Author Archives: Roxanne DeCarlo

ashley ward headshot

Meet Ashley Ward

Ashley Ward’s an Empowerment Center (TEC) graduate from 2016 – and has also been a Peer Support at TEC since 2019. She works with clients 1:1, guiding them through their addiction treatment. This can mean anything from walking them through the stages of their personal programs to helping with doctors’ appointments to simply being available to chat.

As The Empowerment Center has grown to incorporate onsite psychiatric care, Ashley’s role now includes acting as a liaison between our clients and doctor. Ward keeps track of who needs appointments scheduled, ensures everyone arrives on time, takes vitals, monitors medications, and handles communication with insurance companies and pharmacies.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is using medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to help patients sustain recovery. Many of our clients use MAT, as well as treatment for co-occurring disorders, to support their sobriety – making Ashley’s role a key part of what we do.

ashley ward headshot

What Brought Ashley to TEC?

When we asked Ashley what she liked most about working here, she immediately jumped into sharing her personal story. “The first thing about The Empowerment Center is that it helped get me through my addiction and onto the right path in life. It’s kind of like a family here. We talk about sisterhood and community with our clients because we want them to support each other.” She enjoys working with clients and hearing their stories – and is excited about the TEC2 expansion and being a part of our growth.

When Ashley came to TEC in 2016, she was on a relapse. Ashley was born in Big Pine, California, a tiny town in the Eastern Sierra. When she was 1, her mom moved to Carson City. For much of her youth, she split her time between mom’s house in Carson City and her dad’s in Bishop, another town in the Eastern Sierra.

She started using meth at 15. “Looking at it today, I feel like it was an acceptance thing. Wanting to be liked by the group of friends I was hanging out with,” Ward notes. She only occasionally used coke and never really drank, feeling that it “just wasn’t really my thing.”

Ashley has a son and two daughters. She got clean for the first time 2-3 months before she became pregnant with her first, her son, but started using again when he was 6 months old. She stopped using again when she became pregnant a second time, going through treatment at the Reno Sparks Gospel Mission and Step2. While she occasionally used other substances, she stayed away from meth for 9 years.

Ward moved to Sacramento and was using again. She felt like her life was a mess. Having left her daughters with her mom in Carson City, she missed them. Eventually, one of her friends saw she was ready for help and needed a change – and brought her home to Reno.

ashley ward and her dog

In Recovery at The Empowerment Center

Ashley Ward has known TEC’s Program Director Steve Maxwell for years. He’s married to Ashley’s best friend’s mom. (her best friend passed away in 2013) Ashley also lost her brother to suicide (in 2008), and her mom saw Steve at a Walk in Memory, Walk for Hope suicide prevention and remembrance walk. Her mom asked Steve to help Ashley get her life back on track.

This was on a Saturday. By Tuesday, TEC had a bed available for her. The Empowerment Center was different back then, still co-ed and with fewer therapeutic resources. It felt like more of a transitional living space to Ashley, who took advantage of AA/NA meetings onsite and offsite while quickly applying for jobs and getting back to work.

This time, things were different. “I did what was suggested to me, meaning I actually got a sponsor and went to meetings. I was older and had a different outlook on life.” She worked at a gas station market and saved up for her own apartment. When she moved out, she once again could have her daughters living with her, while her son continued to stay with his dad.

selfie of ashley ward and her 3 kids

Ashley’s Life Today

Today, Ashley’s son is 19 and her daughters are 16 and 10. She enjoys spending her summers camping, hiking, and fishing. She BBQs with her mom, takes her kids on a June Lake camping trip every year, and takes them to visit her dad, who now lives in the Mojave Desert

She also bowls. A lot. Her 16-year-old daughter lost 90% of her vision when she was 12. Yet, two years ago she decided to learn to bowl. While she has to be told where to stand and can’t see the pins, her form is great and she scored 227 in a recent tournament. It takes a lot of practice – and the national news has taken notice.

ashley ward with two horses in the background at empowerment center equine therapy

Ashley’s Advice

Ashley’s been sober for almost 8 years and her clean date is August 17th, 2016. How would she advise someone newly sober, or considering treatment? Ashley shares, “when we’re first considering getting clean and sober, we wonder in our heads, ‘is it worth it?’ Are we worth it? I say yes. Everyone’s life is worth living. I don’t think we really intend to do drugs and alcohol for the rest of our lives. Sober is a better life, with better opportunities.”

 

krystal and her son laying in the grass in the empowerment center's backyard

How Krystal Paetz is Celebrating Life & Being a Mom in Recovery

“After I graduated the program, I worried I wasn’t going to be able to laugh and be who I was before. That I had lost me in all of this. And I get to see now that I’m absolutely still as bright and colorful and wild and crazy as I ever was. It’s just now I get to do it in a responsible way that’s not going to jeopardize everything that I work so hard for. And I get to do it with friends who are on the same page,” explains Krystal Paetz, an Empowerment Center graduate 6 years into her sobriety.

As a mother to her 10-year-old son, Krystal enjoys “finding the messiest way possible to have a good time.” For Easter, she got her friends and their kids together for a paint egg fight. They emptied out eggshells, filled them with colorful paint, went out to a field, and threw them at each other – getting photos and videos of everything. When we spoke to her, she raved about Reno’s Festival of Colors, a local take on an Indian holiday where revelers throw paint powder at one another. She loves camping, fishing, dirt biking, and off-roading. New for this summer, Krystal bought her son his first mini-dirt bike. She’s starting to take him to local outdoor music festivals.

Overall, her life is looking pretty great.

krystal and her son laying in the grass in the empowerment center's backyard

How Krystal’s Story Began

Krystal grew up in Carson City and Reno and has lived most of her life in Northern Nevada. She says she “has a life I never thought I’d have. Because I never wanted it. I started doing drugs from when I was really, really young. And I was OK with that. And selling drugs. I was OK with that for my life. I didn’t want kids. I was OK with working and partying and just doing me.” She says that her drug of choice was “all” (but she never got into opiates) and what she did every day was meth.

She recognizes that while a lot of women can stop using when they have kids, that wasn’t her experience. She tried to stop a few times, but it didn’t stick. She went through a drug court in Carson City, but afterwards went right back to the lifestyle she wanted. It wasn’t until she went to prison that she knew she needed a change. Paetz explains, “Prison saved my life and gave me the chance to sit down and think about the things that mattered most to me.”

