Giving Back: In Support of Red Barn Academy

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This year, Red Barn Academy opened it’s doors providing multi-year vocational training for men with a history of criminal behavior and addiction. Red Barn’s singular mission is to help its students rehabilitate and set their lives on a better path.

Working closely with the justice system to offer an alternative to incarceration, Red Barn Academy was born out of tragedy so that others could avoid the same fate.

Few endeavors are as noble as helping someone in need rise up from what is often rock-bottom, and build life and work skills that will prevent them from ever sliding down again.

We’re in awe of what Red Barn Academy is doing, and it is our honor to support their program by offering suits to graduates, and ongoing donations.

To that end, we would like to ask for your help.

There are two ways to get involved:

Simply contact our team or ask about Red Barn Academy during your next fitting.

To learn more about the drive behind Red Barn Academy, visit their site and read our candid interview with founder Mike Haws below.

TC: First, thank you for the interview today. Can you tell us a little bit about Red Barn Academy for those who haven’t heard of the program?

We are a 2 year residential Life-Skills Academy in a Farm setting, with a focus on Addiction Recovery & Mental Wellness while changing behaviors, through Hard Work, Training & Educational Opportunities.

All of this is provided at no cost to the student. We do not take money from the government. We are supported by our own hard work and generous donations from private and business partners.

TC: What inspired the idea of Red Barn Academy?

Red Barn Academy was borne out of the drug and criminal epidemic that wreaked havoc in my past life and is currently plaguing friends, family members and loved ones in my own backyard. Having been to multiple treatment centers, psych wards, institutions and jails I knew something had to be done. The final push to be part of that change was the death of my own little brother.

It was June 29th, 2012 on a  Friday morning at 6 am that I received a phone call from my Father. As soon as I saw his name pop up on my phone something inside of me already knew. “Mike,” he said “The Davis County Sheriff’s Department just left the front doorstep.” After a long pause and muffled sobs he was finally able to say the words. “They found your brother, Dustin, in a hotel room in Salt Lake City dead of a heroin overdose.” I remember those words echoing in my head like a loud civil war battle drum. I can’t even explain what I felt in that moment because I didn’t know how.

After hearing this news I did what any guy like me would do…I numbed and coped in the best way I knew how. Two days later I found myself handcuffed to a hospital bed with two police officers outside of my room. With my life and my family’s life in turmoil I had nowhere and no one to turn to, at least I thought. A few short days later I faced my father inside the little Red Barn in Farmington. Through tears, pain and sorrow my broken Father said to me, “Mike, we just lost your little brother…Are we going to lose you too?”. What do you say to any man, especially your own father, in that moment. I sat stunned. He continued, “What can we do to support you?” Full of grief and hopelessness my Dad dug deep and reached out with empathy.

It was in that moment in that unassuming Red Barn in Farmington that the light came on and I decided that I needed to do something different.

I am convinced that my Brother did not have to die that day. Had there been more resources and understanding there is a chance he would be here. I am also convinced that it could be him doing this interview instead of me. For some reason I am the one here trying to turn this tragedy into a triumph.  The silver lining of all of the pain, turmoil, grief and utter despair has been the beautiful creation of our mission to save lives. Mine being the first!

TC: Are there one or two student stories you could share with us?

It was the night of December 31st, 2016. Derek  Johnson was parked in the hospital parking lot where his daughter was born exactly one year earlier. A culmination of unhealthy living and extremely selfish decisions had brought him to that point. Because of the weight of those choices and the insanity of jails, treatments, and programs that never seemed to work, the future was extremely bleak. Ending it all and trying to overdose seemed to be the next best option in his life. Luckily, he did not die that day and through some divine intervention he ended up at Red Barn Academy instead of in a cemetery like my brother. Derek was brought in to the Red Barn Academy and embraced with open arms. Through the consistent daily habit of doing the next right thing and continuing to do it over and over and over again he is learning to find internal peace.

Before Kade Lundgreen got to Red Barn he was broken. He would lie, cheat and manipulate to get whatever he wanted. On October 3rd, 2017 that all changed when Kade joined the Red Barn Academy. Kade’s stay here hasn’t been easy, although it has been worth it. He has learned how to live a disciplined life of integrity and honesty. Looking back at the person I saw over two years ago to the person I see now, he has a light in his eyes. He has an energy of peace and happiness that he probably never had. I look forward to seeing the continued growth in Kade. At the end of the day it is my brothers untimely death that has brought people like Derek and Kade life and the opportunity to seek and find peace at the Red Barn.

TC: Tailor Cooperative’s partnership with Red Barn Academy provides suits to graduating students looking to re-enter the workforce and society at large. What role do you see these suits playing in the students’ lives?

