Cadets of Salvation

Four addicts on the brink of self-destruction claw their way back to civilization — enduring countless stints in rehab, many relapses back into addiction and several perilous overdoses. The program that finally saved their lives might just ring a bell.

You likely know the Salvation Army for its omnipresent red kettles during the Christmas season. But if you look past the ringing bells and the Santas on every corner, you see something more. You see hope, hope for human beings who have fallen and surrendered to addiction, even as its creeping decay erodes their lives — but there’s a second chance, a second opportunity at life. When you see those kettles, know that the loose change and folded dollar bills are funding deliverance — maintaining community centers like the one on Montgomery Street that operate as a lifeline for the Coastal Empire’s homeless and destitute.

“You get so used to the world letting you down, you lose hope. The folks at the Salvation Army brought me in and wouldn’t let go until I believed in hope every day,” said Shane Pritchard, one of the four graduates of the organization’s Corps Salvage Rehabilitation Center (CSRC) program.

The six-month program provides a chance to break the spiral of addiction by offering a structured atmosphere — continuing their path to recovery by establishing routines and work ethic, focusing on mental and spiritual growth.

“You’ve got to pass a drug test and show us you want to work at it,” said Savannah CSRC program director Dwayne Dasher. “The addict behavior is blaming everyone else, but we force these men to look inward and to see there’s a road back to a meaningful and productive life.”

Dasher, a pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Bloomingdale who has led the program for eight years, said the grip of addiction knows no societal boundaries.

“Many are referred to us from jails or homeless shelters — but we deal with doctors, lawyers, physically fit men who, at first glance, appear to be perfectly put together,” Dasher said. “The one constant is that vice grip, and through working the program, they rebuild their self worth and a belief in themselves and their ability to fight that addiction.”

The program goes beyond simply “getting clean.” Dasher and his staff help the men with everything they need to get their life in order: identification and Social Security cards, birth certificates, mental and physical health evaluations, medicine, eyeglasses, as well as GED and reading classes when needed. And it doesn’t cost them a penny, funded entirely by the generosity of folks who fill those kettles.

“To get this for free, it’s amazing — but for folks like me, putting in the effort to work the program, that’s the real cost,” said Tim Jordan, a graduate of the program. He and the three others pictured here are among the 100 men that come through the CSRC program each year, according to Dasher. Roughly 30 of those 100 make it to graduation day — a number on par with national averages, according to Salvation Army officials.

“It’s an uphill fight, but I’m so proud that pastors, parole officers, wives, they all keep referring folks to us because they know that we fight hard for these men to give them a foundation for success,” Dasher said. “We will never give up on anyone as long as they want to fight and want to truly embrace a new future.”

 

Faces of Recovery

Tim Jordan, 30

Jordan did his first stint in rehab at age 25 after drugs and alcohol estranged him from his family and landed him in jail. It didn’t take, and he found himself in prison once again. He discovered the Salvation Army after his release, and graduated from the CSRC program in April, 2018. Jordan now lives on his own in Hinesville, with a steady job at Roger Woods Sausages.

“I live for my niece and nephew, I’m earning my way back into my family’s lives,” Jordan said. “It’s hard everyday, I walk down the street, smell that cannabis and I want a hit. But the Salvation Army is there for me. I’m stronger now and I know I have support.”

Jerome Roberts, 50

Roberts started smoking crack in 1984 and had been jailed 10 times before he found the Salvation Army. He graduated the program in May, 2018, and now lives on his own in Savannah, working in construction to build new hotels downtown.

“I met Dasher on the streets, he gave me a ride one night and the next day, I was headed to jail,” Roberts said. “But meeting him, it stuck with me. I had a good childhood with parents; money wasn’t a problem. This all started as just experimenting as a teenager. I got curious about crack seeing a friend try it and once you go there, there’s no staying afloat on crack.”

Tyrone Owens, 56

Drugs came into Owens’ life shortly after his first run-in with the law at age nine. After growing up in Yamacraw Village, he spent 30 years in and out of jail. Following his release in 2014 and a failed life restart in San Diego, Owens got a one-way bus ticket back to Savannah, and his cousin directed him to the Salvation Army. Owens graduated in 2015 and has worked for the Salvation Army ever since.

“Every day, I’m gaining more and more strength to keep going, to stop looking back, to look forward,” he said.

Shane Pritchard, 38

A car accident in his early 20s led Pritchard to painkillers and a cycle of jail stints and rehab relapses before he ended up in a Savannah jail in 2013. He went from jail to the Salvation Army in April, 2014, but the tragic death of three of his brothers sent him spiraling into relapse. He returned to the program and now works the front desk at the Montgomery Street Salvation Army.

“I have options now and a support system and it helps me every day that I can be the first part of someone’s support system,” he said. “I love that people see me coming through the doors and I can give them the hope the Salvation Army has given me.”

For more information on the program and more information on how to volunteer, call the Salvation Army at 912-651-7420, or visit salvationarmygeorgia.org/savannah.

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