At Just the Beginning, there is a sisterhood of the counted out, the cast aside and the hopeful.
The nonprofit for justice-involved women is a tight-knit family, and sometimes it’s the closest thing to a family its clients have. President and CEO Jenice Jones said though funding limits how many people the organization can help, it takes that kind of atmosphere to affect a change in someone’s life.
“Our goal in our heart from the beginning is for women to come onboard who want a lifestyle of rehabilitation,” Jones said. “Not just a one-time moment or event to get through a process, but a lifetime.
“In that, we’ve seen family restored, children restored to their moms, marriages restored ... We have had almost 100 women who have been served directly and over 1,000 served indirectly.”
Just the Beginning is only one of many local nonprofits that needs help serving people in need. As the holiday season approaches, the Tulsa World is bringing readers a list that offers guidance for people looking for specific charitable opportunities in the coming weeks.
Although a Christ-centered organization, Just the Beginning accepts anyone who wants to change their lives for the better. The organization is in the Tulsa County jail every week and also goes to Oklahoma Department of Corrections facilities.
At weekly empowerment classes like one held this past Thursday night, participants gather to the sound of gospel music and for the chance to talk about what’s happened the previous week and what’s to come. Thursday’s question of the week dealt with the “most dominant pitfall thought” from the week before.
Jones focused on the holidays for the meeting, a time with plenty of opportunities for progress on recovery to slip. The class even planned a conference call on Thanksgiving morning for participants to touch base in place of the regular empowerment meeting.
Built around its four pillars of healing, employment, advocacy and learning to give back, Just the Beginning is in many ways not about correction, but rather enlightenment. There’s also an element of discipleship, with graduates frequently returning to the program to help the next participants.
Just the Beginning spends time life mapping, going back through a woman’s life to identify the roots of where problems began. Jones doesn’t evaluate clients by their charge, in part because she said in order for the system to work, the women at Just the Beginning have to recognize what happened before the court system.
“We’re trying to identify where did it all take place to where she became overwhelmed and decided to handle whatever’s going on in her life with a substance, a man, an act,” Jones said. “Was it passed down? Is it generational? We don’t know those things until we ask the questions.
“So in reality, we don’t look at the court case. We look at the individual when we interview.”
Maria Morris’ issues with substance abuse began after the loss of her father to Alzheimer’s disease, and would later return with a vengeance after her 22-month-old daughter, Carabelle, died in a house fire.
There were months of homelessness, living on the streets and finally 10 months in the Tulsa County jail before being adjudicated to Just the Beginning on Aug. 16. Another program passed on Morris, and until she began at Just the Beginning, it appeared she would be written off.
“I just told myself this is a sign,” Morris said. “This is God’s way of saying this is your second chance. ... It’s just been so encouraging, so empowering and so thorough.
“It helps all those deep-seated problems you don’t even know you have. It’s very personal, like a family.”
Good breaks came one after another for Morris, most recently accepting a promotion to become a barista at Legacy Plaza’s new coffee shop. Morris learned more about herself, about having a healthy life and living one without limits.
“It’s just shown me that I can still do anything,” Morris said. “I’m just really grateful; it’s definitely made me more of that. I know it didn’t have to be this way, I didn’t have to be here today.
“I just can’t put it in words. When you get that second chance when everybody else says no and one person says yes, it just breaks chains.”
At the end of the day, Just the Beginning’s mission is turning women considered liabilities into valued assets of the community. It takes time, and some need more help than others, but Jones said there’s nothing better than seeing it happen.
“It’s seeing her get it,” Jones said. “It’s not about the case. It’s about your future transformation.
“When she gets it, the whole world is in for a wonderful experience.”
Here is how you can help Just the Beginning and some other area nonprofits this holiday season:
Just the Beginning Inc.
5330 E. 31st St., Lower Level
Who they are: Christ-centered organization empowering justice-involved women towards self-sufficiency, esteem and wholeness
What they need: winter hats, scarves and gloves; shampoos and conditioners; toothbrushes and toothpaste; body wash, deodorant and lotion; toilet paper; sanitary napkins; socks, and face towels
19 E. Reconciliation Way
Who they are: Nonprofit open-access hot shop and kiln studio offering unique experiences for anyone interested in glass art
What they need: Wall Street Journal newspapers; equipment for free program serving veterans, such as blowpipes, punties, wood paddles, Kevlar mitts, shaping blocks and color frit; painter’s blue tape, paper towels, AA and AAA batteries; Swiffer dusters
Counseling & Recovery Services of Oklahoma
7010 S. Yale Ave.
Who they are: Organization restoring dignity and helping build better lives through behavioral health and substance abuse services to all ages regardless of their ability to pay
What they need: Adopt a child/family through a Holiday Giving Program and provide items from their wish lists; frozen turkeys; toys, books and games for children of all ages; family household essentials such as towels, sheets & toiletries; monetary gifts; grocery cards
Family & Children’s Services
650 S. Peoria Ave.
Who they are: Agency helping families in crisis and serves people struggling with mental illness, addiction and homelessness
What they need: toys, books and games for children of all ages; clothing such as coats, pajamas, hats, underwear, gloves and socks; small household appliances; toiletries; monetary gifts; grocery cards
