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Church has addicts clean themselves, community up

POSTED: June 12, 2009 10:51 a.m.
Photo by Frenchi Jones/

Working for Jesus participants, Perry Ashe, 58, and David Roberts,54, clean an abandoned lot on Rebecca Street on Thursday.

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A yellow “Dead End” sign provides one of the few vibrant colors along the frayed edges of Rebecca Street.
According to Gary Gilliard, the sign is a testament to the disparity and hopelessness many residing in the historically impoverished area feel.  
“We’ve buried at least 10 guys that I grew up with here due to drugs and alcohol,” he said, walking through the tattered neighborhood.
Gilliard, like most of the children currently living in the area, grew up in the Gause Project Homes where he was raised by a single mother.
“Before that we lived in a trailer on this very street. It was me, my mother, her four children, my aunt and her nine kids. And right over there,” he said pointing to the Ridgeway Life Center, “There was a club.  That’s where I learned all my bad habits.”
A lot has changed for Gilliard since then. Now, through his position as the 501c 3 community outreach facilitator for the First Calvary Baptist Church and as a Liberty County commissioner, he said he wants to make that change happen for others in his community.
“If I can’t come back to my old neighborhood, see what’s happened here and use the position that I have in life now to reach out and help somebody else, then I am not doing what He has called me to do,” he said.
Every week Gilliard, with the assistance of Minister Arlene Dameron, leads a Christian-based alcohol and drug recovery and employment program called Working for Jesus.
Patrons enrolled in the program receive $50 per day from First Calvary Baptist Church funds to clean up their lives and shoddy areas of the neighborhood.
“This program is more than just hammering nails,” Gilliard said. “To do that, you have to do other things.”
Participants are required to attend Bible study, recovery meetings similar to Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, and prayer and church services at least two times a month to guarantee they will qualify for work.
“If we come here one hour a week and talk about refraining from the use of drugs and alcohol that leaves 167 hours to do whatever,” Gilliard said. “[This program] helps them to come back into the workforce. It helps them know there is another life out there and that they don’t have to get up and do drugs.”
Perry Ashe Jr., 58, and David Roberts, 54, have participated in the program since it began about six weeks ago.
Ashe said he battles with depression and the program has taught him to take his life back and live it to the fullest. 
“What I like about it is that it is a volunteer program,” Ashe said. “There is no pressure. If you volunteer to do something, then I figure that you will get more out of it and you will put more into it.”
Roberts said the program has taught him that he doesn’t have to drink a six pack of beer a day to numb the pain in his life.
“The more I go to the programs, the more I love going because I can see it helping me,” he said. “I am not going to say that I have completely stopped drinking, but I have slowed up a whole lot and I am going to stick with it until I am completely dry.”
Perry said taking small steps is what the program is all about.
“You don’t start from the end and then try to start again,” he said. “You return to where you started from and this program gives me the faith and the courage to go forward.”
 

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