Honestly, when I began working with Community Supervision to teach classes it was for the wrong reasons. Desiring a way to reach fractured families and build a local congregation, the opportunity posed by the county seemed like a good entry point. A Life Skills class needed taught effectively and I had access to the materials and expertise in use across the nation in the Department of Justice / Department of Corrections. I fully expected we would teach some lightly attended classes, gain more knowledge of the local community, and get busy back with church work. Boy was I wrong.
Healing fractured families is all I expected it to be and more. Simultaneous to developing and delivering the classes, we involved ourselves in other initiatives. Training for On My Shoulders, PREP Parenting, Within My Reach, PREP singles, and PREP, couples communication was engaged. Each of these took an investment of a full week of training. Certification in DCPI, Dynamic Church Planters International, was accomplished and two groups of urban ministers were trained in effective community engagement. Research in Compassion Power, a strongly successful anger management and batterer’s intervention approach revealed key insights. Finally, certification through the Aha! Process in Getting Ahead, a system of assisting impoverished in building new mindsets was achieved. Really, the last two years were the equivalent of a masters in Making It Happen For Others.
As a business professional and entrepreneur and corporate fix it man, understanding first and fixing later has become a style. It works. Really get under the covers and find the mechanical design and issues before attempting adjustments to timing and operation. Part of our growth curve has also been to understand the world of grants and funding and what works and what to avoid. Part has been to understand the world of those we help. To be a solution provider in cultural shift and community transformation you must “Get up off of your curb and sit down on the curb of another.”
Next, comes the hard part. Getting a good board that is involved and informed will be a primary success factor for changing Cooke County. Leadership means commitment from the local community. We are not there yet. We want a mix of fresh and fixture. Some need to bring new ideas and approaches. Others are needed to understand and intersect with the current status quo of the county. Change is a long tailed enterprise. Transformation takes time.
Then, the most informative action has been the work itself. It would be wrong to call what we do classes. That is a component. That is the foundation. But the work is relationship. It moves from teacher to mentor to friend. We have woven ourselves into the fabric of the community and developed deep and caring relationships with some. That was intentional and surprising. A viable and sustainable initiative must engage in long term relational structure. Sustainability is important to us. The relationship is both with those that come for training and those that have come alongside as community facilitators. A team is forming that provides continuance and opens options for the Transformers.
Transformers is how we refer to students, clients, clientele, attendees, or whatever term suits you. Transformers suits me. They are transformational with their lives, the lives of their families and friends, and with the entire community. They cause ripple impacts at work, at home, at school, and in the community. They are Transformers.
Make no mistake. CTI is not a PMO. We are a PCO. PMO stands for Poverty Maintenance Organization. There is a place for this and it is a good place. Need food? Here is food. Need rent? Here is rent. Need a class? There is the computer. Take it online. There is always a need for charitable giving that goes into what can be a bottomless need. A PCO is a Positive Change Organization. Need food? Let’s go find a job. Need rent? Let’s figure out how to work it off. Need a class? Sit down and let’s live it and learn it together. A PCO works at root cause analysis and resolution and works to rebuild mental constructs, attitudes, beliefs and skill sets. A transition happens from getting a need met to meeting the need myself and helping someone else meet their need also. This is our distinctive value proposition.
In 2013/4, we graduated 57 Transformers in Life Skills (THINK) and 14 Family Builders (parenting) and 8 Mentor/Faciliators. All but a few are still in contact. 16 are in class now. Some of this is overlap. We are in our second generation success. A Life Skills grad comes back for Family Builders. A Life Skills grad engages in community service and begins the process of giving back so others can gain what they have gained. A Life Skills grad repeats the sessions as a facilitator. This is second generation. And then there are some third generation. A Life Skills grad brings their partner to Family Builders and their kids get into events designed for them and a community is built around good positive family relationships. A group is in that process right now.
A Transformer texted me yesterday. She graduated a month ago. Every day she completes what we call a “Thinking Report”. It is a tool to analyze your thoughts, feelings, attitudes and beliefs and engage in cognitive self change. She refuses to relax until she accomplishes her goals. She understands what we think is the driver to all actions.
A Transformer facebooked me this week. When he came a year ago, he was newly out of prison, angry and confident his life was over. Today he is one of the top coaches in helping others overcome addictive patterns right here in Cooke County. He has and is helping countless others. Over and over new people I meet mention his name. THINK is what moved him into a different world. He has a good job and good friends.
A Transformer stopped me in a restaurant this week. He had his family surrounding him. He’s lost weight and settled back into life after some years in prison. He was one I thought would never make it. He fought and resisted in every session. But he made it. He stuck it out. He wanted to be added to any encouragements we send out. So now, he is part of our daily text out.
It is for these we do what we do. Not everyone is a success story. Some don’t make it through the class. We don’t play games. Game players drop out fairly quick or change their mode. But most people are looking for a chance. They make it.
While working in Marietta, Oklahoma, a friend called me. He told me that on the street in Marietta my reputation was that I was a Probation Officer in Texas looking for a place to house criminals. I laughed a long time. I guess we have helped enough people in Cooke County with connections in Love County, Oklahoma that it is affecting that community also. That is a good thing. Changed people change people.
At a community event, several managers from Winstar (the world’s largest casino) came up and shook my hand. They thanked me and told me how important what we do is for them. It is making a difference in their employees and they are grateful. The workplace is improving.
When you support Community Transformation Initiative in Cooke County, Texas this is what you get. Transformed lives, families, workplaces, and community. It just makes sense to do it.
Initiatives in Love and Cleveland Counties in Oklahoma are beginning. The model is working and continuing to develop. It works.