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REINTEGRATION PROGRAM SUCCESS STORIES

 

 Easter Sunday Fixico

 

Program Manager, Tony Fish, recently proposed the following question to the Reintegration employees at a Monday morning staff meeting, “Why do we collectively exist?”  This question came upon the heels of us speaking to former RIP client Mr. Easter Sunday Fixico about how the Program was able to be the bridge that helped him begin his new life, which started prior to him being released from a 70 year sentence.  Easter Sunday is clearly one example of how steps were in motion for his success of living outside the cement walls even while he was behind bars.   

 Easter was 34 years old when he was sentenced to 70 years.   For the first two years of incarceration Easter revealed to the team that he hadn’t changed his ways and that he was still slinging drugs through the fence during that time.  His cellmate’s parents had given him a bible in 2001, and Easter soon read it from front to back and from that moment he never put it down.  On May 5th, 2002, Easter declared, “I gave it all to God, I quit messing with drugs and completely turned my life around. “  Easter said he had no worries and always clung to the Hope he found in the truths of God’s word.  He was at peace and never gave up hope on being released.   

While incarcerated Easter was fortunate to have Case Worker Fredo Anderson and Case Aide Florence Frank attending Parole hearings on his behalf.  Easter said that having someone there from the RIP Program simply gave him hope and eventually his sentence was reduced, not only once, but twice.  In the end, Easter actually served 13 years, 7 months and 24 days.    

While serving his sentence, Easter married his faithful companion who had stood by his side with unwavering support, Sherri Rae Fixico.   As of today, they have been married for 12 years, and have been together for a total of 17 years.  Sherri was consistent in bringing up the children for their weekly Saturday or Sunday visits.  There would be times that Easter would advise her not to drive on the roads because of bad weather conditions, but Sherri remained constant.  Between the two of them, they have 7 kids in their family.  Sherri had to go outside the home to help support the family and she was able to do so by getting a job at Walmart during this time.   Easter and Sherri relied on the Muscogee Creek Nation’s Angel Tree Program to provide Christmas presents for their children during this time and is a great example of how programs within the tribe work together for the common good.  Easter wanted to make sure that everyone who reads his story knew that he gives all credit to God for putting people like Sherri in his life, who stayed with him through the rough times during his incarceration.  Easter said, “One of my greatest assets through all of this is God gave me a good Godly woman.  Looking back I was right where I needed to be at all times.  My wife even went through one of the riots up there. “   He feels so blessed to have Sherri all these years, and is thankful for her strength in keeping the home life together while he was gone.   

While in prison, Easter had the opportunity to become trained as a licensed Journeyman and Contractor. Even though he had already been transferred to minimum security, they’d often times wake him up at 2 a.m. so that the prison maintenance crew could take him back through security and through the fence to the main facility so he could help with emergencies all over the prison.  Little did anyone know, that Easter had been saying a certain prayer since Jan 1st, 2006.  On that very day back in 2006, and every day since, he had prayed to be given the opportunity to work for Creek Nation or Doug Morrow Plumbing.  He had grown close to both Doug Morrow and folks like Chubby Anderson at the Reintegration Program because of their support at his parole hearings.  “Doug, Chubby and the Re-entry program offered hope to me while I was facing my jail time.”

Once he got the news that he was going to be released, one of the conditions to be met was the completion of various required classes.  Those classes were offered at the Reintegration offices in Henryetta.  Logistically speaking, this was a gift from God because Easter didn’t have to worry about how he would get to all the different locations to complete these required classes.  In fact, Easter laughed, “They couldn’t get rid of me at RIP – I wouldn’t leave!”   

It was at one of these class sessions during his first two weeks of being released that Easter saw a business card from Brent Coleman left on one of the conference tables.  Mr. Coleman had recently left a meeting with Amber Nelson and Tony Fish about the upcoming Transitional Living Center project and had placed his card on the table.  Easter noticed it on the table, took the card, and drove straight to the Employment and Training Offices at Creek Nation, where he spoke to Courtney Josie about his knowledge and desire to be a Plumbing contractor for the tribe.  Once he showed Courtney that he could do the work, he was offered a job from Mr. Brad Fox.    

A few months later, the Housing Department had good things to say about Easter.   Tony Fish had the opportunity to briefly speak to Brad in Housing and Brad was happy to say that of the two plumbing contractors for the tribe, one of them came from the RIP program.   Brad is the one of the individuals who gave Easter a chance and has now taught him how to plumb in the new houses for Creek Nation. Oddly enough, the very same day that Easter was offered the job at the tribe, he was offered a job by Mr. Morrow.  Mr. Morrow guided Easter towards the tribe’s offer, however, because the benefits were 

so nice and he knew that he should be able to make a decent living and also have benefits for him and his family.  Needless to say, his daily prayer that he started back in 2006 was answered on the same day, and his job was secured within two weeks of being released!   More importantly, Easter stays grounded today by the same routine he has had since 2006.  He states, “I get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning and I spend an hour, two, or three, weekends included, in the Word.  It’s become part of my life.”    

Easter is happy to say, “I am living the 2 Chor 5:17 life.  That old person is gone.  That’s how I try to live my life now.”  Recently a Parole officer asked Easter, “How did you go through prison, come out, land the kind of job you have, making a living, with benefits?”  Easter replied, “You can’t live on what happened.” He continued,   “If I was a millionaire and went broke, I wouldn’t be able to live off of that money, because it’s gone.  That part of my life is gone, he is dead now, but it’s something I’ll never forget, but it was my choices that took it all away.”  He emphasized that he was raised with the right beliefs, but chose not to use them.    In Easter’s final thoughts, he reflected,   “If nothing else, I’d like to see everyone be kind to others and at least do that part - even if you don’t believe in anything else the good book says- the world would be a much better place.”  He speaks of perseverance and added, “I’ve got buddies in there who are facing life, but I tell them that they have to keep hope. “ 

 Program Manager, Tony Fish saw the importance of Easter having a support system while Easter was in prison.  He and Easter talked about how people usually burn bridges before they go in and once they are in prison, it’s only by the grace of God that those relationships can be mended.  Easter added, “When you are writing from prison and saying that you are sorry, usually the other person is thinking that you just want something or it’s not sincere.”  He concluded that he was so thankful that Reintegration Program gave him a shot on a better life before he was even released. 

 In an answer to the question Tony Fish presented to his staff, Amber Nelson probably said it best by saying “It can be concluded that the Reintegration Program collectively exists because we understand that not one single person is perfect, everyone makes mistakes.  People deserve a chance to grow in a positive way.  We understand that all people should be treated equally, however we know that is not always the reality.”  We, as a program, exist to help build a new foundation that can bring hope to our clients and their families.  As a program, it brings us such joy to hear Easter Sunday Fixico end his testimony with a simple, “Life is good!”  Mvto!

 

 


 Michael Culley