Robbie Robinson tells individuals suffering from addictions they must learn to crawl before they can walk, a figure of speech used to enlighten them of the struggles ahead and the amount of time it will take to heal and reach their full potential.
It is also a suitable metaphor for the ministry and substance abuse counseling center Discover Hope 517, whose origins began in the basement of a local church when former drug user Robinson and Jasper County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Aaron Groves formed the organization in 2014.
Outgrowing each of its homes in the years since, Discover Hope 517 found a new and much more spacious Newton facility several months ago at 733 First Ave. E., the former Bob Hawkins Photography Studio. Curiously enough, the organization continued to hold support group meetings, healing programs and worship times during the renovation phase.
Discover Hope 517 learned to walk.
Now that the space is almost fully renovated, Robinson, who is the executive director of Discover Hope 517, will unveil the organization’s new 8,400-square-foot home to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday during its grand opening. Robinson’s wide and contagious grin is very telling.
“A part of getting people to a place where they want to change, you have to create an environment that they can change, and I think that’s what God did with Discover Hope,” Robinson said. “He created a community within itself where individuals really wanted to come out of that lifestyle.”
The $360,000 Discover Hope 517 building goal has not yet been reached. Robinson said about $170,000 has been donated to the organization, almost reaching the halfway point of the initial goal. However, another $100,000 was donated to the organization for the facility renovations.
“So essentially we’ve raised $270,000,” Robinson said. “That’s the community supporting that. Private donations and partnerships with churches and organizations are giving (to Discover Hope 517). People in Newton have stepped up.”
A bigger building, Robinson added, also means expanded services for the people of Newton and Jasper County seeking recovery with more daytime programming and life-skill training the community can be involved in.
Discover Hope 517’s Fresh Start Program is held Monday nights and Tuesday mornings; the Women of Serenity encouragement group meets Wednesday; a prayer class is held Thursdays; a family support group will also be organized on Thursday evenings; a moms group and a dads group meets every Friday for family restoration.
An updated community center is often a guest’s first exposure to Discover Hope, a bridge to support services and direction from one of the 13 on-hand leaders to navigate them on their road to recovery.
Discover Hope 517 has also renovated a space for transitional housing for recovering addicts, with space for a dozen or so people. Community-focused programming also offers second chances to people struggling in participating workplaces.
After a successful completion of an eight-week recovery process, select businesses allow those workers to return to work rather than losing a job and sending them on a path that could lead back to addiction.
Refusing to ignore the problems of people struggling in the Newton and in the surrounding areas, Robinson said Discover Hope 517 can help create a “culture of transformation” for the community.
“We’re not going to sit back and ‘deal with it’ anymore,” he said. “We’re not going to accept the stigma that Newton has had for so long.”
Bonnie Claussen, community center director of Discover Hope 517, believes the people of Newton and Jasper County are “desperate for change” and see the potential of the organization.
“A change in our culture,” Claussen clarified. “Addiction has become so prevalent. It wasn’t that way 25 or 30 years ago. It’s really everywhere in the country. It’s not just Newton. But it still affects us all.”
Signs are pointing to the community’s willingness to change its mindset and focus its sights toward recovery, and thereby successfully creating that culture of transformation. Robinson is thrilled to see that growing change, especially since he was, at first, rejected by the community.
As a former drug user and a convicted felon, Robinson said people judged him by his “book cover.”
Oh he just got out of prison. We know what you’re going to bring to our community. He’s going to be like the rest of them.
That was the mindset Newton had, Robinson said. They saw his past and overlooked the changes he made to better himself. In time, he added, that mindset shifted. Now they see him for who he truly is, as someone who can make a difference in people’s lives and that can connect with their struggles.
A sentiment he hopes can carry on to others who seek recovery.
"We'll meet 'em where they're at, we'll begin to walk with them, we'll begin our ministry with them, we'll begin to allow them to have hope again," Robinson said. "And as they go back out into the community, the community will welcome them. Because they'll begin to see them in a different way."
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org