Jerred Nunnelly hit rock bottom when he was sleeping in his car out in the woods somewhere. He was out of money, out of luck and ready for something — anything — to give, but he didn’t know where to start. All he knew was that he wanted more from life than emptiness.
“Every day was misery,” he explained.
Jerred said he loved the world, but not in the good, let’s-all-get-along way. He loved the world for its material things, sins and temptations. He was addicted to heroin, and that lifestyle was taking him nowhere fast. When Jerred’s aunt, a longtime supporter of Downtown Rescue Mission, told his mother about their programs, his mother drove him to the shelter in hopes it would change his life.
Recovery didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t even happen in the first few weeks he was part of the LIFE Recovery Program. One day, in a meeting with his program director, it all started to click. The director told him Downtown Rescue Mission was a place for men to be real and to start healing their minds and hearts. That day, Jerred let his guard down, became more authentic in his relationship with God and other people, and started healing for good.
“In the months since that day, I have grown exponentially in the faith,” Jerred said. “This is the most peace I have had in my life.”
Jerred’s story isn’t uncommon for Downtown Rescue Mission. Their residential program boasts a shockingly high success rate compared to other drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Now, the building that has seen so many spiritual makeovers is getting a makeover of its own.
Thanks to a $25,000 donation from the Keller Williams’ chili cook off, the hallway that holds the LIFE recovery program is getting renovated and repaired in ways that is erasing past years’ neglect.
School Days Are Over
If you walk into Downtown Rescue Mission, you can immediately tell what the building used to be. There are lockers lining the halls and rooms with dry erase boards where teachers used to shape young minds. Those same rooms still shape minds and hearts, but today they serve a slightly older clientele.
The Mission bought the building from Westminster Christian Academy in 2008, and while the past decade has been good, there’s still a lot that needs to be done. Most of the rooms worked great as classrooms, but they just don’t meet the needs of the Mission’s residents, said Kirk Thompson, chief of operations at Downtown Rescue Mission.
Renovations will include replacing some windows to make them more energy efficient, removing the radiators left over from the school, updating some of the plumbing fixtures, painting the rooms, stripping and waxing the floors, and even getting new bedding.
“The renovations that we’re going through, I hope, will give the residents the opportunity to have peace about all their physical needs, so that way, they’re not worried about the day-to-day … and they can then focus on things that are more important, which is their heart condition and what has gotten them into the position that they’re in and what is that path out of it,” Kirk said.
Comfort and Joy
When Owens House, a place for women and children, opened in January 2018, it allowed more space in the main campus for the men of the year-long LIFE recovery program. Right now, the men have 45 beds for the LIFE Program, with hopes of increasing to 60 in the coming years, Kirk said. But before the women and children moved out of the main building and into Owen’s House, there were up to 18 men sleeping in each room. We’re not saying they all snore, but chances are there are one or two who sound like freight trains all night. And the sheer heat of 18 bodies, coupled with those long, Alabama summers, made it often unbearable, Kirk said. We all know people get grumpy when they don’t get enough sleep.
Even with the extra space gained when the women and children moved out of the main building, Downtown Rescue Mission leaders realized they were going to have to find a way to make the building cooler and quieter if they want to accommodate more men into the 12-month program.
That’s where the renovations come in.
The beds will be rearranged, and they even have hopes of having two, dedicated recreation rooms — in case some men want to watch the Alabama game while the others want to watch Auburn. The long-term plan is for one room to have counselors set up who will work with the men in the program.
It’s important to know that these renovated areas and all the comforts Downtown Rescue Mission is trying to afford the residents are limited to those who have been dedicated to recovery through the LIFE recovery program, not just those who are staying over night. While those accommodations are nice, the renovations are being done with the long-term residents in mind, the ones who are looking to grow in their faith and return to independent living.
“It’s a way of trying to get them to refocus and be prepared to step back out into society as a new being (who has been) redirected in life,” Kirk said.
In the end, Kirk and the other leaders at Downtown Rescue Mission just want to provide a comfortable place for these men to rest, find peace and rebuild their lives.
If you want to support the men and women who want to redirect their lives, consider giving to the Downtown Rescue Mission’s renovations.
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