News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 21, 2013

Taking the Next Step: Faith-based recovery house finding success with village concept

TERRE HAUTE — It’s been more than year since a faith-based recovery house opened in the Farrington’s Grove neighborhood to help women who are serious about overcoming their addictions to drugs and alcohol.

That effort, called the Next Step Community, has grown to include not only the former church building that houses the programs, offices and meeting spaces, but also includes honor houses for program graduates ready to take the “next steps” in life.

It’s a village concept that Next Step Foundation executive director Dana Simons said continues to grow through the grace of God.

What started as The Meeting Grounds in the former Terre Haute Presbyterian Church, 619 Washington Ave., has grown into the Sanctuary House, the recovery home located in the renovated church office building.

The Journey House was added after Simons and her husband Ron saw a nearby house for sale that seemed perfect as apartments. It offers more independent living for women who have graduated from the program, but still need the support system of classes, meetings and counseling available around the corner at The Meeting Grounds.

The Cornerstone House is a recovery home for men just a few blocks away for the men who are in relationships with the women in the Next Step community. Simons noticed that some of the women taking classes were bringing along their partners so that those men could participate in the recovery process. And some of those men happened to be in other recovery programs already, so starting a men’s house seemed like a logical step to take. The couples can work together in the same program to build healthy relationships for their families.

“It’s a God thing” is a frequently used phrase at Next Step, where residents are encouraged to connect with a higher power as they grow in a support system based upon the 12-step model.

“They have spiritual awakenings that we can share,” Simons said recently of the residents.

Twenty-year-old Jenna Montgomery is one of the recent graduates who has moved into an apartment at the Journey House. In her bedroom, Jenna has set up her a small “shrine” that includes her graduation certificate, photos and reminders of her ongoing journey and new connection with God.

“Next Step has saved my life,” she said. “I didn’t know how to care for myself. They showed me a lot of grace in that, because I was really selfish.”

Montgomery grew up in a home of addiction. Her mother continues to use drugs, and that has caused Montgomery to distance herself from her mother so that she, herself, will not relapse.

“The women here gave me bits and pieces of things my own mother never did,” Montgomery said. “They taught me how to deal with my emotions, other than anger, because that’s all I ever used to feel.”

Like many addicts trying to get out of jail and through the court system, Montgomery admits that she entered Next Step with the goal of just getting through the program and getting out so she could return to her prior lifestyle.

“I thought I was gonna come here for six months and do my time and go back out and get high,” she said. But she’s been “clean” for almost a year and a half, and she doesn’t want to go back to her old life.

“I love my house. I love my roommate. I couldn’t get anything better than what I have right now,” Montgomery said.

She has found work at a fast food restaurant, and she hopes to become a tattoo artist. She wants to study business management and take continuing education classes.

Simons said others in Next Step often share their personal encounters with God, sometimes small revelations such as having a prayer answered when being lost and trying to find a way back to The Meeting House after a long day of job searches. Suddenly, a “sign” will appear to direct the lost Stepper back to the house, Simons said.

Another prayer Next Steppers believe has been answered is the marriage last December of Amanda Koerner, the original First Stepper and now the program director, to another certified recovery specialist, George Fields, who has been instrumental in helping the men’s recovery programs at Club Soda and Turning Point.

Amanda will graduate in May with an associate’s degree and a substance abuse certification for counseling. She and George have established a home together, where they hope to some day reunite with his young son, her children and their soon-to-be-born child together.

“Part of God’s purpose in getting George and Amanda together is bringing them together here at Next Step to help these women with their recovery,” Simons said.

It has been a year of learning for Simons and the Next Step Foundation board as they figured out how to best serve women who need recovery assistance. Simons said the support of area churches has been crucial in the growth of the “village” concept. And several individuals, organizations and businesses have stepped up to supply needs such as food, clothing, furniture, building materials and labor whenever it has been needed.

A big donation that will help with an upcoming Next Step fundraiser is a contribution by Baesler’s Market for a Passover Seder meal planned next week.

Set for 6 to 9 p.m. March 29 in the beautiful 1894 sanctuary of The Meeting House, the authentic Passover Seder meal will celebrate the biblical feast of freedom with those who have been delivered from the slavery of addiction.

The menu includes matzo ball soup, gelfilte fish, charoset, lamb and roast chicken, along with the retelling of the ancient story of the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt.

This is the second year for the Seder meal, but last year’s event was for Next Steppers and their families only. This year, the event is open to the public as a fundraiser.

Tickets are available at $20 for adults and $10 for children. Seating is limited. Reservations can be made online by going to www.NextStepToday.org or by calling the Next Step office at 812-917-5006.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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