Tag Archives: adult

Hustle and Sew

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you looked at 46-year-old Tamara Heasler, you’d probably assume that she’s a loving wife and mother who runs a cute, little boutique in the Old Market. And you’d be right. But what you might not assume is that said boutique sells sexy lingerie and adult toys. Or that Heasler had a wild past—you know, the kind of past some of us wish we could boast to our children someday because it would make us seem a little less square.

Drinking, stripping, moving across the country on a whim—Heasler’s done it. “I think it’s important to take risks,” she says. “I started taking risks at a young age.” That’s probably also why Heasler remembers her 20s as a blur. “I’m glad the liver can repair itself because I was a party animal,” she adds.

You know how people joke that it’s only a matter of time before they start stripping to pay the bills? Yeah, Heasler wasn’t joking. Her life was lacking two things—excitement and money. Where better to find both than through stripping?

It didn’t help that she also had a sister to compete with. “My sister was an exotic dancer in a Los Angeles club called The Classy Lady. My thought was if she could do it, so could I,” she says. “I guess you could say it was sibling rivalry.”

Boomers in Fremont, 20’s Showgirl in Omaha, and Mickey’s Razzle Dazzle in Council Bluffs all got a show of sexy Tamara. And no, she wasn’t embarrassed to use her real name (Yes, we’re throwing shade at you, Tasty Melons).20130430_bs_2913_Web

In the early ’90s, Heasler decided she needed a change of scenery and took off for San Antonio, Texas. “I didn’t know anyone who lived there. I just answered an ad in the paper for a roommate.” A bold decision, yes, but it was one that eventually led her to where she is today.

For three years, Heasler lived in San Antonio and bartended. “I grew tired of the bar business. It’s a trap. Once you start to live on tip money, it’s hard to get a 9-5 job and make the same kind of money.” But she couldn’t shake the nightlife.

In Dallas, Heasler found work as a house mom at a gentlemen’s club. If you’ve never heard the term, house mom is fairly similar to a woman who cares for the girls in a sorority house—except, in this case, the girls are strippers. Heasler loved being a house mom because she could work day shifts and care for anywhere between five and 20 girls who reminded her of her younger self.

“Many of the girls in the exotic dancer industry are paying for college [or] are single moms. I support them.”

“I spent lots of time in the dressing room or running errands for the girls or managers. The club paid me to work, and I received tips from the girls at the end of their shifts. The girls took good care of me [and I them].”

It was there that she stumbled upon a new business opportunity—sewing clothes for strippers. Back in her stripper days, Heasler had sewn on the side, making her own garb. It only made sense that she could help out the girls under her care.

After giving birth to her son—“I guess I did it all wrong. I was supposed to get married first, [but] that damn biological clock started ticking”—Heasler moved back to Omaha to reunite with her “stable” family. She started bartending at Mickey’s Razzle Dazzle once more, but this time, she also worked from home, making and selling clothes for local exotic dancers. In time, she had enough pieces to display her products in local strip clubs.

When she turned 35, Heasler knew it was time to get serious about her career. “I knew I couldn’t work in the bar business forever, especially because tips dwindle when you’re not a young, attractive woman anymore.”20130430_bs_2879_Web

In Dallas, she had seen many sexy clothing stores selling shoes, clothes, and lingerie. Her plan was to open a store very similar in Omaha. In 2004, she did. Basic Tease became the hot spot for local strippers, bartenders, go-go dancers, and waitresses to purchase sexy clothing. Heasler made a large percentage of the inventory, so the girls knew they had unique pieces.

As a former stripper, Heasler loved talking with the girls who came into her shop. “I always told them to have a plan,” she says. “I didn’t want them to fall into that bar-business trap. Many of the girls in the exotic dancer industry are paying for college [or] are single moms. I support them.”

After marrying her “wonderful husband,” Brian, in 2009, Heasler moved Basic Tease from its original location on 120th and Blondo to the Old Market and expanded its concept from just sexy clothing to include adult items, pole dancing classes and parties, and boudoir photography. Are you clutching your pearls yet? You don’t need to. Heasler just wants a comfortable place for women and couples to shop for their sexy needs.

“I love having the store,” she says. “It gives me an opportunity to have my own retail outlet for all of my artistic projects.”

Curfew

Curfew establishes freedom and trust. It’s one of the many building blocks to adulthood. Getting that taste of freedom is what every teenager craves. It’s a huge responsibility, but that is what makes freedom so worth it.

