Today we speak with Terry Kovach, Transitional Services Director at New Freedom.
NEW FREEDOM provides critical human services that protect the community and inspire dignity by empowering the innate goodness in every human being. They have found that those who come to New Freedom are quick to say it feels like home. When new member first enters, they are greeted with friendly faces and welcomes. There is no judgment and no size-ups like in jails and prison yards – because the people who come to New Freedom want to live a different lifestyle.
On the first day of arrival, a new member receives a key to their room. Next, a peer mentor escorts them to their team with which they program and live together for the next 90 days.
This is a 90-day program that provides for every basic need. At New Freedom, members are given the tools needed to uncover inner peace, remember their dreams, and begin executing strategic plans for their futures.
Christ’s Church of the Valley: https://ccv.church/
CCV Missions: www.ccv.church/missions
Pastor Larrie Fraley: linkedin.com/in/larrie-fraley-53445032
Larrie: [00:00:36] Welcome to the show today. This is episode 28. This year has flown by and I am so happy to be able to introduce to you today. Tracy Kovach and Tracy, I've known for many years now, I think I met him way back when we were doing bike rides with Teen Challenge. And he's just the real deal. And I think you're going to enjoy today's episode. Now, Tracy is the transitional services director at New Freedom, and we had a chance to visit New Freedom last week, I believe. And it is amazing. I'm telling you, CCV, you're going to want to sign up, volunteer and go down and serve at New Freedom. Well, today we're going to hear from Tracy. Tracy, first of all, welcome to the show.
Tracy: [00:01:22] Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure being here.
Larrie: [00:01:24] You know, we've I've been waiting to do this for some time now. And so without further ado, let's hear a little bit about your story, okay?
Tracy: [00:01:35] Yeah, let's see. It was 2009. I think you and I met in 2000, nine or ten at the Teen Challenge Motorcycle Ride. Didn't even have my license back yet, and I was still a student in the program. I remember saying, Man, as soon as I get my license, I'm going to ride in this bike ride. And years later I ended up doing that in multiple times. But so yeah, so yeah, a little bit about me. So I, first of all, I love to just give God glory for everything. So it amazes me where God has me today. People from my past life, they always tell me, man, it's a trip. It's just it's a trip. Seeing where you're at today. I knew you back in your past and I'm like, you listen, I knew me better than you did. And it amazes me even more to see what God has done in my life. So. So I grew up in a broken home. So 1971, I think my parents divorced or 1970. I was five years old. My mom was an alcoholic. I didn't see my dad again after that for a lot of years, so I ended up going into foster homes. My mom had left me and I went through foster homes, abusive foster homes and just all that stuff and just felt lost and broken, felt that nobody loved me. And so I never talked to anybody. I just spent my life just watching things around me.
Tracy: [00:03:01] And back in, like when I was about 14, I ran away from my dad again. I ran into him again and then ran away from him again. Ended up in Orange County, California, living on the street with a bunch of renegade bikers who kind of taught me that it was cool to hate people and just do all the stuff that I used to do and do drugs and alcohol and beat people up and all that stuff that it was like. That was the the cool thing to do with this group of people. So, and of course, I wanted to be the coolest guy ever, so I took it to the extreme. It's the story of my life. I, I'm obsessive compulsive extremists. So yeah. So I ended up getting into drugs and alcohol. I started injecting methamphetamine and heroin about the age of 14 and then spent the next 28 years after that injecting drugs and going to prison. Time and time again. I started out in juvenile hall. I think I had 37 police contacts as a juvenile. I was arrested at the age of 16 for burglarizing a police officer's house in Fullerton, California. I got a year in juvenile hall and then I escaped. So when they caught me three months later, I ended up sitting in juvenile hall until I turned 18 because I had nobody to get released to.
