JB – Friend, colleague, mentor, family
By: Kathie Mitchell, Director of Community Advocates
It’s hard for me to believe he’s gone. Each morning for the past two weeks, I expect to see a text message or email from him on my phone. JB was an early riser, and he liked getting to the office early in the morning before anyone else got there and it was still quiet. At the office, he had a presence. I still look up from my desk and expect to see him standing quietly and patiently in the doorway, waiting to update me on the outcome of a class, the result of some research he did, an injustice that needed to be addressed.
JB was passionate about the work he did at the county correctional facility. He told a colleague recently that this was the work he was meant to do. He loved teaching the re-entry class but always humbly reminded everyone that the class was about the students, not him. I attended the most recent graduation on May 12th where 13 men received their Certificates for completing the class. It was the 16th time we held the 14-week class which ran consecutively for the last 5 ½ years. JB was always proud of the students and took the time to know each and every one. In this last class we had introduced “Storytelling” where individuals learned a simple technique to help them focus on telling a concise, strengths-based story about themselves (or elevator speech as it’s sometimes called) to prepare for a court hearing, to talk with a probation officer, or interview for a job. At graduation, each of the men were given a few minutes to tell their story. You could feel the emotion in the room as each man bared a little of his soul, a past discretion and then a hope and sometimes a prayer, that they were going to start a new life in the community. One gentleman in particular, pointed to JB and said, “I know that if you can do it, I can, too.” Leading by example, JB shared his story over the course of the class and truly made the connections and gained the trust of so many who felt hopeless, had made mistakes, followed the wrong path, had no one to give them a hand up, or who had forgotten how to trust.
JB knew we appreciated him because we told him often since he was prone to blaming himself or being his own worst critic. He was always polite, dignified, interested, hardworking and caring. Above all, he had a great respect for people and in turn, was greatly respected by those who knew him. I am so happy that he received an award for his work from NAMI Montgomery County just a week before he died. It was an honor to be there with him and to see him recognized for the work he achieved. He was really at the top of his game.
The next day on my desk, he left me a beautiful card with a painting of an Oak Tree by Jerry Garcia on the cover. It was filled with gratitude about the support he received at Hopeworx and as he put it “allowing me to be me.” Being him was what made the job so successful. In the card, his sentiments were also filled with hope, ironically, for the future. At the end of the card he thanked me for being “such an integral part of my journey to reaching just the beginning of bigger and better things to come from the advocacy team that I’ve come to love so dearly.”
He was part of our family at Hopeworx and I sent him a thank you text that read, “It’s been a privilege working with you and the rest of the team. We are a family! With much gratitude, Namaste.”
To whom it may concern:
I’m currently at MCCF and I’m writing this in memory of a dear friend, Mr. JB Brooks. He was a person that when you meet him, you’re like “Is this man for real?” and when you sit down with him, you feel the realness in his heart. He always told you the truth. If he said something, it usually happened the way he explained it to you and as a man, you had to respect that. In a short amount of time, I grew to love JB for who he was, and I wish his family my deepest condolences because a great man has passed.
In closing I want to write this in honor of a great man, it’s called “Following Peace: I understood to be at Peace with Christ, as we follow Jesus, He gives Peace that transcends understanding, and radiates from within though we may not even be aware of it.” And that is what Mr. Brooks meant to me.
John Carl Brooks, “JB” of East Norriton, PA, born September 28, 1962, died in May 2016 while vacationing in St. John, the American Virgin Islands. He was raised in Glenside, PA, graduating from Cheltenham High School. He attended college at Bryant University in Rhode Island and Boston University. He was predeceased by his parents, Carl Brooks and Dorothy Brooks, and his sister Barbara Brooks. He is survived by his sister Janet Brooks and her husband, Alan Siniscalchi, of Middletown, CT, his nieces, Hilary Siniscalchi Brooks of Middletown, CT and Elana Siniscalchi Brooks, of Marion, Maine, his first cousins Pat Santini and her husband Sam Santini, of Pittsburgh, PA and Pat’s children, Dawn McCallister, Greg Metcalfe and Robbie Metcalfe, his first cousin Anthony Figliola of Bensalem, PA and his first cousin Dewey Figliola of Philadelphia, PA.