As for my own curfew, my parents are very laidback. They don’t have a set time for me to be home. The important thing to them is that they know where I am at all times. My parents have placed a tremendous amount of trust in me, and I would never disobey them. I enjoy having the freedom of no curfew with few exceptions, and I don’t want that privilege to be revoked.

Of course, on school nights, there is a curfew. My parents don’t want me to stay out late on a school night, unless it is for a school event. During the summer, they don’t mind me being out as long as, again, they know what I am doing at all times.

I think it’s important for teenagers to have some freedom with friends. It gives them a taste of what it would be like to live on their own. They also have to manage that responsibility of earning or building on the trust of their parents.

Curfew is important, especially for teenagers. It’s another responsibility to manage, but it’s a stepping-stone to adulthood and making bigger, independent choices in life. Having some rules set in place as the foundation and building trust is a good idea. Freedom is important to teenagers, and it prepares them for the future.

Halston Belcastro is a student at Millard West High School.

Project Everlast

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The first time Akeeme Halliburton was placed in foster care, he was in middle school. His infant brother had been born with drugs in his system, so he and his siblings were removed from their mother’s care and taken into protective custody until alternate care was found. He and his younger brother jumped between foster homes for a few years before they were allowed to return home. But when Halliburton was attending Central High School, his mom became physically abusive, so he called Child Protective Services, who placed him and his siblings back into the system.

“There were good memories and also some bad,” Halliburton, now 20, says of his years in foster care. “When I was younger, I was more of a rebel. I didn’t know why I was in foster care, and I just wanted to go home. When I was older, I just wanted to make a good impression so I could find a better home.”

Halliburton was placed with a foster mom the first time, though their relationship was often strained. “I volunteered at Creighton [Hospital] a lot and always got home pretty late, so she called the cops on me.”

The second time was with a foster dad, who let him volunteer and have more freedom, but Halliburton only received one meal a day, never had proper clothing for winter, and spent a lot of his time alone.

Fortunately, the last foster home he was in was with a woman who provided quality care. “She understood and listened,” he says. “I was a lot more obedient, too, because of the good environment. She didn’t just want me there for money; she cared about me.” But, eventually, Halliburton grew old enough that he was no longer able to remain in foster care.

“When I was younger, I was more of a rebel. I didn’t know why I was in foster care, and I just wanted to go home. When I was older, I just wanted to make a good impression so I could find a better home.” – Akeeme Halliburton, former foster child

While there is always concern for children within the foster care system, there has been a surprising lack of concern in what happens to the youth who age out of foster care when they turn 19. It’s a frightening thought for many former foster care youth, who no longer have a home, steady income, emotional support, medical care, transportation, or education. Worse, the statistics are against them. One in five young people who age out of foster care will be homeless before age 21.

Fortunately, Halliburton heard about Project Everlast, a grassroots effort that promotes community resources to improve a youth’s opportunities and networks for housing, transportation, and health care during the transition to adulthood.

Project Everlast formed in 2007, when the Nebraska Children & Families Foundation met with a steering committee of Omaha youth, the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services, the Sherwood Foundation, and the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation. Together, the youth and the representatives of the organizations developed an innovative plan to help aged-out foster care youth with resources for housing, transportation, health care, education, employment, personal and community engagement, and daily living.

Now, with youth-driven councils all across Nebraska—in Omaha, Lincoln, Norfolk, Grand Island, North Platte, Scottsbluff, Geneva, and Kearney—Project Everlast is able to provide a source of peer-to-peer support and mentoring to members, as well as allow foster care youth to have a voice in advocating for changes in agencies and systems, locally and statewide. The councils are open to any youth or young adult with foster care experience between the ages of 14-24 and are supported by a Youth Advisor, who provides training and support.

Project Everlast also has several community partners in Omaha that work with them to create a network of support for youth in transition, including Family Housing Advisory Services, Child Saving Institute, Central Plains Center for Services, Omaha Home for Boys, Lutheran Family Services, Heartland Family Service, and Youth Emergency Services.

“Foster care can be a very isolating experience, and decreasing that isolation is a vitally important part of our work.” – Rosey Higgs, associate vice president of Project Everlast

“My foster mom told me about [Project Everlast],” Halliburton says. “I didn’t know what it was, but I had seen some fliers outside of my school. We went to a group one day, and after that, I just started going more often and getting more involved. They gave me all kinds of numbers to call for help and resources on how to age out of foster care. If I hadn’t found them, I wouldn’t have aged out with as many benefits.”

“Our work is guided by young people in foster care and alumni of foster care,” says Rosey Higgs, associate vice president of Project Everlast.

