Latest Posts
  • You Can Help Us End Generational Poverty!

    We can help so many more families!

    Every month, Heartline 211 receives nearly 1,500 calls for rent and utility assistance. Heartline refers most of those callers to Upward Transitions (UT). Our phone rings non-stop with people seeking assistance. Unfortunately, current funding allows us to help less than two percent of these callers.

    At UT, we focus our assistance on families with young children whose housing security is at risk. Children growing up in a culture of poverty face many challenges. Frequently, they don’t get adequate sleep or enough to eat. These children might not have the opportunity to bathe nor have clean clothes to wear. The longer children experience this culture of generational poverty, the less likely they are to reach their full potential as adults.

    With your support, we can “End Generational Poverty!”

    In June 2016, Tonya, a single mother working fulltime and raising four children (ages 2, 7, 9 and 15), had reached a breaking point after her car was wrecked. The tremendous stress, from the incurred expenses to replace the car and obtain new insurance coverage along with legal issues which arose from the accident, was overwhelming. Tonya’s Family Advocate at Sunbeam Family Services, where her youngest son was enrolled in Early Head Start, referred her to UT for assistance with utility bills when the financial burden became unmanageable. Tonya’s electric and gas services were scheduled to be disconnected, and her family was at risk of eviction. A tearful Tonya met with our Case Manager who reviewed her budget and provided guidance on managing her finances. UT paid Tonya’s electric and gas bills to ensure the utilities remained connected and the family stayed in their home. In addition, the Case Manager discussed counseling options for Tonya and her children to help deal with the trauma and stress of the situation. Tonya couldn’t believe there was an organization that was so supportive and caring in her family’s time of crisis. Today, Tonya and her family are doing great. The children are all in school and thriving. Tonya is able to manage her budget and is actively involved at her church and children’s school. The assistance UT provided not only helped Tonya and her family keep their place called home, it also helped restore hope for her family.

    Your gift today will help people like Tonya and her children experience “hope” in a way they never thought possible.


    Jeremy L. Sanders, CEO


    P.S. Upward Transitions, Inc. has been in operation since 1925. It is a recognized and respected provider of relief assistance. We use a strengths based case management model, and we strive to empower and encourage our clients build stability, rather than foster codependency. I hope you will join us in continuing this fantastic history by giving today!

  • 8th Annual Celebrity Wait Night

    Celebrity waiters will “work for tips” to entertain you and bring mid-summer fun to Iguana Mexican Grill in Automobile Alley. All you have to do is enjoy a great meal and mention Upward Transitions.  We will receive a percentage of your tab in addition to 100% of YOUR TIP.

    Date:          Thursday, July 27, 2017

    Time:          5:30 pm – 8:30 pm

    Location: Iguana Mexican Grill, 9 NW 9th Street, OKC

    Celebrity Waiters

    Matt Clark—OSU
    Sarah Jane Crespo—Oklahoma City Ballet
    Curtis Fitzpatrick—WWLS
    DaYoung Jung—Oklahoma City Ballet
    Miki Kawamura—Oklahoma City Ballet
    Jim Traber—WWLS and OSU
    Steve Zabel—OU & NFL
    Players from OKC Energy
    And OKC Thunder Girls!

    If you can’t attend the event, you may make a donation at or mail a check to Upward Transitions, 1134 W. Main Street, OKC, OK 73106.

    Call 232-5507 for further information.

    Celebrity Wait Night Flyer 2017


  • Calling All Volunteers!

    Upward Transitions needs volunteers to help the night of our American Tourist: Cinco de Mayo event on Friday, May 5, 2017.  Please join us for this fun evening of auctions, food, beverages, music, and dancing…all for such a critical cause! 

    We are using VolunteerSpot to organize our volunteer schedule for the event.

