One of our summer interns, Kate Capitano, wrote the following:
An official goodbye to one of the most special places in my life: the days were never easy and the love was tough but for that exact reason I can say this summer I finally felt what it means to make the conscious decision to give unconditional love. I’ve realized that compassion becomes so much easier when the human in us recognizes the human in someone else. This summer, I’ve learned how to brew a pot of coffee, why raspberries are hollow, and that you can fit way more Mountain Dews in a locker than you would think. I’ve also learned that to give love costs nothing and it doesn’t run out no matter how many people you let in. Thank you for teaching me that to find your place in the world, look for where the world’s hurt meets your passion and go from there.
“I can’t even explain it in words!” Iris exclaims as she starts her release interview with me. “Everything I’ve been hustling for my whole adult life has come to be in the last 6 months”. It is August 8th, 2018, and Iris Thomas who will be 69 years young next week, is leaving prison by way of CCT’s Center for Women. She’s been in and out of prison since she was 23 years old; this last time since 2011. She says this time is different, this time she will not be going back. “I came in with a different mindset. I said to myself ‘I’m definitely not coming out the same way I go in’. I just purged myself of all of that.”
In 2011 as she awaited her sentencing hearing, Iris says she thought about running. Now in her 60s, she didn’t know if she could survive prison again. But she says her son encouraged her to go in, do her time, and come back out clean; so she showed up in court and went back behind bars.
Iris’ revolving door in and out of the prison system began with a charge she picked up while in a domestic violence situation. Addiction fueled her poor decisions from then on, and all told she served 5 different prison sentences over the years. This time, Iris was transferred to CCT’s Center for Women for the last part of her sentence, and she says that her time here, along with a different mindset, has made all the difference.
When she first arrived at CCT, Iris completed our LifeWorks! Program, a job readiness and life skills program we offer free of charge to anyone with a criminal record. “LifeWorks! Was very much needed and helped me get through it. I was very nervous to be job searching in my 60s but I did it”. Iris found a job as a housekeeper. “It required some humbling at first. I have a bachelor’s degree in sociology, but I needed to do it”. Iris quickly became extremely valued at work; so valued that when she announced she’d be moving away from the Charlotte area after her release, her work happily gave her a transfer to her new location, threw her a going away party, and named their kitchen after her.
Iris says that a big part of her success this time around was learning new coping skills. Not only did she learn from the staff at the Center for Women and LifeWorks!, but she also participated in CCT’s substance abuse and trauma program, Seeking Safety, funded by the ABC Board of Mecklenburg County. Iris says she’s experienced a lot of trauma, and being in Seeking Safety gave her a space to process it. “Seeking Safety helped me open up and talk about it, which let me… I like the word purge… let me purge and cleanse myself and get through it. I always stayed after group to talk to Cathy… I especially needed more coping skills for conflict management, and she really helped me with that too”.
Today as Iris is waiting for her family to come pick her up from our facility, she’s beaming with joy. She repeatedly gives glory and honor to God, quoting scripture, making it apparent she’s a woman of strong faith. “Yes,” she says, “By the grace of God I came to this program and I am going home.” She tells me she’s going home to a rental property, family, her own car, and with some modest savings along with her job. “What does the future hold for you?” I ask, and she tells me she wants to eventually start her own catering business. “Why are you choosing to share your story publicly?” I ask, curious, and she says simply, “I want people to look at me and see this program works.” She then goes on to tell me that she hopes to come back to visit CCT around the holidays and cook a meal for the women who are still incarcerated here. “If there’s one thing I want the ladies to know it’s don’t feel hopeless. I hope they keep an open mind. Keep your ears open, and be willing to submit and take people’s advice. It took me a long time to learn to do that!”
Each year, CCT compiles an Annual Report to provide an overview of our finances and accomplishments to our stakeholders. In Fiscal Year 2017, CCT released more detailed individual program reports. You can read them below.
Mark your calendars! Spring Fling is May 10. FREE, but please RSVP: Communications@centerforcommunitytransitions.org. See other upcoming events on our Events Calendar.
CCT Client Makes National Honor Society
When Evelyn completed The Center for Community Transitions last year, she thought she could easily live on her own.
It wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be, but CCT gave Evelyn the tools she needed to keep moving forward. Instead of trying to navigate roadblocks alone, Evelyn tapped her network of faith, family and friends. They kept her on track. This spring, Evelyn was inducted into the National Honor Society at Central Piedmont Community College. It’s a milestone in her journey.
“The hardwork pays off,” said Evelyn, 46. “Everybody needs someone to help them. Reaching out, utilizing your resources, it makes it easier.”
Evelyn plans to graduate from CPCC in Spring 2019. It’s the first step in her goal of pursuing a career working with women coming out of prison.
It’s a story she knows well. She was accepted into CCT in August 2015. She took advantage of CCT’s opportunities such as returning to college, attending church and seeking counseling. She worked through childhood issues that plagued her into adulthood. Evelyn makes it look easy, but it’s not. She’s a mother of four, including two minor-aged children, works two full-time jobs all while attending college.
To stay balanced she is committed to monthly check-ins with CCT staff members and she also works with Changed Choices. She tells her professors about her past, her challenges and her determination.
“When you’re honest,” she says, “people are willing to actually go the extra mile to help you accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish.”
VolunBEERing at NoDa Brewing
Dozens of volunteers stopped by CCT’s table at NoDa Brewing on Saturday, April 21st for a special National Volunteer Week event. CCT was one of several local non-profits to participate in VolunBEERing sponsored by Share Charlotte. Staffers Erik Ortega and Jesse Schwab guided volunteers to create graduation packets for our CCT clients as a “table-top” volunteer activity.
Celebrating Our First Ever “Friend-Raiser”
CCT’s Friend-Raiser drew nearly 100 people and helped Center for Community Transitions raise nearly $2,000. Our staff, donors and board members had a wonderful opportunity to share the CCT story with members of the community. Thanks to everyone who attended.
At CCT we rely on generous donors like you to provide the resources we need. Thank you to everyone who donated in the month of March.
Audra Mitchell Atkinson
Betty G. Harkey
Hope L. Marshall
John A Tate III
Myra M. Clark
Priscilla G. Laula
Covenant Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church
St. Luke’s Catholic Church
Sugar Creek Charter School
United Way of Central Carolinas
For a full list of volunteer opportunities visit our Volunteer Page.
Mock Interviews: Every Other Monday@ 10:45 AM & Thursday 10:45 AM (Schedule may vary with holidays) – Assist staff with conducting mock job interviews with clients participating in our employment readiness classes. Questions and evaluation tool will be provided and individual feedback from the experience is welcomed.
The purpose of this friend-raiser is to garner community support and raise awareness about the needs of people reentering the Charlotte community from jail or prison, and the needs of Charlotte children experiencing parental incarceration.
This evening will feature a special guest performance by Playing For Others teens of their spoken word piece, “Build People, Not Prisons” and the premier of CCT’s newest video, developed by Basic Cable. You’ll also enjoy live music, appetizers from Ink N Ivy, beer and wine.
CCT is one of ten nonprofits being honored by the Playing for Others (PFO) class of ’17-18 this year. PFO is an organization in Charlotte that provides a space for teens to explore and answer the questions, “Who Am I?” and “How will I give of that?” through programming in Personal Development, Service, and the Arts. Each year they choose ten local nonprofits for their teen artists to honor through spoken-word, video, music, dance, and more. In the fall, the teens performed their spoken word pieces, and the piece done for CCT, “Build People, Not Prisons”, brought the house down! On March 2nd, PFO will hold a huge culminating event called HeART Beat at McGlohan Theater.
Today we met with PFO and the other nonprofit honorees to learn more about the event, and find out what sort of piece the teens will be doing in our honor. We were excited to learn that CCT will be honored with some type of MUSICAL piece!!! We hope you will join us on March 2nd for this truly exciting event. Some of our staff attended last year and the performances were professional level productions and extremely touching.
We’re also excited that some of the PFO teens will be making a special appearance at our first ever “Build People, Not Prisons Friend-Raiser” on March 22nd, where they will do an encore performance of their spoken-word piece from the fall. We hope to see you all there as well!