By CITC’s Jamey Bradbury
CIRI shareholder Tim Chuitt credits Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) with helping him rebuild his own life—and save the life of a child.
Lecon “Tim” Chuitt watched a look of horror grow in the eyes of the young mother at his table as her child began to struggle for air. The baby was choking.
A former first responder, Tim jumped to his feet and reached for the baby. Without hesitation, the little girl’s mother handed her to him.
“For a mother to just hand me her child when she was in distress—I felt a kind of pride, that she had enough confidence in me to do that,” Tim remarked. He performed three sharp blows between the baby’s shoulder blades that day at a family potlatch. His quick actions saved the life of the child.
From Felon to Furniture-Maker
Once upon a time, Tim wasn’t the go-to person in an emergency. In 2006, he was released from prison, where he served 16 years for armed robbery and car theft. He had struggled with alcohol addiction and repeated stints in prison (where he managed to escape twice).
But by 2006, Tim was a new man. He had studied computers and jewelry-making in prison; he had taught his fellow inmates CPR. He had been sober for decades. Now all he needed was a job—and he had heard that CITC could help.
“Walking into someplace that’s got Native roots, that was built by Natives to help our community—I took a lot of pride in that,” Tim said. “CITC became my base station. I was in a halfway house at the time, so I didn’t have a good place to work on my resume. CITC was a nice place to hang out, meet people, see old friends. Getting out of prison after 16 years, I was able to reconnect with people at CITC.”
At CITC, Tim got assistance from the Employment Services and Training Department (ETSD). It wasn’t long before he landed a job with a furniture-making company.
A Place You Can Come Back To
When Tim eventually got laid off, he didn’t despair; he knew exactly where to turn.
Not only did he come back to CITC, Tim stopped by the Alaska Native Justice Center (ANJC), which had recently launched Reentry Services for the formerly incarcerated. “I just wanted someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on,” Tim recalls. “I met someone there, and we talked about what I was doing right. I got a lot of encouragement.”
He also got a job. Within minutes of leaving ANJC, Tim got a call from ETSD with a job offer from the Food Bank of Alaska.
“I worked for the Food Bank for eight years,” he said. “Every success I had there—a raise, whatever—I would call my CITC case manager and share it. Having CITC around, being able to use those services, is something I’ll always be grateful for. I know I can always go back.”
‘I started with nothing. Now I save lives.’
When Tim was 5, he set fire to his family’s trailer. He recalled being angry that his parents had left him in charge of his two sisters and brother while they had gone out.
Tim related this story in a 2013 video made by the Anchorage Daily News. By that time, his life had transformed. He was the facilities and equipment supervisor at the Food Bank. He had been sober for 16 years, and he had stayed out of prison for seven.
Three years later, he became an EMS coordinator and fireman. The irony of a 5-year-old who nearly burned down his family’s home becoming a firefighter as an adult is not lost on him. “I started with nothing,” he reflected. “Now I save lives.”
And though his lifesaving knowledge didn’t come directly from CITC, he nevertheless credits the support he found here with his present success.
“I never fail to mention CITC,” Tim said. “And I want to be a success so that I can show others—you can do it, too. It takes practice to be sober, to be the person you want to be. But it’s possible. I’m proof.”
To learn more about CITC’s Employment and Recovery services, visit the department webpages under “Programs” at citic.org or call (907) 793-3600.