Three Portales women are seeking funds for a male-only Christian rehabilitation center, which could serve as an alternative to jail for non-violent drug and alcohol offenders.
Sheila Savitz-Strange and her partners Viola Burke and Debbie Martinez are seeking donations, grants and a loan of approximately $200,000 from a Clovis bank to help fund the initial stages of the privately funded Life Changers Ministry.
One beginning stage includes getting the $61,000 building up to code — a $267,000 project — and safe for up to 110 males who may be living there.
If accomplished, the program will act as a stepping stone between the self-destruction of substance abuse and the desire to stay clean, Strange said.
“This rehab center is so needed in area communities,” Strange said. “It’s about having a disease, an affliction. We are trying to bridge people’s lives back to oneness: God, family and self.”
Strange said financing hasn’t been the only obstacle to date.
Initially, the location of the facility — across from L.L. Brown Grade School — initiated anxiety from officials at the school, according to Portales Schools Superintendent Jim Holloway. But after meeting with Strange, Holloway said he believes the safety of the children would not be compromised.
“When I heard about this my concern was, as was the school principal’s, that we look into it so we know what is going on,” Holloway said. “After I met with them I was very well satisfied about the answers I got concerning safety.”
Holloway, who said he worked at a rehabilitation center in Georgia, described the ministry as being obstructed from the school by a cinder-block wall, and the windows mirrored so children could not witness men dressing.
He also took comfort in the fact that staff at the facility would be working 24 hours a day.
Strange said she hopes the center is operating by September. She added that substance abuse offenders must choose to reside at the facility since the ministry is Christian based, but can choose Life Changers if rehabilitation is court ordered.
The residents would find jobs in the community and allocate 65 percent of their paychecks to the Ministry for basic expenses, according to the ministry’s strategic plan.
Concerning applicants, Strange said she won’t have a problem keeping the center full. A magistrate judge in Chaves County has already referred almost 50 substance abuse offenders for future rehabilitation at her facility, she said, and social workers in Clovis have about 50 ready to apply.
“We won’t choose everybody who applies; they need to be right for us and vice versa,” Strange said.
Strange initially sought government funding for the center, but adamantly opted against the move when government officials said they would only support financially if the center was stripped of its Christian overtones.
“If we have funding from federal or state government then we would have to take Jesus out of the vocabulary,” Strange said. “It couldn’t be Christian based, and I can’t do that.
“So many people in the community have been hurt through the abuse of drugs and alcohol, that somebody has to stand back and say ‘wow’ this has to stop — and that’s what we’re going to do with the Lord’s guidance.”