TULSA, Okla. – Eight Family & Children’s Services Women in Recovery participants moved in to two apartments this week thanks to the generosity of a Tulsa-area business and its leadership.
Zeeco Inc., a Broken Arrow industrial products manufacturer, sponsored two Mental Health Association in Tulsa apartments in the Brighton Park complex near Interstate 44 and Darlington Avenue, paying for repairs and paint. Darton Zink, company president and CEO, and his wife, Jamie Zink, also donated money to help pay for furnishings and other needed homemaking items. They, other Zeeco and F&CS WIR officials, and the new residents celebrated Wednesday with homemade desserts in one of the apartment’s living rooms – and had a frank conversation about what life was like before WIR.
Mimi Tarrasch, WIR’s executive senior program director, thanked the Zinks and Zeeco for their donations and employment of the program’s graduates.
“Moving into a simple, two-bedroom apartment is a huge deal when you consider where the majority of these women were living before being admitted to the program,” Tarrasch said. “You don’t want just an apartment. You want to create an environment that is safe and comfortable with all the essentials.”
Women in Recovery is an intensive outpatient alternative to incarceration for those facing long prison sentences because of non-violent, drug-related offenses. WIR organizers work with the criminal justice system and others to give its women the supervision they need, along with substance abuse counseling, mental health treatment, education, workforce training and family reunification to ensure they break the cycle of re-offending.
On Wednesday, The WIR participants discussed what the apartments and the program mean to them on their road to recovery.
Jennifer Darnell described her struggle with drug addiction and an abusive relationship that had her facing a lengthy prison sentence and worse, respectively, were it not for WIR. The apartment, phase two in her and her roommates’ recovery, is a milestone.
“It feels like I’m getting my independence back,” Darnell said.
Also present were Tad Bohlen, Zeeco’s manufacturing director; Don Parker, Zeeco’s health, safety and environmental manager; WIR personnel, Katie Culver, case manager, and Dianne Hughes, program director.
Brittany Richey told the group addiction took everything from her, including her career as an accountant and her daughter, of whom she lost parental rights. But, as they ate cake, and sunlight poured in from a balcony’s sliding glass door, she said she welcomed the chance to stay in a safe place where she could trust those around her and continue her road to recovery.
Carlea Sisemore, another one of the apartment’s residents, told the group she was sleeping on the floor of her house before she entered WIR. She had sold her furniture to pay for her drug habit.
Now, simply having dishes and furniture means the world to Sisemore. While the WIR program is hard, she said it makes her make tough decisions and understand her past, while also giving her the tools to recover.
After being disowned by her family, just having people who believe in her has been a godsend.
“Sometimes, that’s all it takes for us is to know that we have someone to believe in us so we don’t quit believing in ourselves, and we don’t give up,” Sisemore said.
Her apartment mate Melissa Warledo agreed and told of a similar struggle with addiction.
“I was living where you wouldn’t even imagine renting or sleeping,” Warledo said.
Before Warledo entered WIR, a drug habit eventually cost her her job at a fast food restaurant. That led to shoplifting items to feed her addiction before police arrested her. As the Zinks and others listened, she described living out of a trash bag and sleeping on a bedbug-infested bed.
“To me, this is like a palace compared to where I came from,” said Warledo, her voice breaking with emotion as she continued. “Where I’m at now, I can actually put my stuff out and call it home. And I don’t have to live out of a trash bag. I’m very, very, very grateful for this program.”
The Zinks and Tad Bohlen, who attended with his wife, Carla Bohlen, spent the afternoon listening in as the women told their stories, something considered part of the WIR program. Advocacy is a way the women give back to the community and their loved ones, Tarrasch said.
Tarrasch used the celebration to touch on the need for more employers to participate in WIR. It wouldn’t be effective, she said, without employers like Zeeco willing to hire its graduates. She also thanked Carla Bohlen for her contributions to the partnership. In addition to helping prepare for the move-in, Carla has been a mentor to many WIR students.
Darton Zink told the group he got involved after he heard about the program from other employers. After he and Bohlen gathered more information on it, they became excited to help out. Today, they believe in its efforts, goals and results in a state that leads the country in incarceration rates of women.
“We have a great respect for what you’ve accomplished, what you do, the long-term impact it has on the lives of the people who come through the program, and what it does for the community,” Zink said. “You will not find a more passionate group of cheerleaders than all of us.”
The George Kaiser Family Foundation funds Family & Children’s Services Women in Recovery program. For more information on WIR and F&CS, go to www.fcsok.org.
About Family & Children’s Services
For 90 years, Family & Children’s Services has been the place to turn for help with problems that seem overwhelming and too difficult to handle alone. The agency restores children’s well-being, heals victims of abuse, strengthens individuals and families, and provides hope and recovery for adults suffering from mental illness and addictions. Today, its life-changing services help one in six Tulsans.
Family & Children’s Services is a partner agency of the Tulsa Area United Way. F&CS is also a member of the following national organizations: Mental Health Corporations of America and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. F&CS is certified with distinction as a community mental health center by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. F&CS is also certified with distinction as a Community Mental Health Center by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Additionally, F&CS is certified by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services as an Outpatient Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program and certified with distinction as a Gambling Treatment Program.
Social and traditional media producer
Family & Children’s Services