When you meet Michael Weitzman for the first time, it’s hard to believe he has endured so much pain and sorrow in his 21 years. His positive outlook, quick smile, and friendly demeanor could suggest images of a teen who was loved and given every opportunity to succeed.
Could this be the same person who, for most of his childhood, never had a true permanent home, and thought he would never find a place where he belonged? How did he get to where he is today?
When Michael was born, his mom was 18, alone, and struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. Immediately after Michael’s birth, she became pregnant with another son, Demetrius. Tragically, Demetrius died at the age of 3 months from sudden infant death syndrome. Michael says, “After my brother passed away, the police came to our home and found me all alone — sitting on the floor with a knife in my hand.” He was only about 2 years old.
Thus began Michael’s journey of years of instability and multiple temporary homes.
It seemed that things might change when Michael went to live with his grandfather. Instead, he endured over two years of physical and sexual abuse before social services removed him.
Michael was then adopted into a caring family that seemed to be exactly what he longed for. But by this time, he had difficulty believing that anyone could really love him. The rejection he had endured caused him to be untrusting and rebellious. He tested the limits of his new parents’ love to the point where they gave up on him. At 15, he was once again alone in the world. “I remember feeling so broken and hurt. I just thought, what happens now? Where do I go from here?”
He then went to a facility that seemed more like a prison. Violent fights were common. He had to watch his back at all times. Even now, Michael shudders when he thinks about it. “I remember looking out that barred window, watching people driving by on the freeway and thinking, ‘Everyone is free except me.’ I didn’t dare to think that things would ever get better.”
By God’s grace and with your support, Olive Crest got involved in Michael’s life. He spent the next two-plus years in the safety and care of an Olive Crest residential home for teenagers, where he found what he desperately needed. Consistency. A nurturing environment. Unconditional love. Unwavering support. With Olive Crest’s help, he graduated from high school and landed his first two jobs.
He also had the constant guidance of a caring mentor. “Having a mentor like Chris was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Michael says. He was happier and more content than he had ever been — but he was still worried about the future. What would happen when he turned 18 and was on his own? One morning, he told Chris, “You know I trust God, and I believe that all this is under control, but I’m scared about the future.”
Michael smiled, saying, “He told me that his dad owned a business in Tulsa, and he could set me up with a job and a place to live.” With Olive Crest’s continued support, Michael moved to Tulsa. That was nearly three years ago. “And since I moved here, everything has been getting better and better.” After a year and a half working for his mentor’s family business, Michael started Weitzman Collective — a branding, design, and digital marketing firm that helps businesses develop logos, design websites, and engage with social media audiences.
His spirit and purpose renewed, Michael spent six months as a missionary in Quito, Ecuador, and now serves as one of the teaching pastors of his church, called The Church That Matters, in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. He frequently shares his story at other churches in the Tulsa area and at events hosted by organizations that work with children.
For Michael, his strong family came in the form of a healthy and safe group home with committed and caring staff to support and guide him. “I love to talk about the difference Olive Crest has made in my life,” he says. “I hate to think of where I’d be without them.”
“There are so many children out there who are lost. Olive Crest rescues the lost, binds up their wounds, and gives them hope for a better life.”