Two years ago, Krystal came to The Empowerment Center (TEC) from prison through the 184 Program, which allows for early release. She had received two consecutive 3-10 year sentences and already served 4.5 years. This program allowed her to finish what would be 6 years served while working on her recovery and beginning to build her new life.

krystal headshot

Recovery at The Empowerment Center

The combination of the 184 Program and her stay at The Empowerment Center were exactly what Krystal needed. They gave her the support system she needed to gradually reintegrate into society, providing a network of people she could lean on for advice.

Krystal came to TEC when it was a 4-month program with a 30-day blackout. She felt the blackout was one of the most important features for her. “This is one month to show you how to live,” she explains. These 30 days allowed her time to focus on herself and her recovery. Not just learning about addiction (she’d already heard it!) but being guided to dig into herself: identifying her personal triggers and reg flags, processing past losses, and preparing to deal with life, emotions, and friendships differently. She says she benefitted from 1:1 counseling and support, not being pushed to find a job right away, and taking the time to learn and adopt healthy routines.

At the end of her 30 days, Paetz shares, “I felt ready to go to work, ready to start my new life.”

Her remaining time living at TEC continued to be a gradual transition for Krystal. TEC supported her first in finding work, then a 2-bedroom apartment. She talked to our Workforce Development team about her goal: to earn enough for her son to have his own bedroom. She found a job, and then a better one – first working at an eco-friendly foam manufacturer and then working in quality control at a company that produces materials to be made into dialysis tubing and other medical supplies.

On working while living at TEC: “It was coming home to a sisterhood of people that were happy you were there, that were happy you were doing the right thing. And if you had a bad day, or you were in a bad mood, it was alright. It was OK to not be OK. At TEC, I found my best friend, my family, and my foundation. To this day, it’s still my foundation. If you truly want to change and get help, this is probably the best place to do it.”

Staying Connected

Until recently, Paetz ran The Empowerment Center’s Saturday night AA/NA meeting. She reflects, “Coming back here keeps me humble, because it keeps fresh in my mind what I went through.” She remembers how intimidating it was to hear recovery statistics in her early days at TEC and feels it’s important to continue to come to meetings to show her newly sober peers what success can look like. In coming to meetings, she’s modeling what their lives could be if they work their programs, take advantage of available resources, and stay committed to sobriety.

While she’s stepping away from running Saturday morning meetings to spend more time with her son, Krystal looks forward to finding new ways to stay connected to TEC. She also continues to talk to her Peer Support from TEC regularly and spend time with her best friend and others in her TEC community.

krystal and her mom in the empowerment center parking lot

Krystal’s Family

Krystal’s family is one of the most important pieces of her life. They’ve supported her and stayed with her through everything. While she was away, her son lived with his father, and later with Krystal’s mom.

Krystal says her son “Is the strongest person I’ve ever met in my life. He’s been through a lot and he never gave up on me, never quit wanting me home.” Her mom brought him to visit to her in prison as often as she could. And she brought him to visit Krystal at TEC every weekend. Krystal describes her mom as her rock and her cheerleader, recognizing that she wouldn’t be as strong as she is today without her.

Krystal’s dad was also an important influence on her life. He passed away while she was in prison. In one of their last conversations, Krystal remembers him telling her how proud he was of her. She asked, “How could you be proud of your only daughter sitting in prison, away from her son?” He said he was proud of the woman she’s worked to become since this all happened, and the woman he knew she would continue to be when she got out.

Here at The Empowerment Center, we’re so proud of Krystal – and know her dad would be too.

3 children at movie night at the marvel way sober living apartments

Celebrating & Supporting Moms in Recovery

Happy Mother’s Day, from The Empowerment Center!

As a women-focused treatment center, The Empowerment Center is all about appreciating our current (and future) moms. For so many women, their recoveries and families are closely tied. Most moms choose to get treatment in part because of their children, when they see how addiction is affecting their families. Wanting to be the best parents they can be is one of the biggest motivators to stay clean and sober.

Yet, being a mother with substance use disorder can carry an extra layer of challenges. Many of our clients have had to spend time away from their kids in order to seek treatment, or while dealing with the legal system. Finding a safe place to live together as a family while continuing to work on their personal growth can feel like lot a lot to juggle.

At The Empowerment Center and Marvel Way, we aim to offer just that. From parenting classes to back-to-school clothes to community building events, we support our families throughout the year. Here’s what that looks like:

an empowerment center graduate and mom in recovery with her 3 kids

Moms at The Empowerment Center

“Recovery helps us become better moms by teaching us a new way to live,” says Ashley, a TEC graduate and Peer Support staff.

When women participate in our 5-month treatment program, they’re living onsite. However, that doesn’t mean being away from their kids. Clients can begin visiting with their children right away, and there’s plenty of time available. Starting in their second month, offsite visits are also allowed.

Unfortunately, for some women this isn’t possible just yet. Especially for women whose struggles with substances have resulted in legal challenges, they may have already spent months, or years, living apart from their children. To support these mothers and reunify their families, we keep their lifestyle goals in mind – guiding them in the search for work and housing with space for everyone.

We also partner with The Children’s Cabinet to provide parenting classes. In situations where CPS has been involved, extra work is needed to bring families back together. This often includes required parenting classes. So, as a part of our first 60 days in treatment, we’re offering weekly classes on site. We also offer parenting classes at Marvel Way. Classes cover subjects like impulse control, discipline, and more – giving our clients tools to help them improve their parenting.

Marvel Way Moms

Says one Marvel Way resident, “Marvel Way is a place that allows me to prioritize my goals: recovery, raising healthy kids, and getting through school. I feel so supported because I can afford this.”

Marvel Way is currently home to 5 single moms and 1 single dad. Each of these families have 2-3 kids. For these families, access to affordable housing in a safe and quiet neighborhood is the most important thing we can offer. Of course, we’re always looking for new ways to support them. We’re also finding there’s a lot of overlap between the services we provide for children and adults.

In addition to offering parenting classes, we’re helping parents connect with other resources that will help them thrive, including clothing donations, back-to-school supplies, holiday gifts, and therapy. We’re assisting them in navigating healthcare and childcare services, in some cases working with them to find providers that fit their needs.

Building Community

Building community plays a huge role in everything we do at Marvel Way. We host gatherings for every holiday – and gatherings just because. We share Easter Baskets in the spring, Trick-or-Treat on Halloween, feast on Thanksgiving, and invite Santa and his favorite elf to join us in telling stories and singing songs on Christmas. Between these holidays, we’ve hosted BBQs, movie nights, and other events…and look forward to doing more in the years to come.

