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Good Shepherd Ministries Helps Men Facing Addiction

Good Shepherd Ministries
Dino Leiffer (top left), Mark Dolle (bottom left), and Tim Collins

Recovery from addiction can be an uphill battle under the best of circumstances. And for many people seeking recovery, family and friends can be critical. Many mental health advocates say community support can sometimes increase the odds an addict will get -- and stay -- clean. That support can sometimes be hard to come by but in Dayton there is a residential program designed to give recovering addicts the tools they need to heal, and get back on their feet. 

Along with transitional housing, Good Shepherd Ministries’ program offers counseling, and life-skills and job training classes for men reentering the workforce after drug addiction.

Mark Dolle is one of the nearly twenty men currently enrolled in the year-long, faith-based program. The 39-year-old divorced father says it’s given him a good start at getting his life back.

“Having that unity and that brotherhood is really the core of everything that we do here,” he says,  Being around other people like myself, ...like-minded individuals that are going through the exact same thing I am…. whom I can rely on you know?”

Credit Jerry Kenney
Good Shepherd Ministries, located in the business district along E. Third St. is home to Adventures Thrift Store - a business that supports the ministries' operation as a transitional housing program for men facing drug addiction.

Dolle and the other residents here have a lot in common: drug and alcohol addiction. Some are formerly homeless, others have time spent in the court system, even prison. Good Shepherd’s program offers them stability and time away from the environments and people that may have fueled their addictions.

The program offers residents a lot, but Dolle says Good Shepherd also asks those in the program for a few things in return.

“Service work, attend meetings, get a sponsor, help your brothers out, be respectful, you know, it is what you make it.

Some of the men who have been at Good Shepherd for a while, work full or part-time jobs - but everybody takes part in community service projects. They do chores for neighbors who live near their residential houses on Linden Avenue. They cut grass or provide labor for projects at Dayton businesses and other nonprofits. And some work on site at Good Shepherd.

Credit Jerry Kenney
Dino Leiffer: We utilize every skill set we have. You never know when something's going to be broke down.

The evening of our visit to Good Sheherd, several men were working under the hood of a white delivery van that had clearly seen better days. The paint was dull and pockets of rust ran along the lower side panels.

A sign on the van read: Junk Removal, Community Service Work. Under that it said “Help Us Help Others.”

To do that, Good Shepherd Executive Director Dino Leiffer says they depend a lot on the van - to pick up donated furniture and household items that are then sold at the ministries’ thrift store. It’s also used to haul tools and lumber for many of the projects they have underway.

“The gentleman you see working on the van, he's phenomenal.,” Leiffer says. “He knows how to do a lot of stuff and he's been a blessing for us. We utilize every skill set we have. You never know when something's going to be broke down....”

Leiffer takes me on a tour inside the Linden avenue homes that are being refurbished by the some of the men living in them. Each house is home to three to seven men.

“It’s not super fancy but it's what we can afford you know,” he says as we step inside one of the homes. “One thing about it, it's cozy and they feel at home and that's really what we care about.”

Leiffer says the work the men are doing here and out in the community gives them perspective. Each of the men we spoke with say here, at Good Shepherd, they’re learning to put others first. To put the needs of others before themselves and their addictions.

That’s a lesson that Leiffer tells me, came to him the hard way. He says his drug use landed him with a 20-year prison sentence. The 56 year old has been out for about 10 years now. He hopes his experience and his past can show the other men recovery is possible

“I've been there. I feel like a part of being successful, being sober and clean, you need to give something back. I believe strongly in that. It’s not always easy. You want people to be successful but that's not always the case.”

Leiffer tells that recently one of the young men in the recovery program for five months, slipped back into his addiction and died of an overdose. Those who knew him are still feeling the pain of that death.

One of them is 28-year old recovering addict, Tim Collins. He says it’s a reminder of the dangers of relapse that is often typical for people in recovery.

“One bad choice can mean your death or back to that old state of mind because it's a totally different state of mind,” Collins says. “Me sober versus me using is not same person.”

Credit Jerry Kenney
Good Shepherd Ministries has refurbished several residence houses on Linden Avenue in Dayton

Collins came to Good Shepherd after several failed attempts at getting clean. He says his drug and alcohol use has taken a mental and physical toll, but Good Shepherd is helping him fight those challenges now

“It doesn't even feel like a program anymore. I mean it's just this is part of my life right now and I wouldn't change it.” 

But things are about to change for Collins. He’s got just two months left at Good Shepherd but says he’s taking inspiration from other men who have already been through the program.

“On Thursday nights when we have the alumni guys come back, that have been out of the program two or three years, they come back and share their stories and their experiences and that makes me realize, OK, it's doable. Guys are coming through this program, doing it right, growing, finding themselves and moving on in a healthy way.” 

So yes, addiction recovery is an uphill battle, but if support is a crucial component in that recovery then the residents of Good Shepherd Ministries have more than a fighting chance at success.

Jerry Kenney was introduced to WYSO by a friend and within a year of first tuning in became an avid listener and supporter. He began volunteering at the station in 1991 and began hosting Alpha Rhythms in February of 1992. Jerry joined the WYSO staff in 2007 as a host of All Things Considered and soon transitioned into hosting Morning Edition. In addition to now hosting All Things Considered, Jerry is the host and producer of WYSO Weekend, WYSO's weekly news and arts magazine. He has also produced several radio dramas for WYSO in collaboration with local theater companies. Jerry has won several Ohio AP awards as well as an award from PRINDI for his work with the WYSO news department. Jerry says that the best part of his job is being able to talk to people in the community and share their experiences with WYSO listeners.