Tracy: [00:04:30] I had no parents and no guardian or nothing. So when I turned 18, I was I lifted weights the whole time I was in juvenile hall and I got out 18 years old, about 205 pounds, just ripped, just wanted to just beat up everybody and smash everybody's face. And I, I never knew about Jesus. I didn't have God in my life back then. And there was never anybody in my life to tell me about the Lord. So I was just running wild. I ended up started going to county jail multiple times. Started going to prison. I ended up in Folsom Prison. Soledad Solano. Vacaville. Chino Avenal. Florence, Douglas, Buckeye. Fort Grant, Kingman. So I kind of made my rounds in the prison system for the next 13 years after that. So I kind of felt like I was stuck in a world I didn't belong in. So I just wanted to give back. That's just what I felt in my heart. That and I hated my parents. It was I felt it was their fault that I was where I was at. And I just took it out on the whole world. And so I just became one of the worst of the worst and just had anyone and everybody fearing me and I was just out of control. I didn't care if I lived or died. I would inject as much meth and heroin as I possibly could.
Tracy: [00:05:55] And it really didn't matter if I if it killed me or if it didn't. So. So I did that for a very long time. I became a gang leader for the white power movement, which is I look back on, I think, what a dummy. You know, I was kind of I was raised by the people that raised me to hate people and I forgive them today. I can't hate on them because that's not what Jesus wants for me. But I look back on it and just think, man, I, I go in and tell people all the time when I, when I talk to people like where I came from and just tell them, listen, there's way more to life than all that. We don't need to hate people and all that for what it was just it was just senseless. Back in 2007, the Maricopa County sheriffs drove a tank into my house looking for a meth lab and a chop shop. So they didn't find that, but they found a bunch of other stuff that I was looking at the rest of my life in prison. So I was in the county jail in 2007 looking at the rest of my life in prison. And I was just broken. I spent my whole life looking for something. That clarification in life. I didn't know what it was. I thought it was drugs and women and beating people and taking over towns and prison yards and just all this stuff that it wasn't.
Tracy: [00:07:16] Nothing ever filled that void. Nothing ever gave me peace. I was always just hopeless and lost. And. June 28, 2007, I was sitting in the county jail. If I would have taken my cases to court, I would have ended up spending the rest of my life in prison. I went to a church service just to get out of my cell. I remember the guy in the county jail, some Christian guy, come up to me and said, Hey, let's go to church, man, just to get out of our cell. And I'm like, What? Get out of my face, dude. I'm not going to church. I am. God, remember I told you that? Well, there's a God, and it ain't me, that's for sure. So I went to church. June 28th, 2007, and ended up giving my life to Jesus that day. And I just never looked back. At that point, I was just on fire for the Lord in the county jail. I wanted to know everything I could know about this God, I said, was never there. I started reading the Bible over and over and over and over again, and I separated myself from all the white power guys and all the people I used to hang out with. And I got out. I ended up fighting my case for 14 months. They were offering me, I would have got like 35 to 100 years if I would have lost all my cases.
Tracy: [00:08:25] And because of Jesus, I ended up getting two years in prison. So I spent the next two years in prison, but I became a pod pastor, a praise and worship leader in prison. I got out and I went right to Teen Challenge because I did not want to go back to my neighborhood because, I mean, you hang out in a barbershop long enough, you're going to get a haircut. So I just didn't want to go back to my neighborhood. I did it a million times, and every time I did, it just turned out to be the same thing. And I didn't want to stop following Jesus ever. I didn't want to leave Jesus in prison and like, I see it happen so many times. So I went to Teen Challenge. I ended up being in Teen Challenge for 18 months. I became a choir director and a staff member at Teen Challenge, met my beautiful wife at a Teen Challenge banquet. I remember arguing with God about that, guys. I heard God tell my heart. I'm telling God it's me and you, God. And he's like, Nope, it's me, you and her. And I'm like, What? No God. Hers are trouble. I just want it to be me and you. And so. So we're getting ready to celebrate our 12th anniversary. So praise God. So.
