Passionate About Helping Others
Rich has spent the majority of his life in public service. He spent over 15 years as a Corrections Officer in the prison system in Ohio, as an EMT, and as a Police Officer and Field Training Officer with two different departments in Cleveland, Ohio. Due to repeated trauma, including two nearly fatal encounters, and numerous injuries on the job, he was forced into retirement. Some of the injuries were unseen injuries like PTSD and depression, but he didn't recognize them as such, so he self-medicated with alcohol which led to a deep downward spiral, ending in divorce, separation from his children and a suicide attempt. He awoke in the hospital with hallucinations, breathing out of a tracheostomy tube, and not able to see out of his right eye. He then contracted MRSA in his lungs in the hospital.
After reconstructive surgery, he had to face the reality of his actions. He would never be physically right again, his roommate had gone to jail that night and partially lost his sanity resulting in a disability, and his parents and children could not understand why he could've done this to himself. He chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem, as they say. He walked around angry, and often drunk, at the world and at God for years, until he'd alienated everyone in his life and decided to get help. He got on his knees and asked God for help, and everything changed. He was fortunate to have a pension and health insurance for all of the future surgeries that would be required, but he had difficulty getting back into any kind of job due to the long physical and mental recovery involved. It was clear to him that God had a different purpose for him. Unfortunately, too many First Responders and Veterans don't have a second chance when they choose that path and don't survive to recover and find their purpose. It is his purpose to make people aware that healing is possible, God still performs miracles, and hopefully, to prevent some future suicides.
It wasn't until he admitted that he needed help, which is often the hardest part about beginning the healing process for an alpha personality, who has always had to be the strong one for others, that the healing began. He was able to participate in therapy, he found a church home and re-established a relationship with God, and he began volunteering in prison ministry, True Freedom Ministries. He also started his own social enterprise landscaping company. Later, he earned his bachelors degree in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from the Maxine Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. He also completed half of the MBA program at Baldwin Wallace University before he re-located to Florida with his new wife, Janice Alvarez. He again volunteered for a prison ministry in Tampa, called Abe Brown Ministries, and began to work for them as a job developer for their reentry program. He fell in love with helping others. It was a natural extension of his work as a police officer and corrections officer, because preventing recidivism is crime prevention. It is through helping others that he received the help he needed to continue to heal. He completed his Masters degree in Public Administration at the University of South Florida and worked as the North County Director of Workforce Development for the Pinellas Ex-Offender Reentry Coalition. He has led programs worth millions of dollars in conjunction with the City of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, and the Department of Justice Administration.
Feeling a new calling from God, Rich noticed that there was a need for a program to prevent others from the misery he suffered. Seeing many such programs for veterans, he noticed that there were few such programs for First Responders, so he decided to form the Peacekeeper Initiative, a registered 501 c3 nonprofit organization. The goal is to create a PTSD and Suicide Prevention awareness campaign for First Responders and to create a peer support program outside of the workplace. It involves bonding through activities like fishing, kayaking, tai chi, yoga, and SCUBA diving, or any other healthy, stress-relieving activity to just get a break from the daily pressure and job-related or post-service related stress. We work with numerous community partners to carry out our mission. It could even be as simple as a cup of coffee and two friends talking things out. There is a real stigma attached to asking for help, especially through the workplace, and fears about being judged by co-workers and supervisors or even losing their jobs. That's why the program is designed to take place outside of the workplace and is totally private. We have connections with mental health therapists that deal specifically with First Responder and Veteran issues like PTSD if that should become necessary.. Rich's theory is that if even one person is saved, the whole project is worth it.
His story is well documented. See the stories below:
Peacekeeper Initiative was featured on Fox 13 for Police Week 2023:
Check out Rich's latest and most complete testimony on the Oh My God Pod:
Check out Rich on our partner organization, Reeling Freedom's, podcast
Check out his testimony on Christian Television Network's Bay Focus here:
His story starts at about minute 7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vpvxCiWBrs&feature=emb_logo&fbclid=IwAR28pOt23kIHSVgChsnUynkrtKIB_Z-KVfe9BGSKxDWxTOZiM9n-8qaBa5s
Rich Alvarez- Founder & CEO
Masters in Public Administration University of South Florida
Bachelors in Nonprofit Administration Cleveland State University
Shield of Resilience- SAMHSA
Strategic Planning Approach to Suicide Prevention- Suicide Prevention Center
Mental Health First Aid- National Council for Community Behavioral Health
University of Central Florida's Restores Program REACT Training.
Ohio Police Officer
Ohio Corrections Officer
Suicide and PTSD survivor