We’re also working on improving our outdoor spaces for kids. Once we’ve finished construction on Marvel Way Phase II, we’ll be setting up a more permanent outdoor gathering area. We’ll be including a playground next to a BBQ area, dog park, community garden, and other amenities. At Marvel Way, our goal is to build a supportive sober community where both kids and adults can connect with one another.

At TEC, we celebrate and support our Empowerment Center and Marvel Way moms for the work they’ve done for themselves and their children – not just on Mother’s Day, but every day.

Steve Maxwell headshot

Steve Maxwell’s Recovery Story & 15 Years At TEC

Meet Our Program Director

Steve Maxwell has been with The Empowerment Center since just about Day 1. New to Northern Nevada (and in recovery himself) he joined us as Housing Manager in 2009. He was here for the first walk-through of today’s Virginia Street treatment center, was a part of our transformation as we integrated recovery treatment into what was then a halfway house, and currently serves as Program Director. Today, with 18 years of sobriety and almost as many at TEC, Steve continues to be a key piece of what we’ve achieved, and where we’re headed next.

We’re honored to share his story with you – as well as his take on TEC’s history and the biggest steps soon to come!

Steve Maxwell headshot

From the Beginning

Steve grew up in Santa Clara, California and joined the Navy to see the world. After boot camp, he was stationed in San Diego to a ship that hadn’t been commissioned yet. He went to class during the day, did some work on base…and also got in the habit of drinking. “The Navy taught me how to be a full time alcoholic,” Maxwell shared, “and when I got out of there, life just slid downhill. I’m a runner, which means I escape to one place long enough to start getting in trouble and then I run to someplace else.” His substances of choice were marijuana to start, then methamphetamines and cross-tops, stimulants. He moved around a lot before finally settling down in Sacramento, then spending time in and out of jail.

In Recovery & Moving to Reno

After Steve was released in November 2005, he went to Pathways, a six-month blackout treatment program in San Jose. While at first, he didn’t want to be there, in time it grew into something he could handle, and then into something he wanted.

At Pathways, Steve found someone he wanted as a sponsor, and asked. His potential sponsor said yes, but that Steve should do his step work, and that they’d talk in a couple weeks. And then never returned. Steve was upset, and remembers coming into a meeting and saying some things he shouldn’t have. He got up in front of the group and announced “I asked someone for help. No one’s helping me. I think you’re all full of crap anyways. I’m out.”  Two men from the group, a counselor and the speaker, told Steve to get his step work and meet him in the smoking area outside.

Once outside, they asked Steve for his step work. Steve took out his Step 1, answers to 60 questions all crammed on one double-sided piece of paper. One of the men, Pete, looked and him and shook his head. Told him if he wasn’t serious, he might as well leave. Pete offered to help, but only if Steve was ready to change his life. He became Steve’s sponsor. They’re still friends to this day.

Soon after, Steve began working at recovery houses. He worked as Pathways for a while, then switched over to another facility, a 27-bed sober living apartment building. He stayed there until he found out he needed hip replacement surgery. The owner told him he’d need to leave for 6-months, as his recovery from surgery would involve medications.

Needing another place to go, Steve left California to stay with his sister in Dayton, NV. He attended AA/NA meetings in Dayton and Carson City. As he met more people, he got into more meetings. He started introducing himself as having worked as a Housing Manager and letting them know he wanted to continue this work. That’s how he connected with The Empowerment Center.

Early Days at The Empowerment Center

“I went out for an interview, and was pretty much hired on the spot,” Steve recalls. He began work two days later. Back then, The Empowerment Center had two houses in Sparks: for men and women. “It was pretty rough. There was really no recovery. It was a lot different than what we are now.” Residents of what was then a halfway house attended a weekly AA/NA meeting and were expected to begin working and paying bills right away. Most didn’t stay for long.

In 2010, The Launching Pad bought what’s now our South Virginia Street treatment center. That’s when things started to change. To start, they spent about 6 months gutting what had previous been the Old Ranch Motel, followed by another 12 months to rebuild. Steve describes the old motel as “disgusting. It was a known drug haven. If you needed drugs, this is where you came.” He helped take 18 trailer loads of garbage out of the rooms and backyard. Other than the brick walls, just about everything else on site needed to be removed, repaired or replaced.

The Empowerment Center started using the new space right away, moving in 4 men as soon as the first 2 rooms were ready. Not long after, they offered space for 8 men and 5 women. Housing both men and women in the same facility was difficult, and distracting.

A few years later they made the decision to focus on women. Around the same time, they added a full commercial kitchen. Steve notes, “that’s when we really started to flourish.”

From here, the recovery programming began to evolve. Today’s Empowerment Center offers not only daily meetings, but a full suite of wrap-around services including group and individual therapy, workforce development, medication-assisted treatment, financial education, fitness programs, art therapy, off-site group trips, and more!

Next Steps for TEC

“And that’s just the beginning,” Steve explains. With Marvel Way Phases I and II, Steve’s amazed to see TEC’s programming continue to grow, now providing long-term sober housing opportunities. “It’s going to be great, adding more affordable housing to the mix for all the people out there. We have 42 households now and are going to add another 46 families to the community. They’re putting in a dog park, a play area for kids, and it’s going to be pretty amazing.”

On the TEC2 side, at the new 80-bed women’s treatment center, Steve’s most excited to see a broader range of opportunities to support clients. Beyond TEC’s 5-month treatment program, he looks forward to space for longer, more flexible stays for those who need it, including ways to keep more graduates involved with TEC long term. Steve also looks forward to beginning to offer services to men once again, as after female clients move into the new space, the Virginia Street treatment center will be repurposed for men. He recognizes that there’s a lot of need in today’s community to once again offer both women’s and men’s recovery centers.

Steve Maxwell standing in Empowerment Center backyard on lawn

Steve’s World Today

As Program Director, Steve Maxwell is always busy. He’s in charge of grading applications, intakes, and discharges and some of the daily functions.  He runs the 8:30 morning meeting, which includes recovery readings and discussions, as well as announcements to begin the day. He makes sure clients’ rooms are kept clean and watches over programming and other happenings around TEC.

He’s also taking care of his personal health. A few years ago, he went in for surgery for a small hole on the bottom of his foot, got MERSA, and eventually lost his foot. He’s grateful to have a prosthetic leg to stand on and is learning to adapt to the change.

Outside of work, Steve’s favorite thing is spending time with his grandchildren. He has a big family, with 4 children through marriage and 9 grandchildren. He smiles as he shared “My youngest is 4 years old. His name’s Camden, and he’s the light of my life right now. Whenever he comes over, we have fun, we play. My wife says we’re about the same age. So that works!”

