Alecia Short Thanks God for Her Recovery

Alecia Short Thanks God for Her Recovery

CORE’s clients give their testimonies for our monthly newsletters to share strength and hope.  Having fallen into the seemingly hopeless abyss of addiction, they have recovered.  In them, as the Big Book says: 

There has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking. In the face of collapse and despair, in the face of the total failure of their human resources, they found that a new power, peace, happiness, and sense of direction flowed into them.

Some who give their testimonies must be a little braver than others.  While Alecia Short never once intimated this to us during our interview with her, we think she falls into this “braver” category.  

She grew up in a good family and lived a happy, normal childhood with her siblings.  She was a good student and an accomplished flautist.  She enjoyed her high school years and, like so many her age, looked forward to going to college, getting her degree, finding the right man, having children, and building a life for herself and family.  At the age of eighteen, however, something unexpected happened.  Alecia found herself with child.

She had always dreamed of becoming a mom some day, but that day was supposed to be years away.  In retrospect, she was still a very young woman, unsure of herself, and she failed to appreciate the broader context of her newfound situation.  And she was afraid.  She also listened to the fears of one who thought his life would end if a child was born.  In the end, fear won out over hope, and she underwent a procedure to terminate her pregnancy.  The enormity of her decision did not hit home until afterwards, and Alecia was wholly unprepared for the emotional fallout.

She didn’t know it yet, but her life was about to be turned upside-down.  She received an oxycodone, ostensibly for physical pain from the procedure, but the effect was much broader.  All of the sadness, guilt, and anger welling up from within her subsided when Alecia took that little pill.  “That was my very first pain pill in my entire life, and it made me feel great again,” Alecia recounts, “it was game over after that first time.” Nobody intends to become an addict, but Alecia unwittingly walked that path nonetheless, all the while intending to quell the pain she felt within her heart. 

When her pills ran out, Alecia began hitting local emergency rooms.  Eventually, the doctors got wise and put a stop to that.  From there she discovered the local distribution pipeline for pills.  She never shot up, but she ate oxycodones like candy, until she figured out snorting them.  Then she discovered methamphetamines.  Alecia moved out of her parents’ house soon enough, and she totally unraveled.  She floated like this for years.

When we asked how bad her addiction actually got, Alecia’s response initially surprised us.  We expected to hear about overdoses or about trap and crack houses filled with junkies.  That really was not Alecia’s world, however.  What we heard was actually worse.  Her worst experience was all of the missing time, not of hours and days, but of literal years:

Addiction is the worst experience that anybody could ever go through.  Time loses its meaning, like it’s not even real.  There’s no reality to it; it’s just a very dark place.  You don’t even realize you exist, not really, because you’re high all the time.  From the start of my addiction to the time that I came to CORE I couldn’t believe that it had been so long.  It went like that (snapping her fingers).  But in reality it was years of my life – absolutely gone.

Alecia first came to CORE in 2015, but she departed after only two weeks here.  She discovered she was pregnant again, this time with her son Lincoln, and she latched onto this discovery like a life preserver.  Alecia was elated; she would get to become the mother she hadn’t been.  She thought her pregnancy would save her, and she embraced it with all of her being.  Reflecting on that time, Alecia remembers “That’s when I told myself that’s all I needed, like — I’m good, I don’t need this [place] anymore, this is my dream come true.  I was golden.  I’m going home.  That’s all I needed.”  

Her house manager, who knew better, did not share her optimism.  The two sat down and talked about Alecia’s situation and, in particular, the fact that she was powerless against her addiction, with or without child.  Alecia remembers hearing things like “this is not going to end up well” and “I hope you make it back here alive,” but she was deaf to all warnings.  Her house manager also assured her that she could be pregnant and also work a recovery program at CORE, but Alecia wouldn’t listen.  She moved back home to be with her family.  

Alecia did stay sober for the pregnancy.  She was running on hope, since “it was my dream come true when Lincoln was born.”  Yet, even with hope, she still was powerless.  Her obsession had been lurking in the background, and once she gave birth to Lincoln, her days of sobriety would end.  She received more pain pills upon leaving the hospital, and that’s all it took.  Alecia was hooked again.  

Her addiction ran for four more years until Alecia Short finally and completely hit rock bottom.  In August 2020, the police and DFS showed up at her door.  The jig was up.  There was no talking her way out of this.