Tracy: [00:09:31] So now I've been out for about 15 years. I've been walking with Jesus for 15 years. I've been out for about 13 little over 13. And I went to the Teen Challenge program, and God taught me how to walk with him on the street through the through Teen Challenge. I didn't know how to walk with God on the street. And that's what God taught me. Introduced me to the body of Christ on the street, which I've never known before. And God just introduced me and showed me everything that I didn't know. I just. I needed to learn a whole new way of living. And God taught me how to do that out here. I ended up getting my pastor's license and then I also got badged to go back into the county jail. So I'm fully badged with a blue badge to go in every county jail in Maricopa County. I can walk right into the maximum security without an escort, so that's just amazing. The lawyers can't even do that. So now all the glory be to God. See, that's what that's the power of what Jesus can do in your life. I'm badged to go in every prison in Arizona. So I'm only one of two people ever in Arizona to be fully badged to go in all prisons in Arizona without an escort. So again, that's Jesus. That just doesn't happen. So I'm also I'm a husband, a father and grandfather, a great grandfather, home owner, times, two.
Tracy: [00:10:48] I've never owned anything in my life. And now I own two houses. And my wife and I just bought both bought brand new vehicles and just I mean, just on and on. Just God has just restored everything. I never had anything in my life. All I ever did was just do drugs and be homeless and beat people up and go to jail and prison and all that stuff. And now to be living this life. Now, today, I'm the director of transitional services at at one of the largest or the largest reentry program in the United States. It's called New Freedom. So we currently have 265 members, what we call second chance members. We have what we're doing is we're we're mentoring inmates while they're still in prison. So we're currently writing about 5500 inmates. We're building relationships with these inmates and seeing if they're really serious about changing their lives. If they are, then we go through an eligibility process to see if they're eligible to come to our program. Then we also have a Transportation Department that picks them up in prisons all over Arizona when they parole. We also have. 260 staff. We bought the Four Point Sheraton Hotel on the I-17 in Peoria. So the whole hotel, I remember when they first mentioned it to me, I was like, What part of the hotel did you buy? And they're like, No, the whole hotel.
Larrie: [00:12:09] That's a story in itself. It is a story. Let me tell you, just for our listeners to go there and walk into this, what was a very nice hotel is now a very nice recovery center. And so I can see why people would want to go there, stay there and get well.
Tracy: [00:12:30] Absolutely. So my job is so I'm over all the case managers which there's 32 of them right now. I'm over our wellness department and our navigator services. We also have navigator services that follow these members out onto the street to make sure they're still moving forward. So our program is a 90 day in-house program. So we're a we're a reentry program. It's an intensive outpatient program with supportive housing. So it is male and female currently. But we're just getting ready to buy our second facility where we're going to move the females into their own facility. So it's just amazing. Our goal is what always happens and I've lived it firsthand, is when you get out, your parole officer tells you you're going to go live in this halfway house, you're going to get a job, you're going to pay your rent, you're going to pay your parole fees. And if you miss any of this, then you're going back to prison. Well, I mean, in my head, I used to be well, I don't even have an ID. So you want me to start paying this stuff immediately? And I would just finally just say, forget it, catch me when you can and go back to prison.
Tracy: [00:13:31] So this is kind of trying to break that cycle right now. So it gives us an opportunity to work with these men and women to help them decompress. We get their ID, Social Security cards, birth certificates the minute they come in. I've talked to you about 250 employers in the valley. About 160 of them are completely on board with hiring our members after they go through the 90 day program. I have ten employers that actually set up in our lobby and they do the application process and the interview process right there in the lobby. So it's just amazing to watch these men and women so far. Right now, we've had about 2300 members come through there and we've only had 12 that have caught new charges and gone back to prison.
Larrie: Wow. So pretty amazing what's happening over there right now. It's never been done before. So people ask us, well, well, how did you guys even how are you guys even doing this? And we've even had people tell us we could never do this. We're like, well, you're absolutely right, but we serve a God that can.