    Here’s how it works in 3 easy steps:

    1. Click this link to go to our invitation page on VolunteerSpot
    2. Enter your email address: (You will NOT need to register an account on VolunteerSpot)
    3. Sign up! Review the volunteer opportunities and choose your spots – VolunteerSpot will send you an automated confirmation and reminders.    Note: VolunteerSpot does not share your email address with anyone.

    If you prefer not to use your email address, please look over the volunteer opportunities in this link and contact me directly at or 232-5507 x107.

    The shifts are already starting to fill-up, so get signed-up today to guarantee your preferred shift and position! 


    If you can’t volunteer the night of the event, please consider helping in one of the following ways:

    1. Serve as a Committee Member  to assist the Committee Chair in the planning and implementation of a major function for the fundraiser.
    2. Donate or Procure Auction Items for the live and silent auctions.Purchase a ticket, attend the event, and participate in the Wine/Jewelry/Restaurant Gift Card Pulls, Live Auction, Silent Auction, or Fund-A-Cause event!
    3. Recruit others to help! Feel free to pass this information along to anyone you think might be interested!
  • Rolling Out the Welcome

    Our Travelers Aid program was featured on the front page of Monday’s Oklahoman as well as in a video on Upward Transitions is fortunate to have caring professionals like Megan Chapman and Miriam Brewster representing our organization!

    View Video

    If you are interested in volunteering for Travelers Aid at Will Rogers World Airport, please contact Megan Chapman, 405-232-5507 x107 or


  • Save the Date for American Tourist 2017: Cinco de Mayo!

    Upward Transitions invites you to Fiesta!

    Friday, May 5, 2017
    6:30pm – 11:00pm

    Oklahoma City’s Historic
    Farmers Public Market
    311 S. Klein Ave.
    Oklahoma City, OK 73108

    Evening Includes:
    Silent & Live Auctions
    Music & Dancing
    Salsa Dancers
    Dance Lessons & Contest
    Mexican-inspired Dishes by Local Restaurants
    Refreshing Beverages
    Wine Pull & Raffle

    RSVP by April 28, 2017 

    Tickets $90 per person or $150 per couple
    Young Professional Tickets (21-35 Years of Age) $45 per person or $80 per couple
    Sponsorships and Reserved Tables are available.

    Must Be 21 or Older to Attend

    Learn more about becoming an Event Sponsor!

    Purchase Tickets or Sponsorships online
    or Call 405.232.5507 for more information.


  • Help Us Impact Poverty

    You can have an impact breaking the cycle of generational poverty.impact, povert, stranded travelers, poverty, mothers, children, Upward Transitions

    Imagine being just a paycheck away from becoming homeless with no support to help in a time of crisis. The loss of employment, an unexpected medical bill, or an auto repair leaves you without enough money to pay your bills. As a result, your home and family security are at risk. As adults struggle, their children struggle.

    Children growing up in the culture of poverty face many challenges. Frequently, they don’t get enough sleep nor enough to eat. In addition, they may not have the opportunity to bathe nor have their clothes laundered on a regular basis. Often, these children do not have meaningful opportunities to form healthy attachments with adults and other children.

    The longer children experience the culture of generational poverty, the less likely they are to reach their full earning potential as young adults. Oklahoma County ranks among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping impoverished children climb the income ladder – near the bottom at 17% of all counties.* Children who experience unstable childhoods grow up to be adults who produce households marked by instability.

    Without question, there is a “cause and effect” relationship.

    Homelessness isn’t just bad for children and adults. Homelessness shortens life span and hurts kids in school. It is a burden on everyone else. Studies conclude that a single period of homelessness can cost taxpayers $20,000 or more, in the form of welfare, policing, health care, maintaining homeless shelters, and other expenses.**

    The most effective programs work by giving one-time cash assistance to individuals on the brink of homelessness who can demonstrate they will be able to pay rent in the future. Individuals receiving assistance were 88% less likely to become homeless after 3 months and 76% less likely after 6 months.** Through follow-up over the past eight years, Upward Transitions found 85% of our clients assisted with rent and utilities have remained housed with utilities connected twelve months later.

