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Fighting substance abuse with faith
Gary Gilliard
Besides recently becoming a shoo in for a seat on the Liberty County Commission, Gary Gilliard has been heading up a program that combats alcoholism and other drug addictions.
“The seven-step program is designed to lead them to recovery and Jesus,” he said.
Last week, the project manager for the city’s public works contractor, OMI, was the only candidate to qualify to seek the District 5 seat on the Liberty County Commission. Kenny Fussell, who now holds the seat, is not seeking re-election.
Gilliard and other organizers of the substance abuse program at First Calvary Missionary Baptist Church’s Ridgeway Smith Christian Life Center say it was organized because too many people, young and old, are trapped in addictions and abuse that started with a simple drink or puff of a marijuana cigarette.
They call it a faith-based attempt to help people who often end up on the fringes of society.
The Center is on Rebecca Avenue in Hinesville, and the program started four years ago under the leadership of the Rev. Michael Lewis.
“When Rev. Lewis became a pastor in Savannah, I took over the leadership of the program,” Gillard said.
He said the program, along with afternoon tutoring for children, are part of First Calvary’s faith-based initiatives  Dr. Sinclair Thorne serves as the pastor, while Gillard is president of the 501c3 organization.
Dr. Delores Thorne and other teachers provide tutoring from 5-7 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday. They help prepare elementary and middle school students for the CRCT and juniors and seniors for the graduation test.
“Their goal is to remove the stigma of tutoring.  If you have an A student, send them so they can maintain and get the HOPE scholarship.  Send the B students so they can move up and become A students.  We are tutoring to help students maintain,” Gillard said.
Everything is free, both the tutoring and alcohol and drug abuse sessions, and are open to everyone.  
Alcohol and drug abuse sessions are held every Thursday from 7-8 p.m.
“The number of attendees varies each week.  We have had as many as 12 at one time in attendance,” Gilliad said. “We have a seven-step program that is similar to the 12-step program used by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.  We recognize Jesus Christ  as the healing power of all things.”
According to Gillard, if a person gives his or her  life to Christ, he or she can be delivered from addiction.
He serves as the facilitator during the sessions. The program is based on the teachings of the Rev. Rodney Turner of Atlanta.
“We are a support group.  They talk about how Jesus is working in  their lives to help with their shortcomings.  You get out of the program what you put into it,” Gillard said.   
Participants receive a certificate at the end of the program.
“One of the program’s participant is going on three years of sobriety,” he said. “We are trying to build up our program and looking for standing room only participation.”
 “The entire church is reaching out to the community. These outreach efforts are in  keeping with our church’s motto of Reaching the lost, teaching the found, and making disciples who are heaven bound,” said Gillard.
For more information about the prorgrams, call Gillard at 977-3527.
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