By MIRANDA ENZOR
COMPASSIONATE PEOPLE: From left, Resonance board member Cari Marshall and Resonance Executive Director Penny Painter stand in front of a portrait of their founder, Eleanor Hill. Resonance will begin a new business venture called CertiRestore of female ex-offenders this summer.
MIRANDA ENZOR for GTR Newspapers
To resonate means to affect an object in a way that has profound impact. The morning tide creates waves in a calm ocean. A rock thrown creates ripples across a pond. Each produces a lasting effect. In Tulsa, Resonance also means a non-profit organization making huge strides to help local female ex-offenders make positive changes in their lives.
Eleanor Hill founded Resonance in 1977 with the mission to “provide services leading to self-sufficiency for women and families experiencing challenge, change or adversity in their lives.” This mission is accomplished through a number of interventions, prevention and support services offered through the community and judicial system. Resonance volunteers primarily work one-on-one with clients to instill a sense of safety and professionalism.
Resonance is celebrating its 30th Anniversary in 2007. In addition, the program is also launching a new program to begin operations this summer called CertiRestore, which will give female ex-offenders a paying job as they make efforts to change their lives. CertiRestore will be formally introduced to Tulsa at a gala celebration in the fall. Former board president and current board member Cari Marshall is one of the members most excited for this new venture.
Marshall became involved with Resonance shortly after moving to Tulsa in 2001 as owner and operator of L&M Office Furniture with her husband Gordon.
“June Patton, a long-time employee of L&M, got me interested in Resonance soon after I arrived,” Marshall says. “June had been volunteering her time with this organization for several years and suggested I consider becoming a member of the board of directors.”
Marshall joined as a board member in 2003 and served a one-year term as board president in 2006. Besides her work with various committees at Resonance, she is serving as a committee member in the CertiRestore program.
The CertiRestore project consists of revamping a furniture restoration franchise, which will provide paying jobs and training for Resonance clients.
“The biggest problems these women face upon leaving the system are finding jobs, homes and childcare,” Marshall says. “Putting a steady paycheck in their hands while they continue as a part of a monitored program goes a long way towards creating self-sufficiency. It’s a very exciting program.”
By opening the furniture store, Resonance board members hope to fill a specific niche for high-quality repair and restoration services while teaching clients lasting and relevant job skills. Once they have become stable, Resonance hopes these women will be able to transfer into other employment opportunities.
“The ultimate goal is to break the cycle, giving these women a real chance to learn from the skills that will allow them to support themselves and their families,” Marshall says. “Because this is a franchise, the techniques and tools are already identified and we have sent people to headquarters for training.”
Resonance has designed an intensive interviewing and qualifying process to screen applicants for the positions at the store. Once clients receive jobs, they will work as a member of the program for 18 to 24 months, learning everything from hands-on refinishing to sales, customer service, bookkeeping and managing inventory and operation. In addition to paychecks, the women will have full insurance coverage. They will also train and mentor their replacements as they prepare to exit the program.
“The idea is ‘each one reach one, each one teach one,’” Marshall says.
As a volunteer, Marshall has served as a member of the CertiRestore Steering Committee which required her to do extensive research and business planning while putting together the program. She also helped guide board members through key decisions to purchase the franchise and finance start-up costs.
“Resonance is a non-profit organization, so fundraising is a key part of starting up any new program,” Marshall says.
Currently, Resonance is finalizing decisions regarding the furniture store building. Once completed, members look forward to major cleaning and painting to prepare the equipment placement and ultimately begin the operation.
“My background includes assembly line flow and process improvement, so I am delighted to get to use those skills to the betterment of Resonance,” Marshall says. “I also wield a mean paint brush!”
Aside from seeing the store up-and-running, Marshall looks forward to the impact CertiRestore will have on the Tulsa community.
“Most Oklahomans are aware of the fact that we incarcerate more women per capita here than anywhere else in the world. Many of these women are released into the Tulsa community. With few marketable skills, little or no money and no positive support network, it is understandable why they end up recidivating.
“The CertiRestore program is designed to address the most pressing problems the women face: meaningful employment, support from women who understand, therapy for substance abuse issues and mental illnesses caused by trauma and the development of skills that will prepare them for future employment opportunities.
Involvement in this program will reduce the relapse rate among this population and create responsible tax-paying citizens who are capable of taking care of their children and their own lives rather than relying on Tulsa to support them.”
For more information on the services that Resonance provides or on the CertiRestore business program, contact Resonance at 587-3888 or visit www.resonancetulsa.org.