Recovery Advice

Relapse isn’t a part of Steve’s story. He shares, “For me, recovery is pretty simple. Just don’t pick up and you won’t get high, you don’t want to live in misery like when you were out there. Nobody ever has fun in addiction. You might think it’s fun, but it’s not a way to live life.” Oh, and Steve recommends that everyone always put their shopping carts away, “I don’t know one successful person that leaves their shopping cart in the middle of the parking lot”.

His favorite quote is by Mark Twain. “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you realize why.” Helping people succeed in recovery and spending time with his family are both key pieces of Steve’s why.

woman in pink filling out workforce development workbook at the empowerment center addiction treatment centers garden gazeebo

How We Get Our Clients Back to Work

When our clients enter treatment at The Empowerment Center, (TEC) most are out of work and many have complicated backgrounds of arrest and incarceration. Guiding them in finding work, overcoming barriers, and building careers is an important piece of what we do.

During the first 30 days of TEC’s 5-month program, our sole focus is on addiction treatment and recovery. Clients spend time in group therapy, 1:1 therapy, 12-Step meetings, and similar sessions. While they help with light chores, like preparing meals and cleaning common spaces (and also participate in the occasional off-site excursion) – much of their time is spent settling into their new home environment and centering around their therapeutic goals.

TEC’s program promotes a gradual reintegration into society. One of the first integration steps is finding a job – we call our program Workforce Development. It’s a top priority for everyone’s second month at The Empowerment Center.

Here’s what our supportive services look like:

Workforce Development: An Overview

During the first 60 days at The Empowerment Center, clients participate in Workforce Development programming 3 days a week. We take them through the entire job search process, beginning with assessing their interests and skills. We talk to them about their professional experiences and help determine what their next steps will look like.

Workforce Development prepares our clients to be successful in their searches. We go through resume worksheets together, breaking down what’s expected for each section of a resume and guiding them through the “bullet point-action word-achievement” format that traditionally works best. We offer a choice of templates and support each client in setting up their resume in our computer lab. Next, we coach them through responses to common interview questions, conducting 1:1 mock interviews when needed. We let them know what to expect in an interview and focus on teaching soft skills, to give everyone their best chance at coming across confidently and professionally. We encourage our women to research the companies they’re applying at, determine which are good fits, and send follow-up emails. Finally, we bring in guest speakers from employment agencies to share their job-seeking guidance and skillsets.

If this advice and process sounds familiar – it should. Our Workforce Development staff’s backgrounds include running college career services programming and human resources recruitment.

woman in pink reading "employment 101" workbook pages with grassy lawn in background

Supporting Clients with Histories of Incarceration

For many of our clients, having a history with the justice system makes every aspect of looking for work more complex. That’s why the wrap-around services we offer are tailored to meet their specific needs.

Women who arrive at The Empowerment Center they typically have very little with them. Often, the first step of their job search is acquiring the ID documents they’ll need to begin work. To help them, we start with group trips to the DMV to sort out necessary paperwork. Next, we’ll provide donated clothes, including the professional attire they’ll need for interviewing and working.

While legal histories don’t always come up in interviews, for women with longer employment gaps, it’s unfortunately inevitable. We help them practice responses to questions about their pasts, which can include acknowledging challenges and focusing on what’s more important – the changes they’ve made to remedy them and the professional goals they’re working towards. For clients who feel apprehensive about returning to the workforce, we’ll support them with connections to entry level positions. These include relationships we’ve built with local employers who understand that people need second chances, ranging from family-run local businesses to sympathetic warehouse owners and grocery franchises.

Bill running workforce development programming at the empowerment center's addiction treatment center, bill in center of photo and two female students on sides of photo

Jobs vs Careers

Sometimes, the need for short term work doesn’t quite align with our clients’ long-term goals. And that’s OK. While some are looking for restaurant, warehouse, and customer service roles – others are interested in pursuing something different.

For these women, we’ll work both on applying for faster-hiring positions and planning towards big-picture goals.

Nevada Works is a state program that’s providing short-term training in range of fields, including courses in logistics, healthcare, IT, manufacturing, and other areas. Each training course was developed based on employer roundtables and feedback, ensuring the skills offered are strong matches for open positions. While the program doesn’t guarantee a job, it increases the likelihood of scheduling interviews.

Similarly, The Empowerment Center supports our clients in returning to school, often beginning with coursework at Truckee Meadows Community College. Several of the women we’ve profiled in these newsletters are current TMCC students. Jasmin is working towards her AAS in Culinary Arts, taking a combination of business and culinary classes with the aim of opening a restaurant. Heather is not only studying welding, but working part time at TMCC as an Instructor’s Assistant. Her plan is to earn her Bachelors degree so she can become a welding instructor. For women like Jasmin and Heather, The Empowerment Center provides support in accessing grants and scholarships to help them progress in their new lives.

linda buzick wearing pink shirt standing in front of marvel way sober living apartments

Linda Buzicks Recovery Story – How Acts of Service and Community Living Support Her Sobriety

Linda Buzick lives in a one-bedroom apartment at Marvel Way, her home since the supportive living complex opened its doors in fall 2023. She’s a leader in her home AA group, a weekly attendee of Marvel Way’s meetings, and an active member of the local recovery community. She finds strength and meaning in being of service to others and enjoys spending time with friends, going on short hikes and walks, and reading. She’s looking forward to adopting two kittens, getting out more in her recently-gifted car, and planning community potlucks.

Linda’s life hasn’t always looked this way. She’s struggled with alcohol and gambling addictions for much of her life and has worked through treatment and relapse more than once.

Here’s what she’s learned along the way – and why this time she isn’t going back:

Linda Buzick lives in a one-bedroom apartment at Marvel Way, her home since the supportive living complex opened its doors in fall 2023. She’s a leader in her home AA group, a weekly attendee of Marvel Way’s meetings, and an active member of the local recovery community. She finds strength and meaning in being of service to others and enjoys spending time with friends, going on short hikes and walks, and reading. She’s looking forward to adopting two kittens, getting out more in her recently-gifted car, and planning community potlucks.

Linda’s life hasn’t always looked this way. She’s struggled with alcohol and gambling addictions for much of her life and has worked through treatment and relapse more than once. 

Here’s what she’s learned along the way – and why this time she isn’t going back:

From The Beginning

Linda grew up in Washoe Valley with her mother, father, and 6 siblings. She’s lived in Northern Nevada all her life. Growing up, her home was an alcoholic household and Linda experienced a lot of trauma from a young age. When she first started drinking, she thought she was just having fun. But looking back, Buzick recognizes she was “practicing a lot of bad behavior,” even early on. As she got older, “I ended up getting hooked on gambling, which led me down a pretty dark path,” Linda explains. She stole from her employer and went to prison for 2.5 years. When she got out, she was 52. She never stole again but continued to drink and gamble. She didn’t recognize her addictions.

