Martha McNeil, left, Viola Burk, center, and Sheila Savitz read a letter from an inmate in Los Lunas. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Tova Fruchtman: Freedom Newspapers
The three women behind Life Changers ministry home are hopeful that this year their dreams of building a drug rehab center to serve Clovis and Portales will come true.
Sheila Savitz said that the attitudes district judges and District Attorney Matt Chandler will make a big difference in the ability of the center to open. Now they need money to buy a building.
Their hopes to open the Christian-based drug rehab center in 2003 fell through because the building they purchased in Portales was across from an elementary school.
For now, the beds they bought to give rest and comfort to those battling substance abuse wait in storage.
Savitz, Debbie Martinez and Viola Burke have set their sights on a building in Clovis, an old motel used to house railroad workers. They are hoping to raise $70,000.
“What I want is some person in the community to have enough faith to know the alternative to addiction is wellness, and know that we’re just not women, we’re warriors for God,” said Savitz, whose eyes filled with tears as she spoke about the people she wants to help.
“If I could ask for one prayer to be answered, it would be for 70,00 people to take out $1 to ask for hope and sobriety,” Savitz said.
The day-to-day operations of the rehab center will be funded in part by funds raised through Consigning Women in Clovis.
It was first-hand experience that led Savitz on a mission to open a Christian drug rehabilitation center (She later recruited Martinez and Burke to help).
A family member faced a drug addiction, and Savitz said she didn’t know how to help them.
She wants to make sure that no one has to go through what her relative did, she said. And she wants to repay God for what he did to help her family.
“I’m doing this because it’s my gift to God, for his gift to me,” Savitz said.
“Our hearts are ready, we’re willing, we’ve gone the extra mile,” said Savitz, who has written a 1-inch thick plan for the center.
Those in the program will work every day to pay rent and bills at the facility. In return, they will have their physical, mental and spiritual needs met by the rehab center, Savitz said, explaining that people need all three of those to rehabilitate
“For me, and my house, it’s the only way I think we can achieve it,” she said.
She believes offering an alternative to jail will make a big difference in rehabilitating substance abusers.
“My heart is broken for them because they are wonderful, wonderful people, they’re just sick with an addiction,” she said.
District Judge Ted Hartley has been working on a drug court program that would put offenders who commit drug-related crimes in Curry and Roosevelt in rehab centers rather than jail.
He said having local center would help.
“It’s been required in this area that we send people away in order to get any drug rehab in house,” Hartley said. And drugs are a real problem, he said.
Drug- and alcohol-related crime make up over half of all the crimes committed in Curry and Roosevelt county, according to statistics from the district court.
Hartley said by putting drug and alcohol offenders in jail rather than rehabilitation centers, “we’re just wasting money spinning wheels.”
Savitz believes Life Changers ministry is the answer.
“Someday my tears will be tears of joy instead of sorrow for the victims, for the families, for their communities,” she said.
“There’s no place like home, if we had our own facility they would be home,” she said.