Now, things indeed were dire for Alecia, but she did have a plan of action in mind.  For one, her mom would gladly take temporary custody of Lincoln, and she absolutely knew that he would be safe and sound with his grandma.  Further, even though Alecia knew that she could never remain sober by herself, she well remembered CORE.  Within a month, she was back with us and residing at our women’s intake house, aka Quail House.  

The second time around, Alecia returned wiser, and with the determination to do the next right thing.  She possessed a spirit of willingness: 

When I got here, I was willing and ready to work the program.  It was life or death for me at that point.  It was whether I’d ever be a mom again.  It was hard for me personally to be here, sure, but it wasn’t hard to make that decision to actually work the Steps.  I knew I was going to be here for a while.  It would be hard work, but I was ready and willing.”

Her willingness made all the difference.  She immediately began working on the 12 Steps, and she commenced to get results almost as quickly.  Happily, and foreseeably, Alecia recovered.  Her obsession was removed, and drugs no longer had mastery over her. 

When she recovered, a lot of other good things began happening for Alecia.  For one, she’s past her legal difficulties, and there are no further entanglements with DFS.  Plus, she’s got a promising new career with the largest coffeehouse chain in the world.  Moreover, only last November she was appointed to be the house manager for our Vaughn House in Branson.

Ultimately, Alecia credits God with her recovery.  Her relationship with Him is the most powerful force in her life:

I’d always had an idea of Jesus Christ, but I never truly believed like I do today, until coming to this program.  I never believed in a power greater than myself – I was the greatest power in my own mind.  So what I’m most grateful for is the relationship I have with God today.  It’s why I’m here, where I’m at and able to do the things I do.”

Now, the Reader may be tempted to think that upon commencing CORE’s program, that finding her own place and bringing Lincoln home would be the first thing Alecia would do.  She very much wants to do this, too, as she indicated to us.  Keep in mind, however, that real recovery is a distinctive experience.  Invariably, the beneficiary is infused with an overwhelming desire to pay it forward.  Lincoln is completely safe and content; the two see one another all the time.  So, like so many of our recovered clients, Alecia feels impelled to be here for those who are new to recovery, at least for a little while longer.  

As a house manager, she also has ladies from Vaughn House who are commencing soon.  She’d never miss this, and Alecia beams with satisfaction while telling us about them.  During our conversation with her, we came to realize that this glow is her motherly instincts shining through.  That is, she’s not trying to live their recoveries for them.  She’s rather sharing in the miracle of recovery with them, as they take their first baby steps into new life.  Some of the ladies at Vaughn House actually call her The Soccer Mom, apparently, and she wears this moniker as a badge of honor.  She says, in fact, “I’m grateful to be that mom image for them, because some coming in here have no idea what that’s like.  They don’t know what it’s like to be cared for and genuinely loved.  I’m grateful to be here, to be one of those people in their lives today.” 

And what does Alecia think of CORE now that she’s recovered?  She had some positive things to say: 

I love CORE, which has welcoming, open arms for anyone who needs them.  There’s no judgment here, you know?  It doesn’t matter what your drug was or what brought you to this program.  It doesn’t matter how bad it got.  CORE welcomes you, and it will help you.  CORE’s willing to do whatever they can to help, as long as you’re willing to help yourself and to let them help you.  It’s exactly what I needed.”

We at CORE well understand Alecia’s desire to make a home with her son again.  We also are happy to have her here for as long as the call to serve compels her.  We know that with prayer and careful consideration, Alecia will make the right decision, at the right time, for her and her son.

CORE 2022 Golf Tournament Is The Most Exciting Ever!

CORE 2022 Golf Tournament Is The Most Exciting Ever!

What’s the greatest golf tournament ever played?  Maybe the ‘63 U.S. Open, where upstart Nicklaus defeated living legend Palmer?  Or, what about the 1997 Masters, when Tiger Woods became the youngest champion ever?

These are all sincerely good guesses but, it turns out, they’re all sincerely wrong.  It so happens that the best golf tournament happened on May 12th, at Thousand Hills Golf Course right here in Branson!

We of course are talking about CORE’s 2022 Golf Tournament. 

We have every reason to be positively beaming over this event.  A big shout-out goes to our presenter Ozarks DynaCom (and all of its many, fine radio stations) for getting the word out about this tournament.  Eighty (80) players participated!  We couldn’t have done this without Ozarks DynaCom and their team of marketing professionals.  They made all the difference!

