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A FRESH COMMUNITY SENTENCING Inspiring testimonial of hope and restoration



04 TEEM Support

Bank of America continues long-term support of TEEM with latest funding.


Close to 400 community members support TEEM participants as they shine at Annual Community Luncheon!

12 A Fresh Start

Your support of TEEM's Summer Hygiene Drive will speak up for individuals hoping for a second chance. 02 | www.teem.org

Executive Director Kris Steele's Note

Recently at Redemption Church in OKC, TEEM participant Lesa DeVaughn read a poem she wrote entitled “The truth about us.” She introduced the literary work by explaining that her purpose is to identify characteristics common to women incarcerated in Oklahoma. The following is an excerpt from Lesa's poem: “The truth about us is we don’t remember much about being a child, but we remember a lot about being little, defenseless, neglected and abused. The truth about us is we treat others better than we treat ourselves —sometimes to the point of unhealthy behavior— because we are still learning to establish appropriate boundaries. The truth about us is we are very talented, creative and capable but often lack self-confidence and understanding to put our skills to good use. The truth about us is we desire to live successful, productive lives but need love, help and support to reach our potential.”

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I wonder how many in our community might change their perception of individuals impacted by incarceration if they could to get to know the men and women behind Lesa’s words. The truth about us— all of us—is we tend to form misguided perceptions and opinions about people and issues we don’t understand. Prejudice is the act of “prejudging” or judging without really knowing a person, the facts, or complete story. Prejudice can take root in good people and often stems from an unwillingness to seek and find the truth. Prejudice is damaging because it distorts our perspective and limits our ability to consider new solutions to existing problems. TEEM is dedicated to breaking cycles of incarceration and poverty through education, personal development and job readiness training. There is tremendous value in equipping and empowering returning adults to successfully transition to the community and reach their potential in life. I invite you to journey with us by volunteering as a mentor, tutor or job coach to an individual participating in our programs. By doing so, you can share your gifts with a fellow Oklahoman and gain new perspective, inspiration and knowledge from individuals who have overcome adversity many will never experience. After all, the truth about us is we need each other!

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• I S S U E •

Executive Director Kris Steele (left) with Bank of America Senior VP/Market President Tony Shinn

A normal day at TEEM’s offices turned into a huge celebration after a surprise visit from Bank of America. The national banking institution stopped by TEEM to award a $10,000 grant. 04 | www.teem.org

Bank of America Awards TEEM with $10,000 Grant

A normal day at TEEM’s offices turned into a huge celebration after a surprise visit from Bank of America. The national banking institution stopped by TEEM to award a $10,000 grant. Bank of America has been a long-standing supporter of TEEM. They continue to be in the work of TEEM in preparing community members for financial success. TEEM participants are often able to find employment and utilize their skills to earn a paycheck,” Deputy Director Missy Brumley said. “However, during our work with program participants, TEEM Instructors and Case Managers discovered that participants benefit from financial literacy courses promoting how to appropriately manage finances.” “

Through this realization, TEEM’s financial literacy courses were born. Courses include lessons on saving, investing, and managing finances. The success of the program garnered Bank of America’s attention and the community partner saw an opportunity to incorporate more industry standards into TEEM’s curriculum. One of TEEM’s primary goals is to transform participants into self-sufficient community members,” Director of Development Donna Gregory said. “TEEM and Bank of America are excited about offering financial literacy to help participants realize this goal.” “

TEEM Board President James Robertson (eft) with Catholic Charities Director Patrick Raglow, Executive Director Kris Steele, and Chief Financial Officer Liz Young at closing of new office space.


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TEEM is on the move! For the past 29 years, TEEM’s headquarters have been located at 14 NE 13 Street. Since tailoring its services to meet the needs un, TEEM has experienced rapid growth. To continue meeting the needs of participants, TEEM is proud to announce relocation to 1501 North Classen Blvd. 200 individuals are served annually through TEEM’s reentry programming. In October 2015, TEEM acquired Oklahoma County’s Community Sentencing Program. TEEM serves an extended clientele through this diversion program. The growing clientele presented a need for larger space to adequately provide services to fellow Oklahomans.

The move to TEEM’s new location is a monumental moment for our organization and the greater OKC area,” Executive Director Kris Steele said. “With community partners Sunbeam Family Services and Catholic Charities located on the same street, we are excited to belong to a corridor of hope for Oklahoma City.” “

TEEM will begin serving participants at its new location on July 11. TEEM is in the process moving this month. Volunteers interested in helping are encouraged to contact Volunteer Coordinator Haylie Webb at hwebb@teem.org.



THANK YOU! TEEM Volunteer Penny Hampton greets guests at Annual Community Luncheon.

REDEEM TEEM’s Annual Community Luncheon Offers Hope, Redemption to Program Participants

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REDEEM On Tuesday, May 17, 400 community members gathered at TEEM’s Annual Community Luncheon, this year themed “REDEEM.” The event helped raise awareness of the unsustainable incarceration trends occurring in the state and allowed TEEM supporters to assist individuals in the process of rebuilding their lives. This year’s luncheon was emceed by New 9 Anchor Lacie Lowry and featured a keynote message from Supreme Court Justice Douglas A. Combs. TEEM’s luncheon was elevated by the continued support of event sponsors. With the support of key community sponsors, TEEM was able to articulate the obstacles and identify challenges facing many individuals impacted by incarceration while also providing participants an opportunity to shine in their best light.