Larrie: [00:14:33] So you have more than just more than just a spiritual healing program. Your program is really holistic. Tell us a little bit about the physical or how the body part of the ministry works.
Tracy: [00:14:49] Yes. So it's called alpha source, alpha source. So our programming there is these men and women are in program all day long, every day, Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.. So it starts with their fitness, their physical fitness. So we have 12 personal trainers there and a fitness director that they do personal training with all of the members and also free personal training with any staff they want to train. So it's pretty rigorous and there's all different levels for four members that are there that that have any kind of physical disabilities or anything like that. They have teams that work with them specifically if they're disabled, and they will sit there and they'll watch physical videos or educational videos on physical workouts and stuff like that. So yeah, it's a pretty interesting, pretty intense program. So all the programming at our program is all we don't we don't like to call it mandatory. It's just part of the programming. If you're at New Freedom, then that's what we're doing at New Freedom.
Larrie: [00:15:51] Well, I noticed the of course, being a previous hotel, it has the the meeting places like the ballrooms and large meeting and those are used for church services on Sunday. At least one of the ballrooms. Right.
Tracy: [00:16:06] They are actually. So we do so it's Saturday, Thursday night and Saturday night are when we do our spiritual stuff there, we do the AA book, which is our CEO, Joe McDonald. He actually ties the the AA book in the Bible in with it, which is actually how it was written. So the world is gone totally off the rails with AA, but so then he does that on Thursday night at seven. There's usually people can come from the streets, families can come from the streets. There's usually anywhere from 3 to 500 people in the Grand Ballroom every Thursday night, as well as Chaplain Lee. Actually, he was the head chaplain at Florence Prison. He retired and now he's working for us. But he does the nondenominational Christian services on Saturday night at seven, which is again in the ballroom, which is a pretty large crowd.
Larrie: [00:16:58] So so as the transitional services director, what's your day look like? What do you do?
Tracy: [00:17:09] Oh, how much time do we got? So my main my main function is to make sure that all the case managers are functioning well and that all the members are getting the services that they that they deserve. And so I also am out there doing interviews with different companies and owners of companies and CEOs. I'm touring their facilities, their touring hours. So I currently again, I have 32 case managers, four supervisors, a manager. So yeah, so my, my, so what I do is I pay attention to them sometimes I call it like herding cats sometimes.
Larrie: [00:17:50] Well, I know, I know. When we visited and toured, we'd get about ten steps into the tour and then up would come someone that is has wanted to give a report to Tracy or wanted some advice or wanted to know what to do next. And it was a pretty interesting tour, but it was an amazing tour. I mean, I saw facilities there that was just off the charts. The food service line there was and food services there was amazing.
Tracy: [00:18:22] Yeah, the restaurant is fully operational, so we bought the hotel fully furnished all the way, the beds, phones, TVs, everything. They just packed their personal belongings and left, right down to the silverware and the restaurant. So we have executive chefs that make amazing meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, buffet style meals that members can eat as much as they want, whatever they want. And there's just a variety of things. So it's amazing.
Larrie: [00:18:44] Now you have men and women that that that go there, right? Absolutely.
Tracy: [00:18:48] Men and women. Yes.
Larrie: [00:18:50] How does that work? Do the men have a particular floor or?
Tracy: [00:18:53] Yeah, the ladies are on the first floor. The men are in the second, third and fourth. We also have a very large safety team. We call them safety because if they were called security, then the members wouldn't want to talk to him getting right out of prison. So we have a large, we have security cameras everywhere just to make sure that everybody's safe having men and women there. So it gets that's the reason we're moving them into their own facility, is there's a lot of distractions with all these men and women just getting out of prison. And then I've had members come up going, I found my soul mate. I'm like, No, listen, you better pray about that.