As for the venue, Thousand Hills is among Missouri’s finest golf courses.  It is an executive course with majestic vistas, wooded trails, lakes and streams, and golf-friendly critters.  Kyler Patterson is the new Head Pro/Pro Shop manager out there.  He met with CORE staff before the event and then proceeded to organize a first-class tournament.  Everybody at Thousand Hills was so helpful, and we are very thankful for their efforts! 

Golfers checking in at the clubhouse each received an awesome lunch bag, provided by none other than Panera Bread.  We especially appreciated these lunches, because Panera Bread makes some of the tastiest sandwiches in town.  You really can burn up energy hitting that little golf ball around, and Panera made sure that nobody went hungry!

Along with lunch, each player also received a goodie bag containing, among other things, magnificent CORE golf balls, free tickets to our dinner and auction taking place later in the day, and “bonus bucks” to apply toward any auction purchase.  We were altogether pleased to see so many of our golfers and their families at our dinner and auction! 

The event itself went smoothly.  While golfers checked in, our Second Mile volunteers drove their golf carts to strategic positions all over the course.  Four (4) holes carried special hole-in-one prizes – the coolest prizes being a Tracker bass boats from Bass Pro Shops (which kindly brought one over for the event!)  While we didn’t have a hole-in-one this year, one team came oh so very close.

Even better, we had tournament winners!  There were two flights, with each having three winning teams as determined by Golf Pro Patterson.  These teams received cash prizes from $400 all the way up to $1,000!  There were also golf product prizes for three contests: longest drive, closest to the tee, and longest putt.  Not to be left out, even the lowest-scoring team received Thousand Hills gift certificates so they can get more practice in before next year’s tournament!

CORE is so very thankful to our generous sponsors who made the CORE 2022 Golf Tournament the most successful ever.  They are:

CORE’s Live and Silent Auctions Are a Success!

CORE’s Live and Silent Auctions Are a Success!

On May 12th, CORE’s annual fundraiser returned!  By any measure, the evening was an unqualified success.

For three years, we went on hiatus because of the pandemic.  So, it was with a genuine spirit of gratitude that we were able to invite the friends of CORE to our Branson Campus for festive fun and fellowship and good food.  

Festivities began at 5:30 sharp with dinner served.  No sooner had guests started to arrive that a veritable symphony of voices filled our sanctuary – the wonderful sounds of so many old friends saying hello and getting reacquainted.  It was like old times once again.  The warmth and sincerity which our guests extended to our clients and staff warmed our hearts with genuine affection for all.

The auction ran late, but upon tallying the evening’s receipts, we happily learned that the event was the most successful in CORE’s history.  All proceeds go toward CORE’s mission of transforming lives, families and communities affected by substance abuse. For this, we have so many people we wish to thank and acknowledge.

A big thank you goes to our presenter Ozarks DynaCom and its family of radio stations.  Ozarks DynaCom and their team of marketing professionals got the word out, and the Tri-Lakes communities responded.  Local businesses and caring individual made thoughtful, and valuable, auction donations.  Our supporters showed up in force.  Ozarks DynaCom worked so effectively for our cause; they really made a difference!

Another shout out goes to Kay and Duane Gerken for being our auctioneers!  Their charisma and personalities created excitement and spurred bidding.  We were amazed at how effortlessly they commanded the room’s attention.  They are professionals of course but, wow, they really made our auction fun!  Thank you also to Brian Cronin, a longtime friend of CORE, who hopped up on stage to serve as the auction’s ringman!

We also thank Todd Aeschliman and his team at Image Works, Inc.  They kept CORE on track from start to finish with our published materials and media releases.  Their involvement in helping plan and execute this event not only goes back to many months ago, but Todd himself also visited CORE on the day of the event itself, just hours before show time, with newly updated, event banners.  So, thank you Todd, Kari, and Ian for everything!

A special thank you goes out to our Second Mile volunteers, who set up our sanctuary for the big gala, prepared and served the delicious meal, helped run the auction, and cleaned up afterwards so the space would be ready the next day for church services!  (Thank you Christos Papanikas for creatively planning the dinner menu and directing meal preparation – everything was delish.  Όλα ήταν τέλεια!)  For many of our staff, seeing the Second Milers having fun together and enthusiastically working together for CORE’s betterment was a special highlight of our evening.  They are CORE’s legacy, ambassadors of recovery, and examples of individuals who are striving after God’s own heart.  

