Ed Black, Media Producer – Interviewed by Intern Lindsay Schlenker

Ed filming at the Day in the Park

Ed Black has served alongside Koinonia for about a year and a half now as the media producer.  He’s the owner and founder of Imagination Harbor Media Group which he’s run for fifteen years, and says that Koinonia is one of his favorite clients because they’re “by far the most meaningful.”  Ed produces and shoots videos, creates digital stories, manages the website and blog, and does success stories.  His job is to serve the vision of Koinonia, and he believes it really takes a producer to tell a good story.

One of Ed’s favorite things about working with Koinonia is that he loves the staff.  He says that Bill (Bill Ryland, Homes for Teens Administrator) is great and he loves that his videos actually make an impact on people.  The most memorable film he made was advertising for the Ride for Life charity community event with Bill on a bike!  Not only was it informative, but also pretty entertaining!  Ed says there’s nothing that he would change about Koinonia because it is truly a “first class organization.”

Ed in the thick of it

Not knowing what he was getting himself into, Ed once volunteered to fill in as an overnight staff for a week- something he will never forget!  He’s also had to learn to survive in the office at Koinonia you need a have a thick skin and a good sense of humor.  Ed finds it rewarding that he’s a part of something bigger than himself, and knows “without a doubt that they (Koinonia) are life changers.  Their program works and they know what they’re doing.”  Ed would like to be remembered for his high quality work and believes it speaks for itself!

Ed has been working on producing a show called Paladin Nights featuring Paladin Private Patrol officers in South Sacramento.

Ben Hoover – The Bedtime Story

Ben Hoover

At Koinonia, it’s the Child Care Counselor staff that connects the dots for our teens as they work through their recovery.  Good staff make it all work and there is no better CCC than Ben Hoover.  A graduate of William Jessup University, Ben came on aboard in 2008.  Where the title CCC usually stands for Child Care Counselor, with Ben it stands for Cool, Calm & Collected.  His temperament and the quality of his character makes him most approachable and trustworthy for the teens.  Ben is also a writer and a poet and frequently writes pieces for the boys he works with.

One of Ben’s boys, Richie, who trusted Ben as a confidant used him as a sounding board on his journey through recovery, often just before bedtime.  As usual, Ben offered sound advice and Richie was highly successful.  On the occasion of Richie graduation from the program, Ben wrote a bedtime story for him.  Having him come on the graduation stage (pictured), Ben wrapped Richie in a blanket and read him his final bedtime story.  The story chronicles Richie’s struggles with usage, called the Magic, and the journey to recovery.  In the story there are illustrations of staff members that Richie encountered, the Giant is 6’6” CCC Ian Ryland, the Island Warrior is CCC Walter “Bamu” Meake from the island nation of Vanuatu, the Truth Defender is CCC Eric Scharfenberger, the Whiskered Listener is Ben himself, the Orderly Damsel is FSA Joy Miller, and the Wise Commander is Facility Supervisor Justin LaCasse.

All the staff at Koinonia brings a piece of themselves to offer to our young people.  In Ben’s case he can put it on paper and offer it as a gift.  Please enjoy Richie’s Bedtime Story.

Richie's Bedtime Story

Welcome Joy!


JoyCongratulations to Joy Miller (pictured with House 4 resident) for her promotion to Facility Supervisor.  Joy has been working with the Kids of Koinonia since 2007 and has served in most every capacity available with the teens.  She has work in both, boy’s and girl’s homes, at the Crisis Resolution Center and most recently as a Facility Supervisor’s Assistant at House 4.  Earlier this year, she completed her graduate work and earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology.   The staff and boys out at House 4 affectionately suggest that Joy is not just “organized” but that she is “uber-organized!” To which Joy would respond, “. . . but they’re a house full of boys . . . it’s still not enough.”

We’re excited to have such a highly qualified staff available to step into the Facility Supervisor position to guide and mentor the staff and female residents of House 3.  We look forward to many contributions that Joy will bring to the Supervisor’s team and our program as a whole.

Farewell to Nick

Nick will be taking a position at his alma mater, William Jessup University. All of Koinonia bids him and his lovely wife Sheri a fond farewell. It was back in 2007 when Nick came to Koinonia a single man. It was quickly apparent that he was a young man of quality character and integrity. His work with the boys at House 4 was that of what one would hope for. When a Facility Supervisor position became available, Nick was on the short list. As Facility Supervisor at House 5, we watched Nick hone his natural leadership skills, gain the respect of his staff and peers, become an important mentor to virtually every young man he worked with, and marry the love of his life.

We wish Nick, Sheri and their little one on the way, the very best in his new position at William Jessup University. We receive so many great staff from William Jessup, that it is okay that we give them one of the very best back. Thanks for everything Nick, we love you.

The Magical Life

The Magical Life                                                                                                              Ben Hoover

“The journey of life is an amazing road to travel. It’s filled with mystery, heartache, challenges, joy and beauty. It is magical in and of itself that to live for and seek magic to try to make it more pleasurable is to lose and truly crush the beauty and enjoyment of such a gift.”