Higgs, who has undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, had some past experience in launching new initiatives for domestic violence, homelessness, and HIV prevention. When she heard about Project Everlast, she jumped at the chance to be a part of it and add child welfare into her career expertise. “I was instantly drawn to its philosophy and was really energized by the amazing group of young people who were involved,” she adds.

Although she provides oversight and direction to the Project Everlast initiative of the Nebraska Children & Families Foundation, Higgs’ primary responsibility is to convene with community members, nonprofit agencies, the government, and young people to address barriers faced by youth in transition from foster care to adulthood.

“While there is still work to be done, we are well on our way to creating a culture that seeks out and honors the inputs of [those with foster care familiarity] in administering services for youth in foster care and alumni…People who have experienced foster care have important insight to share as we write child welfare policy and create new programs.”

Other organizations focused on foster care often talk about transitioning foster care youth to adulthood through achievements of independence, but Higgs thinks that’s inaccurate. “Hardly anyone lives independently,” she states. “Most people have a network of trusted friends and family that they depend on for advice from time to time or even just for a social outlet. Foster care can be a very isolating experience, and decreasing that isolation is a vitally important part of our work.”

“Young people aging out of foster care require ongoing support so they can reach their full potential and take advantage of the opportunities Nebraska offers to other children their age,” says Mary Jo Pankoke, president of the Nebraska Children & Families Foundation.

Pankoke, who holds an undergraduate degree in education and a graduate degree in psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been with the foundation from the beginning of its creation in the 1990s. “We bring public and private sectors together throughout the state to prevent problems that threaten the well-being of our children. It’s a wonderful mission that motivates me every day.”

“Young people aging out of foster care require ongoing support so they can reach their full potential and take advantage of the opportunities Nebraska offers to other children their age.” – Mary Jo Pankoke, president of Nebraska Children & Families Foundation.

Having seen the results of Project Everlast’s work, Pankoke knows the initiative is going in the right direction. “In just two years, measuring success in Omaha, more youth received a high school diploma or GED and went on for more training…the number of youth with a paying job [went] from 55 percent before Project Everlast to 68 percent…[and] an increase in youth having full-time, stable employment [went] from 26 percent to 53 percent.”

Higgs and Pankoke both believe that it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that all youth have a fair shot at becoming successful adults.

“I always encourage people to think about how they support their own children as they prepare for adulthood—youth in transition from foster care need exactly the same things,” says Higgs.

“We all win if youth can receive a high school diploma, prepare for meaningful work, find emotional support and connection when they need it, and have a safety net when money or housing becomes an issue,” says Pankoke.

As for Halliburton, his time in foster care and with Project Everlast has left quite the impression. He’s currently looking at colleges where he could study sociology and social work. “[Project Everlast] has been phenomenal,” he says. “Everything they’re doing is for the good of foster care…Any kids aging out of foster care should really think about coming in and getting involved because it’s a great asset.”

For more information, visit projecteverlastomaha.org.

Nancy Wilson-Hintz

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

NOVA Treatment Community’s mission is to be passionate about providing treatment services, education programs, and foster care services for children, adolescents, adults, and families, as well as help empower individuals and families to experience a life without substance use, family turmoil, and other problems that adversely affect their lives. This is a mission that NOVA’s newest executive director, Nancy Wilson-Hintz, is excited to be a part of.

The Omaha native and Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School alumna has always loved volunteer work, feeling it’s important to give back to the community in which she lives. Her favorite volunteer work is anything involving advocacy for those who are unable to advocate for themselves—especially working with vulnerable children and adults. Such advocacy led to her graduation from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Public Affairs and Community Services/Criminal Justice and into volunteering with the Nebraska Foster Care Review Office, which oversees child abuse and neglect cases in the child welfare and court systems.

“It is an honor to work with all of the devoted professional people who make it possible for individuals seeking empowerment to have that opportunity.”

Wilson-Hintz worked as a juvenile probation officer and then an adult probation officer for Nebraska State Probation until 1998 when she switched to the nonprofit world. She became the founder and first executive director for CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) of Douglas County, a nonprofit organization that advocates for abused and neglected children in the foster care system. CASA volunteers act as a child’s voice in and out of the courtroom, ensuring that the child is receiving all necessary services.

She explains that she chose the nonprofit career path because she believes strongly in “working for the greater good.”In 2006, Wilson-Hintz was asked to be on the NOVA Board of Directors by another board member who was also a CASA volunteer. “Serving on the NOVA Board of Directors provided me with great insight into the workings and mission of the organization. It also helped in transitioning to the NOVA executive director position last fall and taking over the legacy of Eleanor Devlin, NOVA’s founder and executive director of almost 30 years.”