Linda’s Recovery Story

Linda first acknowledged her addictions in 2007, when she was struggling with mental health issues. She decided to seek help through the Reno Problem Gambling Center. While AA didn’t feel helpful at the time, she benefited a lot from the gambling program. She stayed sober for 7 years. Linda wasn’t working a recovery program and became complacent, which she believes led to her relapse in March 2014. After getting a DUI in March 2018, she tried to stop drinking and gambling again.

In late 2019, Linda entered treatment at The Empowerment Center. Before Marvel Way, a small house with 7 beds stood on the property and – after graduating from treatment at TEC – she worked as House Mom at this small sober living space. She stayed sober for 9 months and moved out in September 2020.

What went wrong? “I was acting as if, doing that whole fake it till you make it thing,” Buzick shares. “I eventually relapsed because there was a lot of stuff left undone and undealt with, which I’m working on now.” In her drinking, she lost her job and, now old enough, began collecting Social Security. She tried going to AA groups, but couldn’t stay sober. After an especially bad relapse, Linda felt ready to make a change. “For the first time in my life I asked someone for help in a non-manipulative way. I said ‘I need help. I don’t know what to do.’ And I actually let them help me. They came and got me and they let me stay with them for 10 days.” From here, she began a program at Vitality in Carson City, followed by a longer program at Crossroads in Reno. She graduated in September 2023 and moved into Marvel Way, where she still lives today.

linda buzick's headshot

On Acts of Service & Living Life Differently

For Linda, “What’s different for me today is that I don’t ever want to go back. It’s no longer just about not drinking or not gambling. For me, it’s about changing my behavior, about no longer lying or manipulating people. It’s about wanting to be useful, which is something I didn’t even think I was capable of.”

She accredits her therapist, as well as role models she’s met through treatment, for the change. She’s still learning, still in therapy, and focusing on her service. She wants to be of use, share her story, and support others on their journeys. Service can mean a lot of things for Linda. It can be helping other members of her 12 Step groups, holding a door open, or sharing a hug. At first, getting used to being a more compassionate and accepting person felt like a bit of a shock to Linda. But she’s proud to say that when asked for support, these days she almost never says no.

Community is very important to Linda. While she admits she’s been a bit of a loner at times, she’s enjoy getting to know her neighbors and the Marvel Way staff. She’s spending more time with community than she ever has anywhere before. Linda’s a co-host of her home AA group, regularly attends meetings at Marvel Way, and has a schedule of other groups she attends each week. She enjoys spending more time in Marvel Way’s common spaces, hanging out with her neighbors, and less at home on her computer. Buzick’s latest project? Organizing monthly potlucks for a local recovery Facebook group – to be hosted at Marvel Way. She explains, “Marvel Way is helping me stay connected in a community way, which is not something I ever thought I would have been capable of doing. It’s easy for me to become complacent, to think I don’t have to go to a meeting every day or stay involved with people. I know the difference between isolation and having some alone time. I like living in an environment where I’m being held accountable, not only in testing, but in the way I interact in the world.”

What’s Next for Linda?

Linda enjoys spending time with friends she’s made through her recovery community, especially when she gets to go for hikes and walks with them. While her health makes longer treks challenging, she’s recently enjoyed trips to the Steamboat Wetlands and Sparks Marina. She loves to be outside and walk barefoot in the grass.

She’s recently been gifted a car and is getting it repaired and ready to go. She’s working through health issues affecting her feet and eyesight, and once she’s healed hopes to spend more time at her favorite quieter places, like White’s Creek and Thomas Creek. She’s already taken computer classes and, after healing from cataract surgery, plans to look for a part-time from-home data entry job.

After a year and a half at Marvel Way, she’s feeling a lot more settled…and is about to adopt two kittens. She notes, “I haven’t had a pet in a very long time. And I feel stable enough now to take that on.”

linda buzick in costume

Linda’s Advice

When we asked Linda to share advice for those newer to recovery, she hesitated. Because she knew, for many years, that she wasn’t really listening to the advice she was given. She’d been told to find her support system, to just stick things out one day at a time, and to find her higher power. But she didn’t.

Until eventually, she says, she felt ready for change. “I reached that point where I’d never want to go back. I never forgot all the stuff that I had learned. And I recognize that I had been choosing to stay stuck. I had been choosing to live in self-pity. I’d been choosing to play the victim. I’d been choosing all those things for a very long time. And it was time to make a different choice.”

a marvel way resident with her two pet dogs, sitting at a firepit outside the supportive apartment complex

Something to BARK About! How Pets Make a Difference at Marvel Way

Did you know? About a third of Marvel Way’s residents are living alongside their furry friends. We’re home to 9 cats and 9 dogs – and expect these numbers to continue to climb. It’s just one of the many ways we stand out from the affordable housing and recovery pack.

Why did Marvel Way become home to so many animals? How does having pets benefit our residents in recovery? And what are we doing to support them?

Keep reading to find out more:

a marvel way resident with her two pet dogs, sitting at a firepit outside the supportive apartment complex

Shelters & Animals

For individuals struggling with homelessness and addiction who already have pets, their animals can become just one more barrier to getting the help they need. Most shelters and programs don’t allow them, which sometimes means staying on the streets feels better than leaving one’s best friend behind. On top of that, once sobriety is achieved, low-income individuals in recovery often have multiple hurdles in their searches for long term housing, including histories of incarceration and eviction. While there’s countless benefits to living with pets, they can unfortunately introduce a challenging extra step to the apartment hunt.

Supporting Pet Ownership

Once our residents settle into stable housing, getting a pet can be a big step to making things feel a bit more like home. However, sometimes residents get so excited about their pets that they don’t recognize the new responsibilities they will bring. In Marvel Way’s early months, TEC Director of Community Development Yvette Myers spoke to a resident who had gotten a puppy, despite working long days, and started to see the support that’s needed. “It’s just that they don’t know,” she explained. “They get pets because they just want to have something.” Instead of saying “absolutely not” like so many housing programs would, Yvette helped the resident out with a kennel, bedding, dog food, and vaccinations. THAT’S HOW THE MARVEL WAY PETS PROGRAM BEGAN.

At Marvel Way, we’re all about identifying our residents’ needs and building programs around them. So, to launch our pet program, we decided to do just that.

