How "Adult and Teen Challenge" made me not such a cynical journalist -by Alexa Althoff.
Updated: Jun 21, 2019
It's actually now called "Adult and Teen Challenge", but we will get back to that momentarily. My name is Alexa Althoff. I'm a former Journalist and I have done investigation work for Rena. I can be so cynical about non-profits that it borders on a cartoon stereotype of the haggard and gruff reporters of the 1950's. Rena has helped clients through the process of entering Teen Challenge in Brookings, South Dakota. To obtain further information on the Brookings Teen Challenge click HERE. I even had the great honor of taking a young man to the Rapid City bus terminal to begin his journey at the Brookings location. He was initially facing time in the penitentiary, but Rena found he was an excellent candidate for the program and fought for him to participate in this treatment instead of experiencing a cold cell.
A few weeks ago, I actually had the opportunity to visit the site of a future Adult and Teen Challenge in Wyoming, aggressively question a National spokesperson for them, and now I'm going to tell you exactly what I thought about it.
What is it?
Quick history lesson! This is actually super interesting. In the late 50's, a rural pastor named David Wilkerson was watching TV one night and saw a news report about several young gang members in NYC being accused of murdering a disabled boy. The story goes, he saw the hopelessness in his eyes and decided to set off on an adventure to the Big Apple! Legend has it (along with statements of multiple witnesses) that he stood up in the middle of the courtroom and asked to speak with the boys. This seemingly naive, if not a reckless, display got him booted from the court room, out into the hallway, and into the presence of a press photographer. Here's the photo!
Fast forward in time, and young David has met Goliath...
David eventually became friends with inner-city boys in gangs, including the very young Nicky Cruze, and set out on a most fortuitous path.
The "ah-ha" moment!
After working with these young guns for some time, he implemented a relatively simple concept. In order to turn their lives around, the boys needed to be removed from all the negative influences around them. So he opened a house, then eventually a farm, and the young men could truly begin a new life.
So who runs it now?
The national organization of "Teen Challenge USA", their global entity (yeah, it's in a TON of countries), and the individual locations are all separate.
The National organization is run by the Christian denomination called Assemblies of God.
Each individual location is THEIR OWN 501c3 run by whatever Christian organization/denomination wants to run it. They don't give away property, pay monthly dues, or have to give a tithing.
That. Is. Crazy.
I literally stood questioning the guy from the National office for about 20 minutes. I changed tactics, framed questions differently, asked about revenue streams, how many people are in the national and global office (there's only 8), and a myriad of other questions.
I hit a gigantic brick wall of honesty. There were no cracks which leaked lies (even little white ones) or the familiar stink of something awry in the financial department. After awhile, it became apparent I was not about to break the next big story of greed and corruption.
I've interviewed high ranking political officials, wealthy businessmen, even upper echelon members of the Freemasons.
This guy was giving it to me straight.
Here's exactly how the individual locations interact with the national office in the USA.
They can buy their course books from them.
Think of it like a franchise agreement at a shop that sells ladies handbags. The only stipulation with the agreement is that you need to buy the real deal, quality purse to sell to customers. The one that will last a lifetime, not the knock-off one that will break in two weeks.
The book prices are not artificially inflated on pricing, and the gentleman told me they are even updating them with new scientific findings and methods to deal with addiction even more effectively.
The locations also receive help in the form of guidance, assistance with fundraising methods, audits to make sure they are operating above-board, access to logos, websites, and more.
So why send someone to Adult & Teen Challenge?
They have a 17% recidivism rate. Let me repeat that. A 17% RECIDIVISM RATE. - For a treatment program to be rated something like "highly effective" it must have a roughly 35% recidivism rate. So, it's literally BEYOND highly effective. Click here to find out more and why this is.
The court system in South Dakota works with Adult and Teen Challenge. Instead of going to the Penitentiary, Rena was able to help guide a client through the admission process, and the court approved the individual going into the program instead of doing hard time. This incident happened in the Sturgis (Meade County) Court system.
Cost. This is a non-profit religious organization that doesn't buy private jets for their CEO's. The simple one-time admission fee is usually insanely low because they offset costs by donations. Each location raises their own money, to help their own people, in their own communities.
So, that's the story of how one cynical journalist and investigator walked away baffled that a non-profit was truly as good as it sounded.
If you or a loved one is facing charges dealing with addiction, and would like to know more about this program, please contact our office.
Here's a few photos from when I was able to visit the possible future site of the Wyoming Adult and Teen Challenge!