    Our services make it possible for our clients to preserve or obtain housing; retain or restore utilities; and re-establish identity through birth certificates or state IDs which are required to apply for public assistance, rent housing, obtain employment and obtain healthcare. Upward Transitions, Inc. has been in continuous operation since 1925, and we are a recognized and respected provider of relief assistance. We use a strengths-based case management model and strive to empower and encourage our clients to stability rather than to foster codependency.

    The need in our community is great. We average more than 70 requests for rent and utility assistance every day. Currently, we are able to provide assistance for only 10% of those requests.

    Please help us make an impact by making your gift today.  Click Here to Donate.




    Ray E. Bitsche, Jr.




    * “The Long Term Effects of Exposure to Better Neighborhoods”, Chetty, Hendren and Katz, Harvard 2015

    ** “Emergency Assistance Prevents Homelessness”, Sullivan, Evans and Wilson, Notre Dame 2016


  • A bit of cash can keep someone off the streets for 2 years or more

    If someone is about to become homeless, giving them a single cash infusion, averaging about $1000, may be enough to keep them off the streets for at least 2 years. That’s the conclusion of a new annual-report-summary-fy17study, which finds that programs that proactively assist those in need don’t just help the victims—they may benefit society as a whole.

    “I think this is a really important study, and it’s really well done,” says Beth Shinn, a community psychologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who specializes in homelessness but was not involved in the work.

    Homelessness isn’t just bad for its sufferers—it shortens life span and hurts kids in school—it’s a burden on everyone else. Previous studies have concluded that a single period of homelessness can cost taxpayers $20,000 or more, in the form of welfare, policing, health care, maintaining homeless shelters, and other expenses. To combat homelessness, philanthropic organizations have either tried to prevent people from losing their homes in the first place or help them regain housing after they are already destitute. But there aren’t many data on whether giving cash to people on the brink of becoming homeless actually prevents them from living on the street.

    So economist James Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, took advantage of a natural experiment. Funding for homelessness prevention programs is highly unpredictable, and thus many programs are often temporarily unable to give money to people about to lose their homes, even if they qualify for the assistance. That allowed him and his colleagues to compare the eventual fate of individuals and families who called into a homelessness prevention call center in Chicago, Illinois, when funds were available versus those who called when funds were not.

    The programs work by giving one-time cash quantities to people on the brink of homelessness who can demonstrate that they will be able to pay rent by themselves in the future, but who have been afflicted by some nonrecurring crisis, such as a medical bill. Recipients need to be able to demonstrate consistent future income, and the amount given needs to actually cover their housing expenses for the month. The average amount paid out, according to Sullivan, is about $1000.

    The team tracked the two groups for several months. Those who called when funding was available—and received the cash infusion—were 88% less likely to become homeless after 3 months and 76% less likely after 6 months, the researchers report today in Science. “We found no evidence that this effect fades away,” Sullivan says. “There is evidence that it’s a sustained impact up to 2 years later.”

    Although it might seem obvious that giving people money would keep them off the street, many antiwelfare critics have argued that such charity only prolongs the decline into homelessness. But that appears not to be the case, Sullivan says.

    The researchers also found that targeting only the people who will actually go on to become homeless both increases the program’s impact and reduces its cost. Many people in the study who qualified for the financial assistance but did not receive it because of lack of funds did not go on to actually become homeless—they found some other solution to pay their bills or were able to move in with friends and family. Determining who will or won’t actually become homeless is a tricky business, but the data suggest that the poorest people—those furthest below the poverty line—are more at risk and thus receive the greatest benefit from the cash.

    If programs can find a better way to target the most vulnerable people, Sullivan’s research suggests they could save everyone money in the long run. The study found that, on average, it costs $10,300 overall to prevent a spell of homelessness when the costs of operating the call centers and maintaining the funding networks are included. But that figure can be reduced to $6800 by targeting very low-income families. This may seem high, especially considering only a fraction of that money goes directly to the person in need, but even its current state, that number is roughly only half the $20,000 that a period of homelessness may cost society.

