When COVID-19 hit the world, it stopped our ability to go inside the CMC (California's Mens Colony) prison to be with Kid C.A.T. members and participants. Both the members who had just begun facilitating The First Step program and the participants (their incarcerated peers) were deeply impacted by having programs shut down. As an organization we had just begun to spread our wings as a new non-profit, and like the rest of the world, so much of that work was put on hold.
Other than sending letters and photos, we have had very little contact with our incarcerated family for over a year now. We have felt frustrated and helpless. The men inside have expressed feelings such as loneliness, disconnection, and frustration. Fortunately, a handful of our members were released over this past year! Along with the difficulties that already accompany re-entry, they have also been thrust into COVID-19 living.
I was released in 2018, paroling to San Francisco, where a number of resources exist. As more and more of our members are being released and paroled from CMC, they are staying in San Luis Obispo County. I moved here, last year, to be closer to where I have overseen Kid C.A.T.'s prison program since my release. Throughout this past I have struggled with how to show up - as an individual as well as an "executive director" of a nonprofit - and continue to serve my community of youth offenders.
When COVID-19 hit, I was working at a friend's coffee bar in Morro Bay - Top Dog Coffee Bar. I was also dog training, on the side, to make ends meet. I became ill in March, went on unemployment, for a second time tried my hand at fitness training, and then another flareup with gout hit, making it impossible for me to walk for weeks. During my time in bed and isolated from the already isolating world, I created time to reflect on my life and how I have lived it since being released. I realized I was not living a life in alignment with who I am and what I truly want. I decided to pursue dog training as a full-time career, taking risks and asking for help. This also meant taking time to cultivate the life that is in full alignment with my values. Fortunately, my Kid C.A.T. Co-Board Members supported me as I made this life transition.
Today, as I continue to grow my dog training business, I have found new levels of excitement and energy to put into growing Kid C.A.T.'s mission. I've come to realize I do not need to know everything about running a nonprofit...that's what I have a team for. Where I may not know something (which is with most things nonprofit related!), I can ask others to help me...or I can just Google it! We are all excited to be getting back into our momentum and focusing now on growing our re-entry project.