JB was born into a family business, Brooks Paint Stores, founded by his parents, with retail paint stores in Philadelphia and the greater-Philadelphia area. That meant every family member grew up working in and learning an aspect of the business. Under his father’s tutelage, JB became a salesman extraordinaire and worked in the business until its sale in January 1994 upon the death of his mother.
As a young child JB learned how society treated his beloved sister Barbara, who had developmental disabilities, as “other,” when he knew she was the same as you and me. JB became passionate about helping individuals with disabilities and later, through his own recovery journey, began a successful career as a forensic peer advocate.
JB worked tirelessly for the past 5 ½ years as a valued member of the HopeWork, Inc. community. He facilitated the peer-to-peer class, “It’s T.I.M.E.”, for men with mental health and substance use issues at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. JB was highly regarded by the participants who graduated from his class and was valued by colleagues for his hard work and collaboration. He also provided a connection between the men in the class and their families, attorneys and treatment providers. JB worked closely with the Public Defender’s Office, Adult Probation and Parole, Corrections Staff and the county’s Justice Related Services.
In May 2016 he was awarded the Glenn Koons Recovery Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Montgomery County (PA).
In recent years, JB became closer with his sisters and visited his sister Barbara, a treasured moment in Barbara’s life which ended a few months later. His nieces, Hilary and Elana, met him for the first time as young adults. John was the guest of honor at his sister Janet’s home for Thanksgiving in 2014 and 2015. It is through John’s recovery that his nieces, Hilary and Elana, learned the meaning of resilience of the human spirit and body.
A memorial service will be held on Thursday, June 9 at the Fairview Village Church, 3044 West Germantown Pike, Eagleville, PA 19403. Friends may call from 6 to 7 p.m. The Memorial Service will begin at 7 p.m. Light refreshments will follow the service. Donations may be made to HopeWorx Inc., 1210 Stanbridge St., Suite 600, Norristown, PA 19401.
by: Ellen Kozlowski and Jomel Silverio
On May 24th, 2016, Ellen and Jomel facilitated a Self-Advocacy Training at Creative Health in Pottstown. The turnout of those who participated was split down the middle between recovery coaches and consumers.
They were attentive and there were a few people that helped lead the training by demonstrating their understanding of the different types of thinking and problem solving methods.
We went in depth into what it is like to be assertive, aggressive, and passive. We had mock roleplays that we showed, where being aggressive and passive was ineffective.
The participants saw that when the roleplays were showing what it was like to respond with aggression, little was achieved because the person on the receiving end of aggression felt intimidated.
When the roleplay demonstrated a passive response, the person who was responding in a passive manner was taken less seriously, and their case was brushed off, no matter how important their situation may have been.
It was through these examples that the audience saw that advocating in an assertive manner was the most effective way to have positive results when working personally or for an important decision.
The evaluations showed they all received so much out of the training, and that they learned new skills like negotiation, analyzing problems, educating themselves and making an action plan, and would recommend the training to others.
Graduation Day May 12, 2016
I lost sight of who I should have been. The number one person in my life for me is our Lord. I was so stuck in my own world that I wanted things my way without any consequences. I would steal, lie, minimize, cheat, make excuses and blame whoever I was able to other than myself! So being here and allowing the Lord to work in me as well as taking this class, as well as others, has allowed me to open my eyes to realize the reality of things.
Now I’m able to live by the beliefs of: if I can become an improved individual in jail with limited resources, then I can most definitely do it with unlimited resources outside of jail!
I’m also more determined to be a father to my daughter and to repair the relationships that I’ve ruined. To do that I need to forgive them for whatever they did to me but to forgive myself for everything I have done. I plan on getting help with my cutting addiction as well as my mental disabilities.
I want to get a job upon getting an apartment or a living arrangement. I will start first with getting any job and then upgrading to a career. I want to stop taking all the great things that the Lord has given me in my life for granted. Overall, I’m going to become an even more God fearing, well improved individual that is a success at life and not a disappointment and failure that I’ve been for the last 23 years. There is no better time for a fresh start than right now.