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News and Updates from Serving USA

SERVING USA NEWS
APRIL 2020 ISSUE

I couldn’t be more pleased and prouder to introduce you, in this month’s newsletter, to two of our newest partner organizations. Converse Hope Center and Root and Rebound are both beacons of light shining in very dark places.

The resources they bring to bear upon their respective communities and clients are just amazing and life-changing. I remember distinctly the day that I met Katherine Katcher and her team in Oakland, CA during our vetting process for prospective grantees last year. I walked away from our time together with a bounce in my step. I just knew that Root and Rebound was the type of organization that we wanted to be and needed to be partnered with. They fill such a huge gap in the prisoner reentry space and as our article below states, they not only serve offenders and ex-offenders, but are also a tremendous resource to our other Serving USA partners working in the reentry space. 

Speaking of proud, I couldn’t be prouder of all of our partner organizations that continue to provide services to prisoners, ex-prisoners, women in recovery and our military veterans in the midst of these challenging and unprecedented times. They need our support and encouragement now more than ever. 

Saint John's Program for Real Change is pleased to announce the appointment of Julie Hirota as their new CEO. Ms. Hirota comes from UC Davis and has more than 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.

“A ‘safe place’ means something different to everyone,” comments Hirota. “Nothing should stand between women and children having a safe place with trusted support and life-changing services. I look forward to furthering the mission among a talented team, guiding women and their children through Saint John’s life-changing programs.”

Please join us in welcoming Julie to the Saint John's and Serving USA family! 

TUMI Was a Beacon of Hope for Hamid

Hamid  was raised in South Central Los Angeles at the height of the crack epidemic. He describes his earliest memories as “tragic,” “very violent,” and “scary.” His father, Mustafa, was addicted to drugs, and his mother also struggled to take care of him.

Eventually, Hamid went to live with his grandmother, Anna, who first taught him about Christ. Despite her spiritual influence, Hamid became a depressed, rebellious teenager who felt great resentment against his parents. He began to abuse marijuana and alcohol to numb his emotional pain.

Read more to find out how TUMI helped Hamid turn his life around.

Serving USA sponsored an online discussion on ways to keep progressing during the uncertain times of the Covid-19 outbreak last month.

President/CEO of Forgotten Children, Inc., Tera Hilliard hosted the discussion. She has dedicated her life to saving women and children from sex trafficking and exploitation on the streets of Los Angeles.

Tera is an expert leader in her field and well-positioned to speak on ‘Forward with Faith’ as she shares how we can confidently navigate our organizations through present uncertainty. Please take time and watch the recording of this first of many webinars as we get through this pandemic together.

We have updated our list of organizations that have event cancellations due to COVID-19 restrictions in place across the country. For a large number of these organizations, these events were their major source of fundraising for the year. Please keep this in mind, and consider donating if you can.

Here is a list of organizations and the events we know that are canceled as of now:

The Converse Hope Center
 
“If it wasn’t for the team at The Converse Hope Center, my kids and I would still be living in an abusive household or in my car to escape the violence. They saved our lives” – 2019 Survivor

The Converse Hope Center (CHC) came to life in February of 2017, providing free individualized advocacy to community members in need.

The Converse Hope Center serves the entirety of Converse County, Wyoming with a population of 13,000, which often increases due to the boom and bust economy. Their five full-time advocates provide free services to community members suffering from: domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, physical assault, financial crimes, hate crimes, kidnapping and many other crime victimizations.

By providing office hours five days a week, a 24-Hour crisis line, and a pet-friendly shelter,  the advocates at the CHC are always available for their clients.
The Converse Hope Center envisions their community working together to drive out the darkness of violence with the light of hope. As victim service providers, they know all too well the complexity of these crimes that keep so many people in the darkness, never realizing their potential.

This is why their dedicated advocates assist not only with immediate crisis needs such as protective orders, medical help, shelter and the entire process of rebuilding. They facilitate classes such as financial empowerment, career and school planning, parenting and co-parenting. They provide numerous resources and assistance with obtaining those resources, and if they do not have a resource for the challenge their clients are facing, they find one.

In 2019, The Converse Hope Center experienced its highest number of clients; they were honored to serve over 206 individuals in need. Their emergency shelter was rarely without occupants and sometimes they had to house victims in offsite locations.

In 2020, their goal is to purchase a brand new shelter with twice as much room as their current one. More room for families with children and individuals as well. A new shelter that allows victims to heal while safe and secure with a support system and resources to start over. They currently have a pet-friendly shelter and fully intend to continue that service for survivors at the new shelter location. 
The never-ending support we receive from our community members, local officials, volunteers, board members and families, is something that we are grateful for every day. Without that support, we would be at a great loss. With support from organizations like Serving USA, we are able to provide so many extra services including increased outreach and awareness, prevention and hosting healthy relationship events in our community. 