Tulsa Boys Home
2727 S. 137th West Ave.
Who they are: Nonprofit serving 64 boys, ages 11-18, with serious emotional, behavioral and/or drug problems requiring long-term placement out of the home in a structured, therapeutic environment
What they need: white T-shirts (men’s sizes S-XL); pillows, sheets and comforters (twin size); black belts (men’s sizes 30-42); black ankle socks; hygiene products (shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste)
Owasso Community Resources
109 N. Birch, Owasso
Who they are: Helping organization providing basic-needs emergency assistance to more than 7,000 financially disadvantaged individuals in Owasso, Collinsville and Sperry
What they need: monetary donations; hot and cold cereal, soups, chili, mac and cheese, peanut butter; hygiene items (toothbrushes, tooth paste, deodorant, feminine hygiene products) and diapers. Major wish: Cargo van to transport food for distribution
The Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges
815 S. Utica Ave.
Who they are: Nonprofit providing organized social, cultural and recreational opportunities for people with physical disabilities.
What they need: athletic equipment; basketballs; monetary donations; kitchen utensils; arts and crafts supplies; individually wrapped food items; hygiene items; winter gloves, hats, scarves,socks; retail gift cards
823 S. Detroit Ave.
Who they are: Agency assisting people with disabilities in attaining and maintaining their personal independence through advocacy, education and service
What they need: vacuum, computer, large lift chair (400-pound capacity), small dining table and two chairs
501 W. Archer St.
Who they are: Soup kitchen and food pantry
What they need: paper grocery bags; canned chicken and tuna, peanut butter, pasta and rice for the pantry; granola bars, fruit cups, 100% juice boxes, fruit snacks for the kid’s packs; and financial contributions for the daily community meal
600 Civic Center
Who they are: Agency providing help, resources and legal assistance for victims of domestic violence
What they need: toothpaste and toothbrushes, hair combs and brushes, tissues, shampoo, soap, feminine products, deodorant, lotion, shaving cream, razors, adult diapers, sanitizer, baby wipes and diapers, plastic/disposable gloves, dry and canned food items, cloth or heavy-duty tote bags for emergency supplies/clothing
315 W. College St., Broken Arrow
Who they are: Interfaith organization providing basic-needs emergency assistance to more than 13,000 financially disadvantaged people in the Broken Arrow area.
What they need: box meals, Manwich, canned stew, hot and cold cereal, soups, instant potatoes, chili, mac and cheese, juice (plastic containers), pasta and sauce, toothbrushes (adult and children), toothpaste, deodorant
Birthright of Tulsa
6600 S. Yale Ave., Suite 1307
Who they are: Pregnancy resource center for low-income families. It has operated in Tulsa for more than 45 years.
What they need: diapers, especially the larger sizes 4, 5, 6; diaper wipes; baby clothing up to toddler two size, maternity clothing; blankets for babies; small baby or mother accessories and practical items (not furniture or car seats); sturdy baby books and classic baby toys; lotions, creams and shampoo for baby; diaper bags; gift cards
4120 E. 36th St.
Who they are: Christian-based organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with special needs, their families and their communities.
What they need: computers (contact for specifics), therapy equipment (contact for specifics), Walmart gift cards for hosting guests, Amazon gift cards for office supplies, paper towels
7617 S. Mingo Road
Who they are: Charity providing a loving home and 24/7 care for dying people in need
What they need: individual puddings, individual chips and cracker snacks, Ritz crackers, saltine crackers, laundry soap, soft soap hand soap, Pine-Sol, 13-gallon trash bags, 39-gallon lawn trash bags, adult size hygiene wipes, flavored tea bags and flavored coffee creamers
Emergency Infant Services
1110 S. Denver Ave.
Who they are: Organization providing assistance for families with children under the age of five
What they need: new or used car seats, strollers, books, coats, volunteers, toys for children five and under, baby blankets, monetary donations
Mend Pregnancy Resource Center
6216 S. Lewis Ave., Suite 100
Who they are: Organization providing pregnancy testing, limited ultrasound, pregnancy options information, education and support programs for moms of children 3 and younger
What they need: children’s clothes both girls and boys from newborn to 3T and shoes, nursing shawls, baby carriers (sling style), diaper bags, new nursing supplies, new washcloths and towels, toiletries for babies (baby wash, lotions, and shampoos), digital thermometers, sippy cups, pacifiers, crib sheets, Boppy covers for pillows, lanolin, cribs, new crib mattresses, high chairs, car seats, car seat tents
Ronald McDonald House
6102 S. Hudson Ave.
Who they are: Organization giving help, hope and comfort to families of seriously ill or injured children.
What they need: individual juice, fruit drinks, individual chips, snacks, canned fruit and vegetables, fresh fruit and vegetables, breakfast cereal, frozen entrees, heavy-duty paper plates, paper bowls, trash bags (33- and 39-gallon sizes), storage containers, all-purpose cleaner, detergent, dryer sheets, sponges, cleanup wipes, mattress pads (queen and twin), white sheet sets, pillows, towels, toiletries, hygiene items, gift cards, toys, stuffed animals