Larrie: [00:19:28] But because now for the first. So it's a 90 day program, correct? Yeah. And the first 30 days they stay at the facility.
Tracy: [00:19:38] The whole 90 days they stay.
Larrie: [00:19:40] Oh the whole time. For some reason thought some of them actually was working.
Tracy: [00:19:44] No, no, they can't work until they leave the facility. So the goal is by their 90th day to have them employed and knowing where they're moving to next, we help them pay their first week's rent at any sober living or three quarter house or we'll help them. We help them pay their fines, help them get their driver's licenses back, the whole thing. The first 30 days, they're not allowed to leave the facility at all. They can have passes, 12 hour pass on Saturday or Sunday after the 30 days is up. We just want to make sure they're not that that they're well established in the community and understand what we do at our facility before they just leave the property.
Larrie: [00:20:24] What kind of skills or training do they receive, Tracy, while they're there?
Tracy: [00:20:28] Oh man, they get a lot of training. So on our clinical side, so the clinical, our, our therapists, we have about 12 therapists on site who also do a lot of trauma classes that we're trying to get to the root of what it is that caused them to go to prison in the first place and just all the trauma they've been dealing with their whole lives. So we do anger management type programming, living skills, coping skills, cultural diversity. Just a lot of a lot of trauma skills and training. We also have vocational programming on our facility to where we have companies that are coming in and actually painting our facility inside and out. Sherwin-Williams actually donated all the paint and materials for PHP painting to come in and they're training our guys and schooling our guys and giving them trades. There's about 18 contractors that are working with PHP painting. So these members are learning a trade while they're in there. We do painting, culinary flooring, tile roofing and peer support training in there. So they're getting a whole array of classes and groups and just to watch these guys and gals just be so on fire, to be learning something different and being able to get out, back out in the community. One of the biggest lies that has always, always circulated through the prison system is if you're a felon, you don't you don't have a chance. Nobody will hire you. You can't do anything, which is absolutely false, especially in this day and age. There's a lot of companies and CEOs out there that are really wanting to give second chances, which really opens a door for these members.
Larrie: [00:22:14] So as we wrap up here today, what are your biggest needs right now?
Tracy: [00:22:19] Man Some of our biggest needs is transportation, hygiene, clothing. We supply them with all of that stuff. Those are the biggest ones is transportation, clothing and hygiene.
Larrie: [00:22:35] And last question how can we pray for you?
Tracy: [00:22:38] Man just. There's a lot of prayers. There's a lot been going on. My wife and I, we were at a couple of different hospitals yesterday. We have one of her old friends, OD'd on fentanyl, which is a terrible thing out there right now. And he didn't make it. We have another friend that's got congestive heart failure that's in the hospital today. Another one that just wrecked his motorcycle. One of our staff, wrecked his motorcycle and broke all his ribs. And so there's a lot going on. So I just pray for our facility, pray for continued guidance with the Holy Spirit and to continue to walk us through. I have one more real quick thing, though, before we go. I want to just tell a really cool story. So everybody knows a hotel is never at capacity, right? So when we start filling that hotel up with people, the sewer lines couldn't hang. So we had to replace all the main sewer lines through the whole building. So that was an eight foot trench, went through the whole building down every hallway. What's really cool, though, is before we filled the holes in, the members wanted to read their Bibles to their favorite scriptures and bury them in the concrete open to their favorite scripture. So every five feet through the whole building is a Bible buried in the concrete around the hall.
Larrie: That's amazing.
Larrie: [00:23:54] I'd love to see some pictures on that.
Tracy: [00:23:55] I have pictures and video, actually. So.
Larrie: [00:23:58] Well, Tracy, thank you for joining us today. And we look forward to having you back. I want to see what God's going to do at new at New Freedom and in your life as you've surrendered your life to this cause and have been obedient. And so we look forward to that. And God bless you. .
Tracy: [00:24:18] You. God bless you, too. And all the glory to God. I can never say that enough.