Sun Cedar employs people in transition to create a positive opportunity for a productive, positive lifestyle.
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Although he works in Social Service now, Shine Adams has been a carpenter for most of his life. He and a friend thought up the idea of Sun Cedar one day as they were discussing the difficulty felons face when applying for work. Shine believes that feeling useful is paramount in the journey to recovery, and everybody deserves a chance at an honest days work.
Patrick is a 57-year-old Navy veteran who made a successful career in communications for many years. His last regular employment was as a program consultant in the public information department at the Kansas Department of Transportation, where in 2009,as the agency's first social media manager, he designed and launched the Kansas Transportation Online Community, which according to a researcher at the Pew Center was the first English-language government-operated online community, and quite possibly the first government-operated online community in the world. KTOC went on to play an important role in supporting KDOT's Local Consultations conducted in support of T-WORKS,the 10-year, $8 billion state transportation plan passed by the Kansas Legislature in 2010.
In 2012 Patrick was laid off at KDOT following a profound change in state government, and has been unable to find regular employment since then. In 2013 he lost his car and home and became homeless, which resulted in several months of uncomfortable couch-surfing and, finally, landing at the Lawrence Community Shelter. About six months after he ended up at the shelter he met Shine Adams,who shortly thereafter invited him to assist him in the online launch of his new business--Sun Cedar. Shine retained Patrick to generate copy for the business website, and to provide broad editorial support for his developing Kickstarter campaign. Eventually Patrick became so entwined in Sun Cedar's operations that he joined the company's board of directors, and has been active in our strategic planning ever since. The funds he earned from Sun Cedar have been an essential resource as he transits out of homelessness under the auspices of the Department of Veteran Affairs' HUD-VASH housing program.
Abraham White Weasel
Abraham White Weasel, Sun Cedar's shop manager and star employee, was born into a troubled Lakota family in 1989 in Aberdeen, South Dakota. His father abandoned the family when Abraham was two years old, and two years later his mother also left. Abraham lived in foster homes until the age of eight, when he was adopted into an abusive family and taken to Colorado. Abraham found life intolerable with his adoptive family and started acting out, by his own account behaving like "a delinquent" in an effort to get out of that environment. At the age of 13 he was successful, and he was sent back to South Dakota's Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, where he lived with an aunt while attending school.
Soon after returning to the reservation he was briefly reunited with his mother, with whom he lived in Chicago until she returned him to his 61-year-old father in South Dakota, a reunion that Abraham describes as being "really awkward." After one week, his father dropped him off at a children's home in Eagle Butte, S.D., where he lived for a month before again reuniting with his mother, who took him back to Chicago for a short time before the two of them returned to the Cheyenne River Reservation to live with a cousin.
Once back on the reservation, 13-year-old Abraham continued his schooling but found his conflicted relationship with his mother very difficult. He recalls frequent fights and often considered running away, but says that, "There isn't anywhere to run to on the reservation." Eventually he mastered his emotions and committed himself to improving his relationship with his mother. They fought less and his school performance improved. He recalls believing that he had accomplished "a pretty good turnaround." However, on his 14th birthday he was called out of his last period at school for a meeting with the school counselor and a social worker. Together they informed him that his mother had once again relinquished her parental rights. Though Abraham was only 14, and had never tried drugs or alcohol, he was moved to a Rapid City treatment center as an "emergency placement" where he lived for a year before being moved to a long-term facility, a boy's ranch in Sioux Falls, where he lived from the age of 15 to the age of 18 and graduated from high school.
Abraham dates the beginnings of his health difficulties to that awful 14th birthday. Although as a young child he had been an active bicyclist and Little League baseball player, he fell into a deep depression upon the final separation from his mother. He self-isolated, stopped talking to others or leaving the house to play and soon was wrestling with the obesity that has plagued his adult years. Abraham moved to Lawrence, Kansas to attend Haskell Indian Nations University, but let his grades fall, which eventually led to being kicked out of Haskell. With no family to turn to, Abraham found himself homeless, staying at the Lawrence Community Shelter. During his stay at Lawrence Community Shelter, Abraham met Shine Adams, who recruited him as one of Sun Cedar's first employees.
Since beginning his Sun Cedar journey Abraham has exited the homeless shelter, purchased a car and has been readmitted to Haskell Indian Nations University.
Robert was unemployed for a while before coming to work with Sun Cedar, but is getting started on the right foot with us, filling out his resume with some recent work experience.
So far, he most enjoys finishing the cedar trees with steam-distilled cedar oil. This process engages his eye for detail, and brings out the natural luster of each tree we make.
Born in Wichita in 1964, Lawanna experienced a conventional childhood before becoming the victim of a sexual assault at the age of 11. After that, she says, "Life went downhill." Lawanna slipped into drug use, droppedout of schooland ended up going to prison three times. Her criminal record rendered her virtually unemployable, and vividly recalls showing up for one of the very few call-backs she received after applying for a job only to be told that the interview was cancelled because "HR made a mistake. We can't interview felons."
