Every person is capable of turning their life around. But realizing that potential is difficult on your own. Add in the stigma people experience while living with addiction, and the situation can feel impossible to escape.
That was the case with Scott Strode. Scott once struggled with his own addiction and knows firsthand the stigma of being labeled an “addict”—making a tough situation even harder to overcome. But he persevered. He discovered physical fitness had a healing effect in his struggle with addiction, and he transformed his life.
Scott has now been sober for two decades, and in 2006 he founded The Phoenix to help others. Using a CrossFit-style program, Scott and his team built a sense of community among people struggling with addiction. Every instructor is in recovery as well, helping to dissolve the shame that prevents many from seeking help. Scott even wears a shirt with the word SOBER emblazoned on it.
Scott quickly discovered he was on to something—and in the first 10 years, grew The Phoenix to seven cities and served 26,000 people. Now, after just two years of partnering with the Stand Together community, The Phoenix has quadrupled in size to 28 locations, including a new flagship gym on Boston’s “Methadone Mile,” a place that’s become a symbol for our country’s opioid crisis.
As for results: 8 out of 10 active members remained sober at six months—more than twice as effective as the best clinics in America.
And The Phoenix is not alone. Over the last three and a half years, our community has invested $100 million in support of 141 local groups that are helping people overcome poverty and addiction.
For proof, just ask Chad Houser. In 2008, he was the co-owner of a successful restaurant and had just been nominated for best up-and-coming chef in Dallas. Once when volunteering to teach young men in the juvenile detention system how to cook, one of them said, “I just love to make food and give it to people and put a smile on their face.”
That conversation changed Chad’s life. He learned many of the people in Dallas’s juvenile justice system committed crimes just to access basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter.
Chad saw an opportunity to use his culinary and business experience to help these young people get their lives back on track. He left his successful career to start Café Momentum, which offers paid internships to people exiting juvenile detention facilities as a way to learn life skills.
They also help these young people—referred to as “throwaways” in the juvenile detention system—build a sense of self-esteem. On the first day Chad tells his interns: “I believe in you.” For many, he says, that’s the first time they’ve ever heard those words.
Since opening in 2008, Café Momentum has risen to the third-ranked restaurant in Dallas. It’s one of many local groups the Stand Together community supports that take a business-like approach to sustain and grow their impact.
Johnny Taylor, then-president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), recognized a problem with scholarly research on the causes of poverty: “You had a lot of experts who thought they’d solved a particular problem. In reality, they never identified it properly because they didn’t ask the community that was dealing with it every day.”
That insight sparked an idea: a research initiative that directly engages communities in order to better understand the challenges they experience every day.
In a $26 million partnership, the Charles Koch Foundation—part of the Stand Together community—helped TMCF launch the Center for Advancing Opportunity in 2017. They worked with Gallup to establish “The Opportunity Index,” a national survey that asks people in “fragile” communities about the barriers they face. This index helps inform academic research currently focused on understanding problems in K-12 education, criminal justice, and barriers to entrepreneurship.
As for who is leading the research, many have experienced poverty firsthand. As a child, Kathaleena Monds’ family fell on hard times and into homelessness. But she made the most of opportunities and was offered a scholarship by the United Negro College Fund that made it possible for her to attend college. Kathaleena went on to earn a Ph.D., and now Dr. Monds is spearheading research into barriers related to K-12 education to ensure many others have opportunities like she had.
The Center for Advancing Opportunity is just one of over 600 programs the Stand Together community supports at more than 350 universities across the country. By understanding the root causes of complex problems, their research can inform more effective solutions.
Improving the criminal justice system is what drives John Koufos. Now a leading national reform advocate, John also led a distinguished career in his home of New Jersey as one of the state’s top criminal defense attorneys.
But John has been on the other side of the criminal justice system as well. His addiction to alcohol led to a non-fatal, hit-and-run accident for which he served six years in prison. While in lockup, he saw how people suffering from poverty and addiction received little—if any—help.
Of the in-prison rehabilitation programs that people did have access to, most were one-size-fits-all programs that failed to meet individuals’ unique needs. They didn’t start until after release from prison—causing many to revert back to their lives of crime just to make ends meet.
Today, John brings his unique perspective to criminal justice reform as executive director of Safe Streets & Second Chances. The project identifies the best rehabilitation and re-entry programs across the country and replicates them in other states—including those programs that are custom-tailored and start well before release.
Safe Streets & Second Chances is one of many initiatives within the Stand Together community that are focused on public policy reforms that help people lead better lives. In total, these initiatives have helped achieve 125 reforms at the federal and state levels in the last year alone.
Community groups, social enterprises, research initiatives, and policy reforms are all helping people overcome hardship. These bottom-up efforts started with one person, then engaged hundreds, and now along with many partners, they are poised to make a difference on a national scale.
By standing together and approaching the challenge from different angles, we can help beat poverty and addiction so that every person can rise.
There’s still a long way to go. What role can you play in driving more progress—and can Stand Together help you greater your good?SM Find out how we can help you launch or grow your own organization or support the most effective groups in the country.
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