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Conversations, stories and perspectives from returned citizens in Southwest Ohio

ReEntry Stories: Choosing Recovery And Community

Amber FB_IMG_1619989780516.jpg
courtesy of Amber Richards
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Amber Richards is the executive director of Field of Hope.

In our latest series of ReEntry Stories, we hear about the lives of four formerly incarcerated women. They all took advantage of an educational program or some kind of skill building project while they were in prison, and for all of them, it was a good first step.

Today we meet Amber Richards. Series producer Mary Evans has known her for many years because they were incarcerated at the same institution. While inside, Amber chose to focus her life on recovery from drug addiction. And when she got out, she got involved with an organization called Field of Hope in Gallia County.

Transcript (edited lightly for length and clarity):

Amber Richards: I chose recovery and nothing else had worked for me. I've been in addiction for 20 years, second time being incarcerated, then rehabs, and I never really gave recovery a chance. So when I got my recovery books and Bible in prison, I really hit that hard and it started making sense to me. Everything I could see in my life that led up to this point of being incarcerated throughout recovery, you learn about and you discover about yourself. So recovery was a huge part of just having that heart change to be able to change myself. And when the people around me started to see me change, you know, even my bunkie was like, you're going to do this before you start your day. So when people could see a difference in you through your recovery while incarcerated, that told me why I needed that recovery, because it was changing me. And people could see that.

Mary Evans It's obvious you furthered your education and you have a degree and stuff. And then was it because of the lack of resources is why you guys decided on Field of Hope?

Amber Richards So, Field of Hope kind of began - there was it's an old high school that we rebuilt and we got some houses there for women, for residential and sober living. So our church, Vinton Baptist Church, actually got given this property and they had a vision to want to use it to help the community. Our Church is very big in recovery. So they wanted to help people in recovery, see how they could do that. So we formed this community campus and it's for the whole community and being in it myself, seeing how there was no resources, no help, like I was a number and a name to most people. They've heard the stories about me. So they had already had an impression about me and and all the stuff - we wanted a place where people could feel loved, taken care of and that we was there for them. And that's been my passion because I'm a recovering addict and been there, you know, you want to help people. You want people to love themselves, to feel love, to not feel like an outcast and just there for the money. So that's why, that's what my passion is for, just to truly help heal other people. I've been through so much, I don't want anybody to ever have to go through that. So to be able to help them, that is our mission at Field of Hope. And so given that property, then we was able to start building after getting some grants and things, and that started while I was incarcerated. So I'm like, man, I would love to get out and work there. Like there's a new place opening up for the community. We're going to help people! And I'm hearing all these things. So when I got out, I was blessed to be the first counselor hired there.

Mary Evans It gives me so much hope for the people that are still battling addiction in my hometown with you guys being there, because when we were going through it, you know, we got sent to Ironton or Marietta and like you said, it was like twenty eight or ninety days and they kick you out. Then you got to come back to this town where no one really wants to give you a second chance without community action and without people really understanding, you know, addiction. And I think now, since it's on every realm of the social class in Gallia County, I think now it's a more comfortable conversation. You know, when we were growing up, if you had money or you were in a different social class than some of the working class or lower class people, then it was kind of swept under the rug. Now that every social class has been attacked by this disease of addiction, I think now it makes the conversation easier. And, hey, if that's what it took for the conversations to start happening and for community engagement to start happening, then so be it, for sure.

Amber Richards But that's what it's about, because with addiction and with us, it's a lot more you know, our kids are suffering, too. You know, true healing is healing all aspects.

Mary Evans Since her release from prison, Amber has been able to help people and is now the executive director of Field of Hope, which has both inpatient and outpatient drug counseling services.

ReEntry Stories is created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.