Marvel Way residents are allowed pets, with similar size and breed restrictions to other apartment complexes in town. We understand the therapeutic benefits of having pets and want to support our residents. To do this, we offer both scheduled support and as-needed assistance. We schedule vaccination and neutering days, when the SPCA comes in to take care of a few residents’ pets at once. Additionally, when residents tell us they’re out of work or struggling financially, we talk to the Katie Grace Foundation to connect them with pet food and other donated supplies. We’re working with a University of Tennessee program (more on that in a moment) to connect residents with free veterinary care. And we’ve also noticed collaborative pet care popping up – a resident who’s often home helps out with walks, supporting neighbors working long hours away from their pups.

Why Pets Matter

Simply put – life can be ruff – and encouraging responsible pet ownership can make the difference. While only some of Marvel Way’s pets are registered as Emotional Support Animals, we know all can provide significant benefits. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “The unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. Pets may also decrease stress, improve heart health, and even help children with their emotional and social skills.” The evidence shows they can help their humans cope with everything from anxiety disorders to ADHD, autism, and even cancer.

Says Psychology Today, “Petting, holding, or cuddling an animal increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine in our bodies, which are feel-good, calming brain chemicals. As a result of these positive chemical changes, our feelings of depression and loneliness may be reduced while our self-esteem and happiness may increase.”

We think pets are the perfect fit for people in recovery – and the research agrees. Taking care of a pet is a great way to practice responsibility, gain self-confidence, and provide a sense of purpose. They help us become more social and more physically active. 86% of Americans say having a pet has a positive impact on their mental health. They can even be seen as “life savers.”

Partnering with the University of Tennessee

Like Marvel Way’s supportive housing model, our support of pets is just as new an idea. So, when the University of Tennessee’s Program for Pet Equity Health Equity reached out to us about doing a study, of course we agreed. Their research mission is “to understand the impacts from lack of access to veterinary care on communities, families, and animals care teams.” Their work also includes supporting underserved families and educational opportunities.

In the study, they’re surveying Marvel Way Residents about why they want pets, what resources would help them provide better care, and how they’re benefiting from their relationships with animals. Participation is completely voluntary, but residents who fill out the initial and follow-up surveys for a 6-month period are awarded with a series of gift cards. We hope the survey’s results (to be published in a University of Tennessee White Paper) will help guide not only the Marvel Way Pet Program, but the development of similar programs nationwide.

What’s Next?

When it comes to pets at Marvel Way, we’re just getting started!

As we work towards completing Marvel Way Phase II, we’re fundraising to add a Dog Park to the apartment complex. We aim to add a fenced-in dog run, alongside a shaded BBQ zone, playground, and community garden. The outdoor area will become a centralized gathering space, reenforcing the social benefits of pet ownership as we build our recovery community.

Just as we’ve including Equine Therapy for our Empowerment Center Clients, we’re looking to bring more animal companionship to Marvel Way. At The Empowerment Center, thanks to our partnership with Reno Rescue, our women in recovery enjoy riding and grooming horses while improving their emotional regulation, self-confidence, and sense of responsibility. Similarly, we hope to partner with an animal shelter to encourage beneficial connections between residents and animals needing support.

first floor of the empowerment center's new hq's design drawings

Taking a Peek at Our New HQ

At The Empowerment Center, we’re looking forward to our new headquarters and treatment center – TEC2. While we’ve loved our South Virginia home since 2005, as we’ve evolved from our roots as The Launching Pad halfway house to the addiction treatment center we are today we’ve come to need more space. We’re ready to serve more women and are excited to expand our signature treatment program. A purpose-built headquarters will allow us to do just that.

Thanks to last summer’s $12.5 million grant from the Nevada Housing Division, we’ve been busy planning our next steps.

Located across the street from Marvel Way, TEC2 will expand our capacity from 36 to 80 women. The new, modern space will give our clients even more opportunity to breath. It will allow them space, time, and a way to experience success in increments that are healthy and manageable. This roles into increased confidence and increased ability to maintain mental health while staying clean and sober.

Ready to see what’s in the works? Here’s a snapshot of what The Empowerment Center will be offering in our new building’s common spaces, programming rooms, bedrooms, and outdoor areas.

Common Spaces

With The Empowerment Center serving 80 clients, our shared living areas are going to feel very different. To create a temporary home for so many more women struggling with addiction, we’ll be upgrading our communal areas for relaxing, getting to know one another, and preparing shared meals. Supporting healthy lifestyles is one of the many ways we support long term sobriety, after all. By adding a commercial kitchen and fitness center, we’ll be giving our clients even more tools to heal.

That’s right – a commercial kitchen! It’s hard to believe, but at our current location, our clients have been self-organizing shared meals. In our new, larger space, a modern commercial kitchen with a supervising Kitchen Manager will be a must. Food will continue to come from donations from people like you, the food bank, and our friends at the Katie Grace Foundation. While our new Kitchen Manager will provide a structured support system, our clients will continue to partake in the planning and creation of meals. We find that working together in the kitchen is a great way to teach life skills and encourage our clients to build teamwork and community while supporting one another. Some of our greatest core memories are centered around food, and sharing meals encourages our clients to build similar experiences.

For many of us, fitness plays an important role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and caring for ourselves. It can even feel like therapy. Similarly, we’re working to bring the benefits of movement to our Empowerment Center women. We’re already offering fitness classes with the support of Camie Craig Fitness and Reps for Recovery. At TEC2, we can’t wait to provide a home for our wellness program, in a fitness center equipped with strength training and cardio equipment. Studies show that promoting physical activity is linked to decreased substance use and increased likelihood of maintaining sobriety, in both people and animals. We feel it represents a small yet meaningful addition to the wrap around services on offer at TEC.

Programming Rooms

To match our evolving programming, adding more rooms helps us tailor treatment to the specific needs of every woman at The Empowerment Center. It will allow each client to progress at her own pace. With more programming rooms and meeting spaces, we’ll simply be able to do more – to offer concurrent programs simultaneously, including smaller breakout sessions for group therapy and a dedicated space for our Workforce Development program.

Our new Workforce Development area will feature a mix of computers and shared tables, allowing for a range of vocational groups, guest speakers, and supported job searches. When the room isn’t being used for formal programming, it will remain open for general use as a computer lab.

Finally, we’re excited to improve our therapy spaces. At TEC2, our purpose-built therapy rooms will provide a more comfortable environment for clients to work 1:1 with their counselors.