As the Executive Director of the Converse Hope Center, I can honestly say that I have never worked with such a devoted team of women. Their commitment to advocacy is unmatched by anything I have ever seen. The sacrifice each one of the advocates makes for this career is something you do not see every day. It is an honor and a privilege to be part of this unique team.  

–Amy
Root & Rebound 

Many times in life we reach out to another person or organization for support. We lean on each other to make it through the challenges of life. But sometimes we need more than encouraging support. Sometimes we need a skilled champion to take up our cause in a way that we would never be able to do ourselves.

Root & Rebound is an organization of skilled champions. The staff of 27 (including interns) is poised to help individuals who are struggling with the criminal justice system. They have many services aimed at removing obstacles that keep inmates from being able to rejoin society when they’re released.  
Some of Root & Rebound’s services include:
  • Hotline for inmates (incarcerated and released) to answer legal questions, give advice, and connect with resources.
  • Reentry Planning Toolkit to address:
    • Starting over strong
    • Getting official ID and other items upon release
    • Voting rights
    • Creating housing plan
    • Creating an employment plan
    • Continuing education in reentry
    • Adjusting to life under supervision of parole or probation
    • Managing court-ordered fine and fees
    • Record-cleaning
    • Setting up public benefits and health care
    • Family law issues and child reunification
    • Reentry resources for immigrants
  • Field clinics to offer their services in person
Root & Rebound was founded by Katherine Katcher who serves as the organization’s executive director. Some people seem born to do the work they do and Katherine is one such person. She grew up in a Jewish family where she learned lessons of the struggle and hard work necessary to thrive while remaining humble.  Born 40 years after the holocaust, she was taught the importance of “never again.” She saw how people were struggling at the bottom rung of society and reminded herself, “there but for the grace of God go I.”

As she entered adulthood she adopted a point of counsel from the book The Prophet which advised, “Live your way into the answers.” When Katherine entered law school she noticed the poverty and violence that exists within our society and realized that “when all other systems fail people, we’re left with the criminal justice system.” The criminal justice system is society’s system of last resort. Katherine says we have a collective responsibility to ensure that the systems which govern our society serve all its citizens.

As Katherine continued in law school she became convinced that lawyers can help fix the systems since it is our laws that govern the exercise of society’s systems. It is this sensibility that drives the commitment to champion the legal needs of people who have been disempowered by the legal system.
Not only has Katherine grown an organization that fights for inmates, she has also hired several previously-incarcerated individuals who are blossoming in their new roles of advocacy. One such person is Sandra Johnson. Sandra grew up in the Monterey area the oldest daughter of a single mother who had six children. As the oldest girl, Sandra had to assume many of the parental responsibilities. She had to raise her siblings for her mother.

Sandra missed out on a normal teenage life. She reached out for a relationship as a way to be her own person. However, she ended up having three children of her own by age 18. She had a government-subsidized apartment at age 17 and held onto a long-term abusive relationship as a way of coping. Eventually, Sandra broke up with her boyfriend and drifted into a life of partying as a way to make friends. Her cocaine use led to an addiction which forced Sandra to give her children to her mother to raise.

Later, in 1997, Sandra’s oldest son was murdered. She continued a downward spiral using drugs every day to numb her pain. This led to a cycle of arrest, incarceration, release, violating parole and arrest again.

Sandra was released and worked at Delancey Street in San Francisco where she developed habits of hard work, skill development, and ethics. She relapsed in 2003 and spent her last stint in Chowchilla Prison from 2005-07.

She was given the opportunity for an 18-month treatment program on Treasure Island. Sandra says, “All my healing started in prison – somewhere I didn’t want to be.”  Sandra humbly accepted the offer saying, “I’ll do whatever you ask.”
That willingness led to a series of jobs and responsibilities culminating in being offered a position at Root & Rebound. She currently serves as the In-Prison Program Coordinator. Sandra goes into Susanville and Chowchilla prisons where she co-leads a class with attorney Jaime Popper teaching many of the subjects from the Reentry Tool Kit mentioned earlier. Sandra says this is her dream job and adds, “the inmates in our class say Jaime is a rock star, but Sandra, you give us hope.”

Root & Rebound is also available as a partner to Serving USA’s partners. If one of Serving USA’s partners can benefit from the services of Root & Rebound for one of the partner’s clients, they stand ready to assist.

When we are rooted in healthy soil, we can rebound from the many challenges we face in life. Root & Rebound stands steadfast as a beacon for those dealing with incarceration. They are eager to champion the rights of those on the bottom rung.
PARTNER WITH SERVING USA

You can help us continue to provide funding to our deserving partner organizations and increase the reach their work is having on families and communities.

Every donation received will be matched dollar for dollar!

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