams include returning to school to become a drug and alcohol counselor and to complete his offender treatment so that he can earn visitation rights with his children.
Meanwhile, some of his dreams are coming true now.
“I used to wake up in the morning and not like the person I was. Now when I wake up, I like who I am and genuinely feel good about myself.”
To learn more about Oregon Housing and Community Services, please visit their website.
Pride in Tucker’s Success
“I earned my degree this spring. I graduated (from The University of Oregon) Magna Cum Laude and earned Honors in Cultural Anthropology and Honors with Distinction in English Literature. I was also awarded the Thelma and Stanley Greenfield English Honors Thesis, which came with an award that has helped pay our bills this summer.
All in all, I felt pretty successful. I wanted you and the Sponsors staff to know that I appreciate all of your support.”
Tucker has our ongoing support and well wishes!
Like Any Young Mother
Like any young mother, Jessica beams when she speaks of her son and how she cherishes her relationship with him. Like any young mother, she works hard to provide for Mathew and give him the life she knows he deserves. Like any young mother, Jessica is overflowing with pride in her son and hope for his future.
Her smile fades, though, when she recalls the heartache that accompanied missing his first day of kindergarten. Jessica is painfully aware that she missed a year of her son’s life while she was incarcerated. But she doesn’t dwell on the trials and hardships she has faced – neither the time she served for her crime, nor the trauma she experienced herself as a child.
“My worst day now is better than my best day then,” she says of her incarceration. Jessica expresses sincere gratitude for the profound change in her life, which she largely attributes to her time at Sponsors. “It saved my life. It changed me and I am grateful for that.”
During her incarceration, Jessica participated in a 6 month drug and alcohol treatment program. Upon her release, she entered the Sponsors Women’s Transitional Program. Within a week’s time, Jessica was working full time and had been reunited with her son, Mathew, who lived with her part-time at Sponsors.
When Jessica asked Mathew how he felt about staying at Sponsors, his response was “They are just so nice to us, Mom.” Smiling again, Jessica adds that is where her greatest sense of accomplishment is rooted – in providing a safe and welcoming environment for her son. She adds that she, too, believes that compassion, support, and services she received at Sponsors were instrumental in her reestablishing herself as a parent and a contributing member of society.
Humility and gratitude, she says, have been keys to her recovery from her addiction that ultimately led to her crimes.
Now, nearly 6 months after leaving the program, Jessica remains grounded in her gratitude. She lives in a home she rents with fellow Sponsors graduates, maintains a full time job, and shares custody with Mathew’s father.
Having overcome such adversity, and witnessing her own capacity to change, Jessica is more confident than ever. She has plans to return to college in the near future to complete her degree in Business Management.
Like any young mother, Jessica dreams of a bright future for herself and her son. Her infectious smile widens as she expresses that she has surprised herself with her successes. “It’s all about choice,” she says. “Either you want to continue on the wrong path, or you want to change. I chose to change.”
Pregnant While in Prison–A Mother Finds Success with Help from Sponsors
Giving birth is a profound experience. Expectant mothers are flooded with anticipation, excitement, hopes, and dreams. For months, they anxiously await the day they will meet and hold the baby growing inside of them.
Kara found out she was pregnant while she was housed in the Lane County Jail, waiting to be transferred to a state prison. “It wasn’t something I was expecting. I was surprised and definitely worried about how it would turn out.”
Kara’s pregnancy was typical in that she was tired, achy, and exhausted. She was hungrier than normal and dealing with the same emotional roller coaster than any mother-to-be faces. The difference, of course, is that accommodations for pregnancy are few in prison. “I got an extra pillow, and that was about it,” Kara explains. She recalls the kindness of some of her fellow inmates who shared food with her, so she would have enough – because the prison does not increase food allowances for pregnancy. “I was hungry a lot,” she says.
Surviving a pregnancy during incarceration is challenging. Giving birth as an inmate is even more so. Kara was transported to a hospital to give birth to her baby boy but instead of being surrounded by a partner, friends, or family like many women are, Kara had a guard outside her room. Instead of a few days of rest, recuperation, and bonding with her baby in the hospital, Kara’s stay was short, and she was only able to hold her son briefly before he was taken away.
Her baby was a year old before Kara was released from prison to come to Sponsors. She was comforted by the fact that he was with her mother, rather than in the custody of the state.
“The whole time I was in prison, it was all about him,” she says. “I knew I had to turn things around so I could come out and be there for my son.”
Coming to Sponsors was instrumental in Kara’s efforts to live a clean, sober, and stable life. From her first day in the program, Kara was clear that reuniting with her baby was her top priority. To do this, she needed to stabilize in her recovery, find employment, and secure housing. In about 90 days at Sponsors, Kara indeed achieved these goals.
Sponsors provided her with a fair balance of accountability, resources, and support. She was required to attend drug and alcohol treatment and 12-Step meetings. Like all residents and Sponsors, she abided by a curfew, submitted to drug testing, and remained compliant with the terms of her parole.
Today, Kara maintains her sobriety and stable employment. She provides a safe and comfortable home for the baby she was only allowed to hold briefly on the day of his birth, as well as the 12-year-old son with whom she has also been reunited.
Kara has hopes to attend college in the future but, for now, she is happy with the progress she has made and incredibly grateful for the support Sponsors gave her throughout her journey.
“The First Step in Expanding My Life” – Jackleen and Stacey
Once Stacey decided to become a mentor to Jackleen, she had to start off with one unexpected condition: Jackleen, her mentee, was still in prison. So they started off their relationship by writing to each other, and both women had to be patient until they could meet in person to truly start the mentoring experience.
Soon after Jackleen’s release in fall 2011, the two active young women started by exercising together. Within a few months they were going to roller derby bouts, and last summer they joined the Mentorship program’s Emerald’s Baseball game trip. Just by spending time together, talking on the phone and doing things together they both enjoy, their relationship has had a positive impact on Jackleen as she transitions back to the community.
“This relationship has helped me to realize that I don’t have to limit myself to certain types of people that I can fit in with,” Jackleen wrote to us when we asked her to describe her experience being mentored. “I learned I can be accepted anywhere and among all types of people. This was the first step in expanding my life.”
Their relationship has created opportunities for learning for her mentor as well. “Jackleen has taught me what hard work, dedication, and commitment look like,” Stacey says, “it has impacted how I communicate, how I view the human response to various conditions, and it has renewed my trust in how we can care for one another as a community.”
The Mentorship Program opened the door to a committed and long-term friendship between Jackleen and Stacey even after their “official” match as a mentoring pair ends. And both have found a community they can be a part of at Sponsors. Jackleen continues to do well, is clean and sober, working, and expecting a baby before the end of 2012! She says of Stacey, “I will keep her dear to my heart forever.”
Stacey will start another mentor/mentee match in 2013. “I have volunteered for many local groups in Lane County and not found one that was such a good fit for me.” says Stacey. “I have come to greatly admire the quality, sophistication, and organization of the Sponsors Mentoring Program.”
For information about how you can become a mentor, get in touch with Jen Jackson at 541-505-5663, or visit our Mentorship Program page.