One of the philanthropic backbones of OKC, Tricia Everest is a fourth-generation Oklahoman who graduated from Vanderbilt University and the University of Oklahoma School of Law. After serving as Assistant Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma, Everest decided to spend her time leading a variety of initiatives geared towards helping the marginalized in OKC. She was the founding chair of two non-profits: Palomar, which removes barriers for abuse victims to access the resources they need; and ReMerge, which diverts mothers from prison and empowers them to build healthy foundations for themselves and their children. She now works at the Oklahoma City Criminal Justice Authority. We caught up with Everest and got her thoughts on …
… her role atthe OCCJA.
As chair of the OCCJA, I serve as the primary contact for the community, the media, the county and for the staff of the Oklahoma County Detention Center (since our takeover of the jail on July 1, 2020). The Authority is a public body, and I serve with a total of nine trustees and, as chair, lead our public meetings.
In 2010, 25 agencies came together to build what is now ReMerge. Inasmuch Foundation was asked to be the seed funder, and I believed it would change the landscape of criminal justice. Instead of just funding, I wanted to be hands-on. I specialized in the prevention of child abuse and neglect in law school and spent quantitative time in juvenile court. Without interventions, the cycles would continue. When we lock a woman up for drug violations, my primary concern is what happens to the kids. If women were not hooked on drugs or being used as an accomplice by abusive partners, they wouldn’t be breaking the law. By diverting the mothers from prison and providing wrap-around services towards the root causes, we keep families together, and the kids have a pathway to a better life. As an aside, almost every participant has experienced domestic abuse, sexual assault or childhood trauma, and had Palomar existed sooner, they may have never entered into criminalistic behavior.
In 2015, then Oklahoma City Police Department chief Bill Citty called me and said there was a woman that had the answer to breaking the cycles of abuse, addiction and incarceration, and asked if I would I help her. If the chief of police knew these things mattered to me, I needed to know no more and agreed wholeheartedly. Kim Garrett was running the victim services unit for OCPD to assist in all cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, stalking and cyber bullying. She recognized that victims received brochures and then, in their most vulnerable, traumatic time, were left to navigate systems that would be difficult for anyone under normal circumstances. She researched, and the best practices are to have all resources working together.
In February 2017, when we opened Palomar, Oklahoma City’s family justice center, it was the first time lawyers, detectives and advocates assisting these cases had ever met each other in person, much less worked in the same building. One provider said that what used to take seven weeks of phone tag now happened in seven minutes. Most of Oklahoma’s worst rankings are directly related to unaddressed trauma, and the more we can work together, new solutions evolve – and we will break the cycles.
… her passion for philanthropy.
To whom much is given, much will be required. I knew three sets of my great-grandparents, all of which invested in the community and people. Each generation has followed the example. My family provided me with the opportunity to be of service, and a blueprint to do so. By investing time and money into people and organizations, I have a unique perspective to hopefully bridge people together that otherwise may never meet. Together we are better. Now more than ever, bringing different perspectives to the table is necessary and fundamental for our society moving forward.
… staying active.
I learned the hard way that when I don’t stop and slow down, I miss the miracles happening around me. I am very fortunate to have traveled to many places and, in recent years, to hike as well. Getting away is one of the best ways to recalibrate priorities and remember there is always a bigger picture. I try to get away every couple of months to be reminded I am not that important, things go on without me and I always return with new perspectives.