    Shinn says the study shows that these types of programs are absolutely effective and worthy of more consistent funding. And economics aside, there’s a definite moral benefit to helping people staring down the real possibility of becoming homeless, says social scientist Dennis Culhane at the University of Pennsylvania. “These are generally very, very poor people for whom our safety net has been dramatically eroded over the last 30 years,” he says.

    Culhane says the programs can help prevent people from having to resort to prostitution and other dangerous behaviors to pay off debts from payday loans or other means of making ends meet. “These are not things that are easily quantifiable the way an economist would do it, but I don’t lose sleep at night about the fact that a lot of very poor people are getting emergency cash assistance when facing a financial crisis—even if they wouldn’t have become homeless without it.”

    By David Shultz

  • Aloha! It’s Tiki Time! Put on your tropical wear and get ready to Luau!

    Upward Transitions is looking forward to spring and the 2016 American Tourist “Polynesian Paradise” gala! This will be a very special evening Event Infoas we honor Frank W. Merrick, President of Foundation Management, Inc., vice president of the Merrick Foundation, and president of Ward S. Merrick, Inc. It was his decades of service as director and vice president of The Merrick Foundation that inspired his interest in forming FMI to serve the needs of philanthropic individuals and organizations. Frank’s efforts are making a difference for several organizations across the state. He was a founder of the Homeless Alliance in Oklahoma City and currently serves on the board of the Homeless Alliance and Crossings Community Clinic.

    “Polynesian Paradise” on Friday, April 29, 2016 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum will feature music from Annie Up, dancing, dining, beverages, live and silent auctions, a wine pull, raffle and lots of fun until the last tiki torch goes out.

    Funds raised at “Polynesian Paradise” are instrumental in helping Upward Transitions assist people in financial crisis or on the verge of becoming homeless. Last year, Upward Transitions served more than 5,500 people through programs including rent and utility assistance to prevent homelessness, emergency relocation for victims of domestic violence, transportation, food and assistance in regaining identity with ID cards and birth certificates. Upward Transitions’ Travelers Aid Volunteers have served travelers at Will Rogers World Airport for 42 years.

    The work done by Upward Transitions is too critical for you to ignore. Those who are homeless or are facing homelessness could be your neighbor, your co-worker, someone at church or even a family member.

    We hope that you join us to recognize the tremendous impact Frank has made for our city and will honor him by sponsoring, attending, or volunteering at “Polynesian Paradise”.

    Click here to learn more about American Tourist 2016: “Polynesian Paradise”, email or call 405-232-5507.

    Purchase Tickets Online, Purchase Sponsorships Online, Volunteer
    or Call 405.232.5507

  • Oklahoma Sports Legends Head to Hideaway Pizza to Help those who are Homeless

    For the third year in a row, OU and OSU sports legends will be serving up some of the best pizza in Oklahoma City while working for tips to support Upward Transitions’ programs that serve those who are homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless in Oklahoma City.

    Upward Transitions will host its annual Celebrity Wait Night from 5 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 8 at Hideaway Pizza, located at 901 N. Broadway, Oklahoma City.  A Restaurant Divided

    Scheduled to appear are Matt Clark, Leroy Combs, Scott Hill, Thomas Lott, Rick Mason, Obi Muonelo, Charlie Newton, Greg Sellmyer, Shaunte Smith, Paul Thompson, Warren Thompson, Donovan Woods, and Steve Zabel. The OKC Thunder Girls will also make a special appearance.

    “I want to extend a big thanks to Hideaway Pizza and the sport celebrities from Bedlams past who will be waiting tables to help people faced with income and housing insecurity obtain or preserve places called home,” said Ray E. Bitsche, Jr., chief executive officer, Upward Transitions.

