March 11, 2015 Edition

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Jumpstart Ministries occupies the "igloo" on Hwy. 67B North in Walnut Ridge. Jacob Houston from Paragould is house manager of the Walnut Ridge facility that houses approximately 20 men.

Jumpstart Ministries offers
faith-based drug and alcohol
rehabilitation for men

John Bland

Jacob Houston believes in the mission of Jumpstart Ministries and has gone through the program himself. "The program did a lot for me. It brought my wife and kids back to me," he said. Now, he and his wife have a third child on the way.

Houston has been with Jumpstart Ministries for about two and a half years, including his time in the program and as an employee. He is the house manager of the Walnut Ridge location of Jumpstart Ministries, located in the igloo-shaped building on Hwy. 67B North. He and his family live on the second level of the two-story structure.

Ray Brandon founded Jumpstart Ministries in 2009, Houston said. Having worked with the Arkansas Department of Correction for a number of years, Brandon recognized the need to help those trapped in lifestyles of addiction.

For drug offenders in court, the choice is often either prison or rehabilitation, Houston said. "It is tough, with most coming (to the program) from the court system."

Unfortunately, the success rate for drug rehabilitation in Arkansas is only 10 percent, but Jumpstart Ministries has a better success rate, he said. "We try to teach them that there's hope."

"The idea that you can overcome anything with Jesus Christ is the basis for the program," Houston said. The 13-month faith-based program consists of three parts or phases.

Phases one and two take place in O'Kean, where a church, dining hall, cabins, chickens and a hog barn are located on nine acres. Phases one and two are each two to three months long. Travis Johnson oversees the O'Kean location, which can accommodate up to 50 men.

"First we try to isolate them from the world," Houston said, referring to phase one. Jumpstart Ministries has a saying, "There's only one thing you've got to change – and that is everything," he added.

Getting the men away from their communities and friends is important to the success rate. In phase one, the men attend classes and try to refocus their lives.

In phase two, they are organized in groups, doing such work as building chicken houses, tearing out floors, tearing down houses, as well as mowing, trimming trees and painting.

The Walnut Ridge location is where phase three of the program is based. Most of the men who live at the Walnut Ridge location are from Greene and Craighead counties, Houston said.

"We try to teach them balance – doing all the things they need to do," he added.

In phase three, which lasts eight or nine months, the men have regular jobs. Among the current residents are a licensed contractor, a plumber and an electrician. Those with jobs donate part of their earnings back to help fund the program.

"We are trying to get out and have a positive influence in the community," Houston said.

One of Jumpstart Ministries' current projects has been renovation of the old Sharum Theatre property in Walnut Ridge. The organization has been working to renovate the property for owner Lauraetta Melton to operate as a Christian theater.

The men in Jumpstart Ministries attend church as a group at People's Faith Tabernacle in Hoxie, where Roger Brand is pastor.

Jumpstart Ministries also has a farm in Poughkeepsie, and most of their farm animals are kept there. Their office is located at 402 W. Main Walnut Ridge, where Danny Whitmire is office manager.

Men who are willing to make the 13-month commitment to the program can apply by contacting Whitmire at the office or by calling (870) 637-5916.

Jumpstart Ministries is a 501(c) nonprofit organization.

(Jacob Houston shared much of this information in a program he recently gave for the Kiwanis Club of Walnut Ridge.)

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