For the large majority of the public, putting on a new shirt and tie or wearing your own hard-earned blazer and slacks may not seem like a life-changing experience. But for our students it is exactly that. When you take someone who has struggled with homelessness, incarceration, lack of self-care and confidence and put them in a suit that they can call their own does something beyond making them look “normal”. Our guys feel like they belong. It gives them hope that they are bigger than the negative labels that they themselves and society at large has placed on them. Those feelings of hope and belonging turn into them believing that they can become what they have always dreamed of. It means that they can be the fathers their children need, the husbands their wives long for, the sons that their parents raised them to be and ultimately a man of integrity that is full of greatness.

TC: You’ve shared with us that your aim is to rebuild the lives of the students, by helping “re-program” bad habits picked up in their previous lives. Where do you start with something like that?

At the very beginning. When our students walk in the door they sit on a bench that looks right out the front door. We do not hold them there. They are invited to sit on that bench that is strategically placed next to the window of the trail to the train station. That door and that bench serve as a portal. That portal can either transform them into a man of integrity, accountability and hard-work or they can stand up and go back to that life of hopelessness. Our own experience has taught us that those people haven’t experienced enough pain and we hope that they stay alive long enough to find their own path to healing.  Many of those we interview are not accepted into the program because they do not fit our criteria and do not demonstrate sufficient motivation to change. The moment someone walks in we work together to break down those bad habits and unhealthy behaviors. We create a safe environment where consistent discipline, tough love, healthy confrontation and rigorous honesty correct and replace those bad habits. This allows us to recalibrate these broken moral compasses and point them in the direction of doing the next right thing over and over and over. These habits repeated become embedded in the marrow of their bones. Integrity is the ultimate determinant in the measure of our success.  

TC: Are there any principles that you teach your students that you think more people should focus on when it comes to living honest, happy, and productive lives?

I encourage the students to dig deep. When we are wrong we promptly admit it. We make amends where possible. My goal as the Executive Director is to provide a safe environment for these men to heal emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. In order to do that I have to practice and live these principles myself. We encourage everyone to develop a mission statement. My mission statement is:

“Be the best husband, father and friend by living with integrity, discipline and service to others.”

I try to treat people with an outward mindset. I want to be kind but not weak…strict but also understanding. My problem is that I get too much of me on me. If I focus on others I am successful. My litmos test at the end of the day is, “How am I treating others?”. If I am treating others with love, honesty and respect then my relationship with God is good, my relationships with my wife and son are good!

TC: What is your vision for the future of Red Barn Academy?

I want to build an army of people full of integrity. Create a community of human beings where we can change behaviors with the byproduct being more love, compassion and human connection. I do not necessarily buy into the idea that we have a drug problem, I believe that we have a behavior problem. My issues did not stem from drugs and alcohol. I used drugs and alcohol because I lacked integrity, honesty and accountability. If we can establish those fundamental core values the drug and alcohol problem solves itself.

Red Barn Academy is about saving as many lives as possible. We have a plan to develop a woman’s program once we get an additional bunkhouse built. Our plan includes a family program based on these same principles which will be one of the first of its kind. A program for everyone that promotes rigorous honesty, personal accountability and a relentless pursuit of integrity.

TC: How can someone support your cause and help?

The easy thing for a non-profit is to ask for money. But we do not want that. We want people to be a part of the Red Barn Academy Family. Come and experience the Red Barn. Come and see what we are all about. Experience the feelings of peace on our campus, find comfort as you walk on our Serenity Trail, understand what the day to day looks like for someone that is trying to save their life, and in the end we want you to feel those feelings of raw and unfiltered human connection that exist here.

Let us know how you think you can help us and share how you think we can help you. Support our program by hiring the Red Barn Movers or our Red Barn Property Management enterprises. All of the revenue from these enterprises goes right back into funding our mission of saving lives. If you have a friend, family member, employee or anyone you know that is struggling, send them to us. They may not be a fit for Red Barn but we can give them a warm handoff to other community members.

TC: Thank you for your time today. Any final thoughts you’d like to leave our readers with?

I always like to issue a challenge. Think about ways that you can go above and beyond today and make someone smile, say please and thank you. Don’t talk about it…Be about it. I think about my daily life and mission statement and try to think of what can I do to make a difference today. Our way of saving our own lives is by showing up for someone else.

Develop your own personal and meaningful mission statement. Share it with your friends, co-workers, family. And be about the action. Do not sit idly by and be a spectator. Join in the cause of making a difference. It is just as simple as saying please and thank you for making someone smile with a small gesture.

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