And so we direct our story to a young boy, a boy with a childlike heart, silly in his ways, kind and gentle beyond most. Richie was a goofy kid, awkward at times, but blessed with a great wit and talented in many ways. Most importantly, Richie had such a loving heart and such a strong desire to connect with others. Richie grew up in a land far from civilization. The land was populated with trees, too numerous to count. It was a land draped in beauty and adventure. The land was not great in size, but that had no effect on Richie as he enjoyed the land with boyish wonder. Richie was dearly loved by his mom, grandma, and two sisters. It was a challenge to be the only boy, but Richie was used to it. Richie had the gift to pretend, imagine, dream, laugh and explore and he did that with great joy, but for Richie life had its challenges and the biggest obstacle was being unaware of how great of a man he truly was.

As Richie grew up, he began to lose that joy he so dearly loved. Richie struggled with his identity. It was in this time that Richie was introduced to something that would rob him of the joy he once had. For some, life was such a gift, even with its trials, that no matter what happened, they didn’t need magic to alter or enhance their view of life. But for others who had lost their way, Magic became the way for them to manage, to barely hold on to life. As Richie continued to struggle, he began to weaken even more and one day was introduced to the Magic. Richie wrestled with his convictions, unsure of what it would do to him, and unaware that once he tried it, it would alter his life significantly.

After Richie gave into the magic, he became lost all the more. Richie would do anything to seek the magic and its false wonders. He started to believe that life was nothing without this; it was the pinnacle of all there was in this world. Richie became so enmeshed in the magic, that he would do whatever he could to get it. The greatness in Richie became hidden, shriveled, just a spec. Richie could no longer see his life without the Magic; he allowed the magic to became so strong that it took over who he was. He and the magic were one, but Richie failed to see that Magic had become his master.

As Richie continued each day living for the magic, Richie’s actions led him to the place of Lost Freedom. Richie would go in and out of the place of Lost Freedom, until one day he was sent far away by the Great Judge.

Richie was taken to a land called Togetherness. The land of Togetherness was different from Richie’s home. The laws were many and the work was infinite. Every day in the land of Togetherness, young girls and boys had to follow the laws, much to their dismay. They had to work hard and face life as it happened. Richie was angry and scared to live a life away from his home and the Magic. Richie saw that those who lived in the land of Togetherness were similar. They all had lived a life filled with the Magic and their lives had fallen apart. They hated the land of Togetherness, and would do anything they could to get out. Richie too, felt the same way.

Richie not only had to live with young men with similar struggles, but he had to deal with six strange characters each week. Four of these characters were called The Counselors and the other two were the Overseer and the Overseer’s Assistant. These people were strange; they were honest, spoke the truth and challenged Richie and the other boys, but they listened, laughed, and were always there for Richie even in the most difficult times. There was The Giant, a gentle and wise man who could quote strange facts and answer many questions, especially those concerning historical battles. Another Counselor was the Island Warrior, a man with a thick accent, barely understandable, but wise, gentle and strong. He could also kill a shark with his bare hands. The Truth Defender was a man wise and knowledgeable in the truth and persuasive in his arguments. He also listened to inaudible music that consisted of loud growls of agony. The last Counselor was the Whiskered Listener who had the gift of listening and affirming and had the fastest growing beard in the land that he could barely keep under control. The Overseer’s assistant was the Orderly Damsel who was a wise woman having the ability to categorize, organize, classify, label, distinguish, and maintain order, to preserve the safety and wellbeing of all the boys. The Overseer, who was also known as the Wise Commander, had the ability to articulate words so well it could stop a man cold and cause him to think about his life. He also had a deformed toe that would shed its nail every so often during rigorous activity.

Yes Richie was stuck with these six for quite some time.  Each day Richie was challenged and he thought he could do and say the right things in order to get through his time in Togetherness and go back home. But Richie began to crave the Magic and see that he no longer could pretend. Richie decided to leave Togetherness and go back to the Magic only to get caught and taken back several days later. Richie saw that it was time to start facing his life and being honest. Richie struggled to live life without the Magic.

Many girls and boys would leave the land of Togetherness to turn back to the magic, but Richie continued to stay. Slowly he began to see what life was like without the Magic and how the Magic robbed him of joy. Richie started to embrace who he was again and live life with childlike joy. Richie became his silly, awkward self again. He joked with the other boys and the Counselors. He was playful and weird, but he also began to grow as a young man. He started to gain wisdom, embrace truth and look at things differently. Richie wasn’t a shell of man anymore; he was making steps towards becoming a man. Richie would make mistakes, but he would learn from them and change his old habits. Richie saw that life was actually worth living even with its challenges and he didn’t need the Magic to make it livable. Everyday Richie would endure life and what it brought and because he chose to live it with joy, he could persevere. Richie made it through the stages in the land of Togetherness and did it successfully.

Now it was time for Richie to move on from the land of Togetherness. It was a time for celebration, for Richie had faced what many could not face, life without the Magic. Richie had grown into an amazing young man and didn’t lose who he really was. Richie could now embrace, as he once did, that life was truly beautiful and live it with boyish wonder. No matter how great the challenges in life, Richie could persevere and enjoy life to the fullest and be a light to those who are lost in darkness.