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Nonprofit provides second chance to Turlocks at-risk population
The Off the Hook Ministries Tutoring Center, which opened shortly after a fire prompted EQUIP Church of Turlock to move into the educational building at First Baptist, helps students with their school work while also providing mentoring services. Pictured: nine-year-old Caleb McCarbery receives math help from tutor Mike Parker, while seven-year-old Alyvia Rheuby and five-year-old Ava Rushing work with OTH Executive Director Sandy Hazenberg. - photo by ALYSSON AREDAS / The Journal

Despite the fact that an early morning fire engulfed the historic Turlock church that Off the Hook Ministries was planning to call home with an official launch planned in September of last year, the Turlock nonprofit emerged from the ashes stronger than ever.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” said Executive Director Sandy Hazenberg. “Our new location gives us more and better space for our programs than our previous location.”

Hazenberg said that the day EQUIP Church of Turlock burned down, First Baptist offered OTH and the church their educational building, an offer that Hazenberg said they “gratefully accepted.”

“It was only two blocks from our previous location, located on West Main Street near Lander, and is centrally located on the west side. Our tutoring center opened two weeks later,” said Hazenberg. “Our church is looking for a permanent facility, but we haven’t found one yet.”

OTH was birthed from a place of love for at-risk youth, gang members, ex-convicts and addicts, according to Hazenberg, who said that the program has a heart to help people who come from a place of neglect, abuse, abandonment and hurt to find hope and healing.

“This organization is strategically designed to reach people in every stage of their lives — kids, youth and adults,” said Hazenberg. “In each of our programs, we offer relationship. We are not deterred by any issues that someone may struggle with. There is something for everyone here.

“Everyone has a purpose and we help people find out what the purpose is. We want to see the community transformed and lifted up,” continued Hazenberg.

Specifically for the kids that OTH serves, Hazenberg said that the goal is to help them be successful in school, good citizens and have a strong sense of who they are so they can make healthy choices in their lives. OTH hopes that by doing this, they can decrease drop out and crime rates, as well as drug use in the community.

“Off the Hook envisions Turlock as a community where young men responsibly provide for themselves and their families through gainful employment and small business ownership,” said Hazenberg. “We desire to make Turlock a safe community where crime is greatly reduced and families thrive with fathers present in the home.”

OTH currently has three program offerings for members, including the Tutoring Center, which is available for students who need help with homework and skill-enhancement, while also giving them an outlet to do their homework themselves. The program includes licensed and experience counselors, who are available to listen to students and mentor them in life skills as well as their studies.

“We offer a listening ear and wise counsel,” said Hazenberg, “not only in school, but in life.”

With a mission to discover the root cause of pain, trauma and unhealthy behaviors in order to bring healing and transformation, the Healing Arts program gives students an opportunity to get their feelings on canvas and paper. Although the art program, which is facilitated by professional artists Rachel Cross, is only available currently to kids, Hazenberg said that OTH is happy to open a class for adults if there is an interest in the community.

“This helps kids learn to express their emotions, ask questions, find their talent and again, receive wise counsel,” said Hazenberg.

The OTH Work It Out program is for those 18 years old and older who have barriers to employment, whether it is a conviction, drug addiction, gang involvement, tattoos or piercings. The program works with employers in the area to give participants a “chance at a life change.”

“We give individuals an opportunity to leave financial dependence and choose financial self-sufficiency,” said Hazenberg. “Our training covers drug education, life skills classes, job search and success, career paths such as the military, college, small business ownership and non-profit organization creations.

“We partner with the Turlock Adult School to help our participants get their diploma, driver’s license and whatever documents they need to be employable,” continued Hazenberg.

OTH is looking to add to its program offerings in the near future with the grand opening of its boxing gym, Knock Out Fitness in the next few months. The gym is slated to provide a place for kids and adults to come and work out their anger and frustration, learn new skills, get fit and set goals. Participants will learn self-discipline, self-control, learn about nutrition and the life principles needed to be successful.

For more information on OTH, visit