Lindsay Jones 0000-00-00 00:00:00
When a man reaches the point where there’s nowhere to go but up, the Salvation army offers a lift. John Carthon hadn’t eaten in God only knew how long when he happened on the remains of an old, rotten sandwich on the ground with ants crawling all over it. But he wasn’t the only one eyeing the half-eaten sandwich. Besides the ants, his competition was a hungry rat. “I said to myself, ‘I’m going to go for this sandwich, but if the rat gets it first, I’m getting the rat,’” he recalls of his days as a drifter in the Midwest. “I had no other ambition than to get and use drugs.” After 30 years of roaming from town to town and city to city, Carthon’s epiphany came on a cold winter night in Racine, WI, after he’d missed the curfew for the local homeless shelter. It was 14 degrees below zero in the middle of an ice storm. The ice was coming down so thick, it kept forming a crust on his coat. Though he’d been in and out of halfway houses and had tried his hand at redemption many times before, the cold and his fear of dying broke the ice within, if not without. “I said, ‘Lord, if I can survive this night, I’ll know you are with me.’” Carthon did survive. He caught a ride to the shelter the next morning, and a quick check of his extremities showed not a trace of frostbite. He was as fit as if he’d been sleeping on a warm feather mattress all night instead of keeping vigil on a hard, icy crate outside. So Carthon decided once again to climb on the wagon and stay there. But he didn’t stay long. He eventually found his way south to Memphis, where he entered the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Program for men. He liked the idea of being in a warmer climate. Carthon started taking classes at the center. The college degree in human services he’d earned in his early 20s, coupled with his more recent training to help people overcome addictions, set him on a path to becoming an employee of the organization that had finally freed him from his own demons. Today, Carthon is a counselor at the Salvation Army’s new campus in northeast Memphis. In November, the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) celebrated its one-year anniversary at the new site. The original rehabilitation center opened Downtown in 1926 and consisted of two buildings — 40,000 square feet total — that served 75 men on less than an acre of land with no room for outdoor activities. The new center for men — who are called beneficiaries — is comprised of 140,000 square feet spread over eight buildings, five of which are connected by a large, airy atrium. The facility and its grounds also include a nearly mile-long walking track, pond, basketball and volleyball courts, softball field, and outdoor pavilion. “The new center allows for more program opportunities, and it provides a place that helps restore a man’s dignity,” says Maj. Richard McConniel, administrator of the center that can now help 125 beneficiaries at a time in its 180-day residential program. “A defining characteristic of the new center is its so-called ‘open concept,’ which is about the change in living and learning spaces.” It’s the first Salvation Army ARC facility of its kind anywhere in the country. The new center speaks of solid construction in a much more idyllic setting than the old center. Nothing about its tall windows and manicured lawns looks out of place at its location at 2649 Kirby Whitten Parkway, next to one of the organization’s three family stores. Soothing olive greens and brickwork define the place inside and out, and the beneficiaries are as varied as the artwork on the contoured walls. “We have physicians, we have engineers, and we have men who’ve slept on the street for 20 years,” says Judy Smith, the center’s director of finance. “Men who seek help from the Salvation Army are usually suffering from addictions that hinder their ability to interact well with the world. We take in men whose lives have become unmanageable for a variety of reasons.” Typically, men are referred to the center by court officers, social workers, or other helping agencies. Many men check themselves in because they’ve admitted they need help. They must be between 21 and 60 years old, possess a valid state I.D., and not be on any sex offender lists. And there must be a vacancy in the program At no cost to themselves, beneficiaries are taught how to hold jobs and become good employees. They’re required to take classes in preparation for earning their general education diploma, and they receive structured, spiritualbased counseling and housing while working together toward their goals. “The purpose is to focus on God’s healing power through fellowship,” says Smith. “We do this by the 12 steps and 8 principles, participating in open share groups, and being willing to understand and know that God will enable us to not be defeated by life’s problems.” A beneficiary’s typical day begins at 6 a.m. when the lights come on. After a 30-minute breakfast, roll call, and devotional, The men head out for their work therapy assignments, which last until 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Work therapy can involve grounds maintenance, processing donations in the nearby warehouse, working as sales associates in the family stores, and other similar duties. After work therapy, the men freshen up and eat dinner between 4:30 and 5:15. They can then meet with counselors until classes begin at 6. After class is over at 8, beneficiaries can again meet with counselors or enjoy some time to themselves. Rooms, whether single or shared, are unadorned. Men in the residential program may share a room with up to five others. They sleep on single beds, which are made with military precision each morning. Twelve efficiency apartments are available for men who have completed the 180-day program and are working paying jobs.During this time, they must save enough money for their re-entry into self-sufficient living. The new campus was funded by major gifts willed to the Salvation Army, combined with proceeds from the organization’s family stores in Horn Lake, Raleigh, and the Kirby- Whitton location. “Building a new rehabilitation center is rare anywhere in the U.S. because of the capital funding required,” McConniel says. “The open-campus concept was intended to provide adequate space for our clients during their recovery. With the potential of 137 men at one time — including the 12 efficiencies — for six months at a time, space becomes very important for individual success.” Indeed, “Doing the Most Good” is The Salvation Army’s motto since it started in London in 1865. Its founder, Methodist minister William Booth, preached a gospel of “soup, soap, and salvation” to the poorest of the poor and the lowest of the low — people like the man John Carthon used to be. Booth was determined to live the gospel of Jesus Christ through his work with people in need, a philosophy that still guides The Salvation Army and its more than 100 similar programs nationwide today. “Once I came into the program, I threw out everything I knew, all my preconceived ideas and notions, and surrendered myself to God,” Carthon says, “because I couldn’t believe that 30 years of addiction had happened for nothing. We are the sum of the choices we make. When we start to make the right choices, we develop into the right person.” Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Centers, 531-1750, salvationarmy.org, virtual tour: memphis.satruck.org/virtual-tour.
Published by Downtowner Magazine. View All Articles.
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