Semi-Private Bedrooms

In early recovery, having a roommate adds to stability and safety. This can be vital for individuals who’ve been in unstable living situations for a long time. In balance with this, TEC also understands how some women aren’t used to having roommates and desire personal space.

That’s why, with our new building, we’re introducing semi-private shared rooms. While our rooms will still sleep two, they’ll feature a partial wall dividing the space, offering an extra level of privacy. This supports our clients in focusing on their recoveries while enjoying having their own space within a larger community. Each of our rooms comes fully furnished and includes a private bathroom, mini-fridge, microwave, and TV.

design drawing of outdoor spaces at the new empowerment center hq tec2

Outdoor Spaces

Did you know? Access to outdoor spaces has been proven – again and again – to reduce a wide range of psychiatric problems. While walks, gardening, exercise, and other outdoor activities are especially beneficial, even the simple acts of sitting outside or having views of plant life are proven to reduce anxiety and depression, quicken recovery from physical ailments, and “support an individual’s subjective process of finding a path towards living a meaningful life.”

As with our Virginia Street treatment center and Marvel Way Apartments, TEC2 will feature outdoor spaces. The courtyard and landscaped areas marked in our design drawings will offer areas for picnicking, BBQing, and simply enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Once again, we’ll be including raised garden beds in our landscaping plans, supporting clients who enjoy getting their hands dirty, nurturing veggies, and sampling the flavors of a job well done.

headshot of Yvette Myers – Director of Community Development at the empowerment center

A Chat With Yvette Myers – Our Director of Community Development

Have you met Yvette Myers?

If you’re often out and about in Reno, you may have connected with our Director of Community Development. Yvette’s worked for The Empowerment Center for 2 years – and networking is a BIG part of what her world is about. She links our clients and residents with resources and services, partners with other nonprofits, meets with donors, and shares what we do with the greater community.

Ready to get to know her better? We sat down to speak with Yvette about her work, what motivates her, and what she’s working towards in 2024!

headshot of Yvette Myers – Director of Community Development at the empowerment center

Meet Yvette Myers

At The Empowerment Center, working within the community to share TEC’s programs and goals was Yvette’s first step. “Everyone knows somebody who could use our help,” she explains, yet so many people were unfamiliar with our organization. Still, Yvette notes, “in a nonprofit, you do what needs to get done, what’s needed most” and her role can vary a lot from day to day.

With the opening of Marvel Way, Yvette works with tenants who need Supportive Services. By getting to know each resident, she’s figured out how to support them best: through parenting classes, connections to childcare providers, making therapy available on site, and easing access to food resources. For example, when Yvette realized how many residents were food insecure, she began our partnership with The Food Bank of Northern Nevada. We pick up food every Monday for Marvel Way.

Similarly, Yvette realized how important pets were to Marvel Way’s residents. For residents who’ve experienced homelessness, going to a shelter can be challenging, as shelters don’t always allow animals. At Marvel Way, we’re doing things differently: we understand the therapeutic benefits of spending time with our 4-legged friends and support pet ownership, partnering with the SPCA of Northern Nevada to provide vaccinations and trainings on site. Yvette is working with The University of Tennessee on Marvel Way’s pet program, using it as a model for supportive housing organizations in other states. Together, we’re looking at how having a pet can change someone’s life.

Yvette’s Background

Yvette is a 3rd generation Nevadan. She has two kids, Jessica and Josh, and a 12-year-old granddaughter, Emma. She enjoys travel, spending time in Tahoe, reading, and the theater. She’s on the Board of Directors of A.V.A.’s Ballet Theater and The Optimist Club of Reno.

When she arrived at The Empowerment Center, she brought with her 20 years of experience in the social services world. She first found her passion for being of service at Community Services Agency, where she ran weatherization and emergency services programs. From here, she moved to Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada, where she ran much of their programming, including their Crossroads treatment program, Holy Child Daycare, Food Pantry, and Casa de Vida, Resource Center.  Yvette has also worked with homeless youth at Eddy House and pregnant mothers at Casa de Vida.

Today, she brings her knowledge and connections to The Empowerment Center and Marvel Way.

Working to End the Housing Crisis

For much of Yvette’s career, she’s worked on housing and substance use struggles, as well as issues that stem from these. She’s recognized how intertwined so many social services issues can be. While she knows we can’t solve every problem overnight, she’s enthusiastic about doing her part to create better opportunities in our community.

One of her favorite things is “watching when a woman’s ready to graduate from The Empowerment Center and then actually being reunited with her family and moving into housing,” Yvette explains. She loves “seeing them out in the community, leading productive, sober lives.” At Marvel Way, what stands out the most is “seeing how residents grow where they’ve never had that opportunity before.” We are family to most of the tenants. We have gotten to know most of them, and they now feel comfortable asking is they need assistance.

For Permanent Supportive Housing to work, it’s essential to provide Supportive Services.

Yvette is aware that, while finding housing these days can be challenging for many Reno-ites, the problems are amplified for individuals with histories of incarceration and eviction. She’s worked from a list of “felon-friendly housing,” meeting with landlords and property managers. She’s determined which are, in fact, felon-friendly – and has helped make the case for Empowerment Center graduates looking for permanent homes. One thing that often helps, is that most of the Property Managers Yvette meets with are familiar with The Empowerment Center. They have family and friends who’ve completed our programs!

Expanding Services

Bringing everything together, she’s excited to see the completion of Marvel Way Phase II and TEC2, the new Empowerment Center Treatment Center. With these expansions, we’ll double the capacity of each program. What’s more, by running the two facilities across the street from each other, we’ll be able to unite the programs and share services and resources on a greater scale – continuing to work on the overlapping issues of addiction, homelessness, and mental health as one.

“Being able to service twice as many women is amazing, because The Empowerment Center is the only program in our region taking women coming out of prison. We work with the Prison System, along with Specialty courts and of course women coming in on their own Yvette notes.

Looking to the future, Yvette is excited for even more space to house women from outlying areas, supporting nearby rural and mountain-town communities in bigger ways.

Jasmin Malik’s Recovery Story

“After everything I’ve gone through, The Empowerment Center’s one of the best – actually – the best rehab program for women in Reno. If you stick through it, it really works,” declares Jasmin Malik.

Jasmin graduated from The Empowerment Center’ 5-month treatment program on June 11, 2023. She’s also the first graduate of Reno’s STAR program – a pre-trial initiative supporting individuals struggling with opiate addictions.