NOVA—which stands for New Options, Values, and Achievements—is a treatment community with adolescent and adult residential programs for substance abuse and mental health problems, outpatient and intensive outpatient services, and foster care services for those who need the support and tools to live a safe, comfortable life.

Wilson-Hintz with NOVA dog, Chance.

Wilson-Hintz with NOVA dog, Chance.

As executive director, Wilson-Hintz says she looks forward to increasing public awareness and funding sources regarding the variety of behavioral health programs and services NOVA offers. “I’m [also] looking forward to networking with NOVA staff, board of directors, funders, and other community organizations that provide behavioral health services,” she says. “It is an honor to work with all of the devoted professional people who make it possible for individuals seeking empowerment to have that opportunity.”

One such devoted “professional” at NOVA with whom Wilson-Hintz works is actually a rescued Border Collie named Chance, who lives with one of NOVA’s Youth Residential Supervisors. “[Chance] was adopted from the Humane Society twice and then returned to the Nebraska Border Collie Rescue, where he lived in foster care for four months before NOVA’s staff adopted him,” she explains.

Chance was named such because he, too, was given a second chance in life to find a loving family and a safe home, which Wilson-Hintz believes makes him a perfect mascot for the organization. As someone who has always thought animals to be extremely helpful in therapy, Wilson-Hintz says that Chance has done an outstanding job making the kids who come to NOVA’s facility feel at home. “He runs to the door to greet the kids each morning, then checks in with staff and spends almost his whole time with the kids…He brings a sense of peace, love, and devotion to the NOVA community.”

“My ultimate goal is to save children and adults from falling through system cracks by ensuring that no one is denied behavioral health services.”

Second chances aren’t just for Chance and the people who come to NOVA though. Wilson-Hintz also displays her faith in second chances in her personal life, as she has adopted three dogs—Petey, Monty, and Jackie—and given them a loving home with her and husband Michael Hintz.

Wilson-Hintz adopted Petey, a 12-year-old Norfolk Terrier, from the Nebraska Humane Society when he was 3 after he was found sick and suffering from a gunshot wound on an Iowa highway in the middle of winter. But she says, he has fully recovered and has been her “inseparable buddy” ever since.

She found Monty, a 6-year-old Miniature Pinscher/Terrier mix, tied up to a dilapidated trailer in a small Nebraska town two years ago. “He was living in deplorable conditions, and it broke my heart to see the hurt and desperation in his eyes,” she says. “I asked if I could have Monty, and the owner agreed to let me take him.” She had planned to take Monty to the Humane Society, but when she brought him home, she fell in love with him.

Today, Wilson-Hintz and Monty are volunteers with Domesti-PUPS, a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs, pet therapy programs, classroom dogs, and educational programs. “Monty and I currently go to a nursing home monthly to visit the residents there. Troubled adults and children quickly connect with Monty because, I believe, they instinctively know that he understands them.”20130108_bs_0027 copy

Her most recent addition was Jackie, a 2-year-old English Setter/Lab mix, whom she adopted from the Humane Society after being her foster parent for two weeks. “Jackie was one of the nine rescued pups from a breeder in Illinois. She was not socialized to humans and extremely fearful of everyone and everything. What I thought would just be a short foster care situation ended up being a permanent one.” According to Wilson-Hintz, Jackie’s social skills have gotten so good that she now acts just like a normal puppy, which means lots of destroyed remotes, cell phones, and shoes for Wilson-Hintz and her husband. But they’re always patient in working with her and enjoy watching her progress.

With such compassion for those who need help, both human and animal alike, there’s no doubt that Wilson-Hintz will continue to expand and better NOVA’s services as executive director. Over the next year specifically, she plans to focus on foster care awareness and foster parent recruitment, as there is a continuous need for stable homes for abused and neglected children who can’t live with their biological families. Although NOVA currently provides foster care homes and family support services, there’s also a great need to increase community outreach, which is why Wilson-Hintz is making foster care awareness one of her top priorities.

She has several plans for NOVA’s future as well. Her two main goals for the next five to 10 years are to broaden financial opportunities and increase program stability by building on past successes and implementing new forward-thinking options. “My ultimate goal is to save children and adults from falling through system cracks by ensuring that no one is denied behavioral health services simply because they do not qualify for funding through the state or other programs, do not have insurance, or are not able to pay out-of-pocket expenses.”