    For over 90 years, Upward Transitions has touched the lives of Central Oklahomans, elevating those in need, stranded or homeless to a position of self-sufficiency. Upward Transitions offers a wide variety of programs, including financial assistance with rent and utilities and relocation for victims of domestic violence.  Upward Transitions also directs clients to resources that assist with life skills training and education to improve their employment potential. Upward Transitions also operates two information booths at Will Rogers World Airport to assist visitors to Oklahoma City. The information booths are staffed 365 days a year by Upward Transitions volunteers.

    For more information, or to make a donation to Upward Transitions, call (405) 232-5507, email or go to

    Celebrity Wait Night Flyer 2016

  • Upward Transitions Gives OKC Public Schools A Gift of Music

    It’s not unusual for band teacher Rheuben Green to share about 20 of his own instruments with students at Taft Middle School and Northwest Classen High School.

    Good thing Green has a stockpile of flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones and tubas to lend.

    OKCPS Music

    Band instructor Rheuben Green works with student Alberto Jimenez recently. Oklahoma City Public Schools students such as Alberto and those in Green’s classes at Taft Middle School shown below are benefiting from a $39,000 donation to repair musical instruments. [Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman]

    “I am the teacher here in our district with the most broken instruments,” he said recently. “It’s upwards of 30 or 40 that need to be fixed.”

    Most of Green’s budding musicians cannot afford to buy or rent their own instruments, and the Oklahoma City district — which doesn’t charge a band fee — can’t afford to replace or repair the instruments it does have.

    “Band means a lot to these students. A lot of them will tell you it’s the thing that keeps them attending school on a regular basis,” he said. “They look forward to it, and I think it actually helps them to do better with their academics.”

    In many cases, students from one class will have to share instruments with students from another class, Green said.

    “That makes it tough because no one can take them home to practice,” he said.

    The donation

    While the numbers vary, most schools have enough instruments for only about half to two-thirds of the 1,200 students enrolled in band and orchestra programs, according to information provided by Oklahoma City Public Schools.

    At Roosevelt Middle School, where 134 are enrolled in band and orchestra, as many as five students share an instrument.

    “If that’s the situation and one breaks, then five students are without an instrument,” said Rhonda Taylor, director of visual and performing arts for Oklahoma City Public Schools. “Where we’re at right now with the need for instruments, our band program is not sustainable.”

    That’s why word of a $39,000 donation for instrument repairs is sweet music to the ears of band teachers like Green, administrators like Taylor and students like Taft eighth-grader Alberto Jimenez, who plays the sax because “it’s entertaining and allows me to express myself.”

    “That sounds really awesome because some kids, if they want to play, they can’t because they might have broken instruments,” said Alberto, 13.

    Taylor announced the donation by Upward Transitions Chief Executive Officer Ray Bitsche during the Feb. 1 school board meeting.

    Upward Transitions serves those who are homeless and impoverished by providing case management and stabilizing resources to meet basic social needs.

    About 90 percent of students in the Oklahoma City district qualify for free and reduced-price meals, and most cannot afford to pay what amounts to $1 per day to rent starter instruments such as flutes, trumpets and clarinets.

    “We want to serve children from low-income families,” Bitsche said. “Kids who otherwise might not have a chance to learn to play a musical instrument, this gives them the opportunity.”

    The money will be used to fix stuck tuning slides on tubas and pay for chemical flushes for French horns and replacement pads for clarinets and other woodwinds.

    “Even if the instrument is not damaged, all instruments need some (cleaning or maintenance),” Taylor said. “Some of these instruments have sat for years.”

    So far, the district has repaired about 59 instruments at a cost of $7,200.

    “The instrument stores are repairing them as fast as they can,” Taylor said. “I really expect that we may use the entire donation on repairs.”

    Green called the donation huge.

    “I’ve been teaching in the district for seven years and haven’t had a grant like this where we’ve been able to send the bulk of our instruments that need attention to the repair shop,” he said.

    By Tim Willert
    The Oklahoman
    February 9, 2016