This year’s luncheon was a dream come true,” Lance Evans, public information officer said. “TEEM’s staff see the daily progress that our participants are making. This event was an effort to showcase the strength, talents, and perseverance of one of Oklahoma’s most ignored and stigmatized groups.” “

One of the highlights of TEEM’s luncheon was the premiere of short docufilm REDEEM, produced by 1577 Productions. This is the third year that the Oklahoma-based production company produced a documentary for TEEM. This year’s documentary features TEEM participants Jillian Robertson and Shawn Wilson and showcases their work with employment partners Buy-For-Less and Kitchen 324. The production is sponsored by First National Bank. For more information on TEEM’s luncheon and to view this year’s documentary, please visit teem.org.


I AM FORTY YEARS OLD AND I SEE A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR MYSELF For more information on Oklahoma County's Community Sentencing Program, please visit okcountycommunitysentencing.org.

Participant Testimonial




Kenneth Dewitt has a story to share with the world. As he walks down the halls of Oklahoma County’s Community Sentencing offices, he stops and offers a hello to ever face that he sees. As he visits with his case manager Sha’vonna Moore, their joy and laughter uplifts the entire office space. Although they’ve developed a great relationship over the past few months, Kenneth still understands he has a long road ahead of him. When asked to participate in a drug test, he happily accepts the request. He’s proud to show Sha’vonna the progress he has made. “I was born in Oklahoma City,” Kenneth says. I lived here off and on until I was 13. I committed a crime at 14 that ended up putting me in prison. I spent 19 years incarcerated.” Kenneth says that his troubles started early on. Family issues and generational cycles of crimes created negative pathways ultimately leading to his incarceration. “I grew up in a family where my dad was a gangster,” he says. “My uncle ended up getting murdered. My dad was shot. That all happened when I was six. I was in a broken and dysfunctional family. My mom ended up raising my sister and me.”

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Unresolved family issues and trauma tormented Kenneth during his formative years. He says that the issues left him angry and ultimately led him towards a life of crime. “I ended with so much anger and hatred that by the time I was fourteen, I [was in jail].” After spending time in custody during his teenage years and twenties, Kenneth knew that he was ill prepared to join society. “I was 34 when I got out. It was scary. It crossed my mind to commit more crimes in prison so I would not get out.” But, Kenneth made the most out of his time while incarcerated. He obtained his GED and didn’t stop there. He kept going until he earned his associates degree, yet these accomplishments couldn’t hinder the personal doubts Kenneth fought to silence his entire life. “Now, I know that fear was fueling my addiction,” he says. “Fear of life, fear of succeeding, and shame for the crime I committed. I had abandonment issues.” However, Kenneth has turned the shame of his past into a bright future. He now dreams of one day becoming a drug counselor. “My life today is so much different. I am happy and excited. I am forty years old and I see a future for myself.”



SPEAK UP TEEM’s Annual Hygiene Drive Offers ‘Fresh Start’ for Reentering Oklahomans What does starting over look like? Imagine spending years away from family, friends, and society. When you’re finally able to reintegrate back into the community, you’re forced to use your limited resources to choose between your next meal, housing, transportation, and hygiene items. Unfortunately, this is the reality of many individuals returning to Oklahoma communities after a period of incarceration. TEEM’s Annual Hygiene Drive, this year themed A Fresh Start, provides hygiene items to Oklahomans in the process of rebuilding lives. This is your chance to become part of the solution. We are taking this year’s drive directly to the people of Oklahoma,” Volunteer Coordinator Haylie Webb said. “In my role as Volunteer Coordinator, I meet so many Oklahomans interested in helping with TEEM’s mission, but time constraints stops many from making a long-term commitment.” “

Hygiene packs are a highly sought-after supportive service because most TEEM participants don’t have the resources to purchase hygiene products, which can make securing employment even more difficult. TEEM’s Annual Hygiene Drive allows businesses, churches, and other organizations to play a role in TEEM’s efforts. Donation boxes are placed in various locations around the city allowing community members to collect hygiene items for TEEM participants throughout the summer months. TEEM collected over 5,000 hygiene products through last year’s drive. 100 percent of items received were provided to participants. Oklahoma communities participated in record numbers during last year’s hygiene drive,” Executive Director Kris Steele. “Over 5,000 hygiene products were collected and more importantly, individuals impacted by incarceration garnered a renewed faith in the community’s involvement to their growth and restoration.” “

More information including a list items to donate can be found on www.teem.org. To request a donation box or for a list of existing drop sites, contact Haylie Webb at hwebb@teem.org or 405-235-5671 x246. For media inquires, please contact Lance Evans at levans@teem.org or 405-235-5671 x237.

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Participant Testimonial





hris Jackson thought his chance at a brighter future was coming in three months on his release day. After advising case managers at TEEM of his job skills and talents, they worked diligently to identify an employer that would put his skills to work. That day came in late May, well before his expected release. After successfully completing his interview, Chris was offered a job on the spot. Instead of staying at his community center dreaming of a second chance, he's able to start living his dream today. Your support makes these success stories possible. Thank you for the life-changing work you make possible in our community!



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