We’re excited to share Jasmin’s addiction story with you – as well as her accomplishments, new life, and recommendations for anyone considering getting clean. We’re so proud of everything she’s achieved, and can’t wait to see what’s next in her life journey!

jasmin malik holding a scallop plate wearing a chef's uniform

Meet Jasmin Malik

Jasmin Malik came from a big military family. She was born in Southern California and it was there where she spent most of her childhood. Like most military families, the Maliks moved around a lot – including a posting in Reno during Jasmin’s high school years. Her family felt happy, and normal.

Jasmin started smoking weed at 16, followed by drinking, coke, and other drugs when she encountered them at parties. She considers herself to be an alcoholic first. She got a DUI at 26, 4 years ago, and had a breathalyzer placed in her car. She quit drinking – but sometimes struggled to fall asleep. Her friend offered her Percocet, and it helped. She took them for a week, tried to stop, and experienced her first withdrawals. Jasmin realized her pills were laced and that she was addicted to fentanyl.

From here, Jasmin’s addiction to opiates began. She tried to get sober after six months, but couldn’t maintain it. She kept using to avoid the withdrawals. For a while, “Nobody knew that I was an addict, because it was hard to tell anyone,” Malik explains. As she lost weight, her struggles became harder to hide and she felt her life going downhill. She was selling drugs to support her addiction. And she was tired of it.

On Reno & Getting Arrested

At this point Jasmin was still living in Southern California, but her mom and best friend were in Reno. Ready for a fresh start, she got clean and made the move.

Arriving in Reno, Jasmin quickly realized that fentanyl was just as popular here as in Southern California. She still had trouble sleeping, and once again found solace in her drug of choice. All her money was going to fentanyl, she wasn’t paying her bills, and her mom soon recognized Jasmin had developed a problem.

Malik would wait until her mom was in the bathroom, and then she’d sneak out to go pick up. Last September, she got pulled over on a late night pick up. They searched her car – and arrested her.

“I always tell everyone that getting arrested was the luckiest thing for me, because I didn’t know how to get sober on my own,” Jasmin explains. From pre-trial, she became one of the first to join the STAR Program. The STAR program works with individuals struggling with opiate addiction during pre-trial. Participants plead guilty to misdemeanor charges, are placed on probation, and are supported by a multidisciplinary team including a probation officer, a licensed clinician, a peer support specialist, and a case manager.

jasmin malik graduating from reno's star program after completing addiction treatment at the empowerment center. wearing a button down shirt and holding a diploma, standing in front of a judge

Recovery at The Empowerment Center

When Jasmin told her team at STAR that she was ready to go to rehab, they helped her sign up for The Empowerment Center’s treatment program. Still, Jasmin wasn’t completely sure she wanted to be here. Starting out, she knew STAR required her to stay at TEC for 30 days, and that her mom wouldn’t allow her home unless she reached this mark. At the end of 30 days, her mom was away on vacation, so Jasmin needed to stay 2 more weeks before she could leave. And by the time her mom came back from vacation, Jasmin was making good progress in her recovery and knew staying in treatment for The Empowerment Center’s full 5-month program was the right path for her.

“It felt like an accomplishment because I was always the black sheep of my family. It just felt like something I needed to do. And after being able to learn everything, all the reasons why I had to keep going back to the same problem and habits, it really helped,” Jasmin recognized. She accredits TEC not only for helping her get sober, but for her success after graduating.

Jasmin’s Life Today

Within 6 months of getting sober, Malik moved into a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom fully furnished apartment. She paid off her car. She felt like she had everything she wanted back in her life. She was the 14th STAR program participant, the 1st STAR graduate, and is proud of what she’s achieved!

Jasmin’s experienced with working in kitchens, and during her stay at TEC she found a new job at a fine dinning restaurant. She was so successful here that within 3 months, she was promoted to one of the most challenging positions in the kitchen, cooking complex entrees. She enjoys her job and feels great about how fast she’s learned it. Since she earns more than she did at her old job at a casual restaurant chain, she doesn’t have to work as many hours and feels less stressed.

Today, Jasmin lives with her girlfriend Dominique. They met in recovery at The Empowerment Center, but took things slow and followed the rules. Together, they enjoy cooking meals at home and going out to eat at some of Reno’s best restaurants. They watch movies and learn new things on YouTube. Each holiday, they decorate their apartment and have had friends and family over for small, sober gatherings. Dominique used to bartend, and now that she’s in recovery from alcohol she enjoys making complex mocktails for their guests. Jasmin says, “I’ve gotten to a point that I don’t want to impress anyone anymore.” She’s happier focusing on herself and her personal goals.

Jasmin still meets with her Empowerment Center therapist, Karen, weekly.

jasmin malik standing outside of her apartment, with white walls and a turquoise door

What’s Next for Jasmin

In January, Jasmin began college at TMCC, working towards her AAS in Culinary Arts. She’s the first STAR program graduate to receive an educational scholarship, covering her 2.5 years of coursework in full. This semester, Jasmin’s schedule includes a combination of business and culinary classes. She’s continuing to work full time while in school.

While she’s enjoying her current fine dining job, in 5-10 years Jasmin hopes to open a food truck or restaurant, perhaps with her girlfriend. If they start with a food truck, they’d like to serve paninis, soups, and easy-to-eat hand foods. For their restaurant, they have bigger plans! They enjoy fantasizing about menus and restaurant names and look forward to running their own business – with Jasmin managing back-of-house and Dominique managing the front.

Advice for Those Considering Recovery

Jasmin recommends TEC (and we’re not just saying this…) to any woman looking for a safe, comfortable, and supportive place to go.

While at first Malik felt nervous about having to be on a schedule, follow rules, and go to class, she ultimately found it to be helpful for her. She liked the space she shared with her roommate and that it included amenities like a Smart TV, fridge, and microwave – as well as access to a shared kitchen and the ability to cook and get snacks.

As for the rules, she realized “that’s what you need to do, because what you’ve been doing in life hasn’t been working. So it made you have to go back to square one, back to school, to get your life in order. And then you’ll be able to get the tools you need to live the life you want.” While being on blackout and away from her phone in the early days of her stay at TEC was challenging, Jasmin felt that she benefited from staying busy with therapeutic and workplace development groups, doctors appointments, and other activities.

Jasmin appreciates the support she received not only in her recovery, but in working towards the next stages of her life. The Empowerment Center provides clients with recommended jobs to apply for, interview clothes, and – eventually, a vetted list of felon-friendly apartments. All of which Jasmin appreciates. Finally, she appreciates that the TEC staff continued to care about her post-graduation. “It’s not like they let you go and you’re off on your own,” she explains. “It’s definitely worth the time because The Empowerment Center educates you and makes you feel

sarah verdugo in nature facing sideways with sun in background