Committed to turning around her life, Lawanna completed a treatment program administered by a Drug Court in Wichita and in 2010 moved to Lawrence, where she has been clean and sober for almost four years. She met Sun cedar CEO Shine Adams at panel on homelessness at the University of Kansas. In addition to working for Sun Cedar, she occasionally volunteers at Lawrence Community Shelter and works as an administrative assistant at Headquarters Crisis Counseling Center.
Now, Lawanna says, she's focused on her future. "I want to continue the path that I'm on. I want to keep helping other people, the less fortunate."
Shine’s executive assistant, Allison Marker, was born in Topeka, Kansas into a stable, happy family and moved to France at an early age when her father, a graduate of the University of Kansas, moved his family to Europe to become a faculty member of a partnering business school. As a consequence of this, Allison completed junior high school and high school in France before being accepted at College Blaise Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in History before returning to the United States, after 11 years in France, to pursue a career in politics and public service.
Allison worked in political fundraising and communications before concluding that political activity provides “only one perspective” for examining issues such as lack of funding support for the least privileged members of society. She left political work in 2014 to accept a position at Lawrence Community Shelter, where she worked in fundraising and administration, and while at LCS she met Shine. She soon decided that Sun Cedar represented a chance to effect change in her community and joined the company in July 2015. She administers the fulfillment of orders and manages payroll and much of the company’s business-to-business communications.
A key contributor in Sun Cedar’s production shop and a native and near-lifelong resident of northeast Kansas, Kelly was born into a stable family in Lawrence in 1966. At the age of 18 he left the area and obtained employment as a meat-cutter, which he maintained for four years. It was during those years that his partying got the better of him and he developed a serious cocaine dependency, which led him into a non-violent criminal career that ultimately resulted in more than two dozen felony charges and several extended incarcerations.
A frustrated parole officer once asked Kelly, “How is it that you get straight As in prison but keep failing on the outside?” Wondering the same thing, during his time behind the walls Kelly launched into a decade-long study of religion at the prison library and started exploring various treatment options to address his drug dependency. This eventually resulted in his enrollment in an intensive, 12-month residential inpatient program that made him realize “I needed to do something different” and provided him with some of the tools he needed to live a healthier life.
Kelly found himself unemployable after his release because of his criminal history. "That baggage makes it impossible to get a regular job. And when you add addiction to the mix, it's just ridiculous." He came to Sun Cedar after being recommended by Mike Caron, the then-Director of Operations at the Douglas County Jail and a key early supporter of the company. He loves the work and the people he works with, and while he’s still dealing with the aftereffects of extended incarceration, he believes that Sun Cedar has been very helpful in keeping him focused on maintaining his sobriety and walking the straight and narrow.
A native of Kansas City, Kansas, Melissa Roberts is no stranger to overcoming adversity. She suffered a stroke at the age of 18 that left her with paralysis of the left side of her body and a dire prognosis—doctors told her she would never have children and might never walk again. She ignored them and went on to have two children and spend 25 years as a Certified Nurse’s Assistant. She obtained her certification by working in the field and completing her formal education, which required her to walk her children to a babysitter every morning before walking to school. She then walked from school back to the babysitter’s, walked her children to a second babysitter and then walked to work.
Misfortune found Melissa again when she was diagnosed with a heart condition that resulted in a hospital stay of several weeks. The hospitalization cratered her finances, and she lost her home and her car. Homeless and unable to find employment in her former profession, she soon found herself at Sun Cedar, which she describes as “the first job where I enjoy coming to work!” Gainfully employed, with her heart problems controlled by medication, she says that Sun Cedar demonstrates that “people who are comfortable and happy in their work environment are more productive.”
Charlie the Shop Dog
Shine Adams' reclusive roommate, Charlie the three-legged dog, is Sun Cedar's Canine Executive Officer. As CEO Charlie oversees the production of the company's cedar products, the management of all of the company's beef bones and bouncy balls, and frequently barks randomly at the universe--just to let it know that he's watching.
Charlie is believed to be about five years old. Repeated investigation by media around the world has failed to uncover the precise details of Charlie's background, although unsubstantiated rumors assert that he graduated cum laude from the Wharton School of Business before abandoning his comfortable academic lifestyle and taking up as a canine gentleman of the road. It was apparently in the course of this bohemian period that he suffered the loss of his right foreleg-perhaps in combat with a dragon, although this has not been documented. (It must be noted that Charlie himself does not confirm or deny the dragon story.) Undiscouraged by the loss of his leg, Charlie carried on with his unconventional life until, like so many of Sun Cedar's employees, he eventually found his way to a shelter.
Charlie was of course an immediate star at his shelter and was besieged by humans who foolishly imagined themselves as his "master," but Charlie wasn't looking for a master-he was looking for a Chief of Staff to help carry out his entrepreneurial vision. Shine Adams, after completing the required paperwork, including an exhaustive background check and several rigorous personal interviews with Charlie, was selected to be Charlie's human representative, in which capacity he has served ever since.
Charlie, the embodiment of the Sun Cedar ethos, helps us all remember that compassion and character trump adversity.