Personality: LeTeisha Gordon

Spotlight on founder and program director of A Better Day Than Yesterday Initiative Program

5/5/2022, 6 p.m.
“Ms. Gordon, how would you rebuild a relationship with someone that was released from prison?”

“Ms. Gordon, how would you rebuild a relationship with someone that was released from prison?”

This question, directed at LeTeisha Gordon in 2016 during a Father’s Day panel at Deep Meadow Correctional Center, caught her off guard. At the time, she was not speaking to her own father, who had been incarcerated since she was 14. He was released after she became an adult.

Because of the state of their relationship, she had no answer when she was asked the question.

But that moment inspired her to take greater action against the disconnect created by incarceration, divorce or military deployment for at-risk families. Soon after that panel, the A Better Day Than Yesterday Initiative Program was launched, with Ms. Gordon leading the effort as founder and program director.

“My No. 1 goal is to help families rebuild their relationship after the separation has occurred by helping them to work as a team and communicate effectively,” Ms. Gordon says. “We are starting at the root.”

Employing a variety of programs aimed at youths and families, A Better Day seeks to provide needed support to those dealing with long-term separation from loved ones. Available services range from child advocacy and mentorship, to bike-building workshops, reading classes and events offering free haircuts, COVID-19 testing and vaccines and other resources for those returning from incarceration.

The organization also has a re-entry program that works to help the formerly incarcerated re-adapt to the world outside prison and reconnect with their families through workshops and other resources. The program requires participants to have been released two years or less.

Ms. Gordon attests to the joy of seeing bonds renewed. She talked about a recent kayaking event that brought together a man who had been incarcerated for 15 years with his grown son and nephew.

“Just listening to them enjoy the peace out on the water and watching them laugh was a great joy to me,” Ms. Gordon says.

The program has several events planned for this month and into June that are aimed at reconnecting families.

For Ms. Gordon, A Better Day has provided a space to find answers to questions and ideas that have been germinating for a long time, and put a name to an organization she feels the community needs.

“It gives me hope that I will have A Better Day Than Yesterday,” says Ms. Gordon, explaining the name.

Meet a connector for disconnected families and this week’s Personality, LaTeisha Gordon:

No. 1 volunteer position: Founder and program director of A Better Day Than Yesterday Initiative Program.

Occupation: Program developer.

Date of birth: Oct. 16. Where I live now: South of the James.

Education: Some college.

Family: Two young men ages 27 and 20 and a grand-daughter, 5.

Mission of A Better Day Than Yesterday: A charitable organization that aims to educate, empower and equip at-risk families with the skills to overcome adversities caused by incarceration, divorce or military deployment.

When, where and why I founded A Better Day: After being invited to speak on a panel at the State Farm, now Deep Meadow Correctional Center, for Father’s Day, the moderator asked, “Ms. Gordon, how would you rebuild a relationship with someone that was released from prison?” I couldn’t answer it. Prior to that event, I asked God, “What is my purpose? I know I am here to be an entrepreneur and to help people, but how?” At that Father’s Day event, I couldn’t answer because my Dad and I were not speaking due to the disconnection from him being away from me during the time I needed him the most when he was incarcerated. When he was incarcerated in 1989, I was 14 years old.

How I came up with the name: I had the name A Better Day Than Yesterday more than 10 years ago and did not know what the purpose was for, so I used it for a travel agency. Fast forward, it was for this moment right here. It gives me hope that I will have A Better Day Than Yesterday and others who are going through what I have been through will get to a place of holistic healing.

On average, how many Virginia children are impacted by incarcerated parents during their youth: About 6 percent of Virginia children have to grow up with a parent behind bars at some point. According to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, that can hurt them for life. The report, called “A Shared Sentence,” states 103,000 Virginia children will have had a parent behind bars during their youth

Describe support system/programs offered to participants by A Better Day:

Family programs: Family Bonding pilot program, approved through VCU Institutional Review Board, is a 12-week intervention program. Our combined programs are Build-A-Dad Workshop, Build-A-Mom Workshop and Child Advocacy Mentoring Program. We also have a support group for mothers impacted by gun violence and Operations Freedom Package- Re-entry.

Youth programs: Straight Talk 4Teen Girls; after-school program that focuses on youth obesity/gun violence prevention/intervention; a reading program; A Better Day 2 Climb and Build- A-Bike Workshop.

Why various forms of support are important: To help the family rebuild or to build a solid, healthy relationship.

Who is eligible to participate: Children ages 5 to 17 and adults ages 18 to 65; for our Family Bonding program, ages 10 to 17 for our first pilot and nonviolent offenders. For our re-entry program to receive resources and workshops, all ex-offenders are welcome as long as they have been released two years or less.

How A Better Day addresses intergenerational pain and trauma: Trauma-informed care trainings, support groups and mindfulness activities.

Ways the pandemic continues to impact A Better Day: Limiting the number of participants we can empower in groups.

No. 1 goal or project as the founder: To help families rebuild their relationship after the separation has occurred by helping them to work as a team and communicate effectively with our Family Bonding program. We are starting at the root.

Strategy for achieving goals: Listening to God’s instructions and connecting with divine connections to partner with that which has proven success in what I want to accomplish.

A hurdle A Better Day hopes to surmount: To receive enough funding to implement the pilot and eliminate barriers for families to fully focus on rebuilding their family.

Ways to become involved with A Better Day: Volunteer, become a sponsor or facilitate a workshop.

A perfect day for me is: Relaxing with my son and granddaughter.

One suggestion for A Better Day: Continue to meet the people where they are while inspiring them to elevate.

What I am learning about myself during the pandemic: To have patience and trust God more.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I wake up surprised and dance because I woke up ... Lol!

Quote that inspires me: If you know better, do better.

Friends describe me as: Determined.

At the top of my “to-do” list: To go on a vacation with my family.

Best late-night snack: Grapes.

Best thing my parents ever taught me: Be mindful of the company you keep.

Book that influenced me the most: “Business by the Book: Complete Guide of Biblical Principles for the Workplace” by Larry Burkett.

What I’m reading now:“Tribulations of a Ghetto Kid” by Larry Johnson aka The Ghost.

Next goal: Housing for individuals returning home so they can have single living quarters to themselves. To start rebuilding their families in their own place to call their own after staying with some- one (a cellmate) for however long they were incarcerated, and provide them with employment and training.