All of CORE’s staff contributed to this event, but we would be remiss if we did not expressly mention our HR Manager Tami McKinney.  She took a personal interest in every detail of this event.  She tackled the tasks before her with great aplomb, working long hours to make sure every detail went smoothly and without a hitch.  Thank you Tami!

A big thank you, too, to Bracy Sams for acting as CORE’s lead contact in receiving business donations.  Every business from Springfield to Branson knows who he is now.  He’s so well-connected that somebody might mistake him for an Ozarks networking guru.  Thank you Bracy! 

CORE warmly acknowledges all of our sponsors and donors who made this event so special, for our guests, our clients, and for the organization:

Marty Neal: Blessed Beyond Measure

Marty Neal: Blessed Beyond Measure

Marty Neal is a busy man.  As CORE’s intake specialist at our Branson location, he’s always in his office – dutifully answering phone calls, meeting with clients, and updating important files on his computer screen.  After regular office hours, he teaches classes.  Finding a free hour to talk to Marty is harder than making Will Smith behave at the Oscars!  

Not that he minds.  In fact, Marty thrives on activity.  Recovery has given him a second wind in life, and he doesn’t want to miss out on a single moment.  While at CORE, Marty not only manages the men’s intake house, but he also teaches classes for 12 Step recovery, spirituality, and CSR presenter training.  He’s an EDGE advocate for our younger clients, too, and he’s doing all this in addition to spending eight hours a day at the office.  On top of this, Marty is recently married, and busy putting together a new household with his lovely wife Alyssa.  Whew – just thinking about it all leaves us breathless.

Marty is just hitting his stride, however, and an active schedule suits him just fine.  When finally we were able to corner him, all he wants to talk about are God’s miracles and blessings.  It’s a miracle that he’s even here at CORE, he says, and he’s genuinely grateful for his new life in recovery:

It blows my mind, every day.  Every day is a blessing.  It doesn’t make sense, and I’m still baffled by it, but I shouldn’t even be here.  So I don’t take this for granted.  If God never did another thing for me, this would be enough.  Recovery’s a miracle.  That’s what it is.  

To help the Reader understand where Marty’s coming from, please consider his background.  

Marty ran wild as a kid, first landing in state custody at the age of 13.  He spent the rest of his youth under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, and he missed out on a normal high school experience completely.  There were no “high school proms, class trips, sports, or school dances” for Marty. 

Not surprisingly, as an adult he also got into legal troubles, consisting almost entirely of possession charges.  He’s had so many that you can’t stir them with a stick, and he was never able to string many months of sobriety together.  He spent much of his adult life in custody.  How far gone was he in addiction?   “I once spent four days in ICU,” he says, “I overdosed on fentanyl – practically dead.  I flatlined twice in the ambulance and once at the hospital.”  

Marty was fortunate then, in 2020, when a court granted his conditional release to CORE.  It took a while for him to get here, and Marty gives his probation officer due credit for making this happen.  “My PO is why I’m not locked up again.  When I got out [of jail], she could have violated my parole any time she wanted to.  I asked her, why haven’t you locked me up?  And she said, because I see potential in you; I’m not willing to throw you away again.”  With her encouragement, Marty came to CORE.

With the pandemic raging outside, Marty made progress on his sobriety within our recovery community.  Here he found people who took a daily interest in his welfare, and there was real accountability too.  Whereupon, Marty threw himself into his Big Book studies and committed himself to actual recovery.  Big changes happened almost immediately.  “When I decided to get my heart and my head right, that’s when my circumstances changed,” he tells us.

Accordingly, Marty began accepting additional responsibilities within his recovery house and spoke with newcomers about the 12 Steps.  In time, he began teaching CSR classes for clients.  He was popular with them because he’s authentic; he’s really been there.  (He’s personable and likeable too!)  Whereupon, one day last autumn CORE’s principals inquired whether he might be interested in working for our organization.  Marty didn’t need to be asked twice – he jumped at the opportunity!

So, good things were happening for Marty, but there was still one more big challenge to address: another prior, outstanding possession charge to answer for.  By now, however, Marty was recovered in mind and body.  He was willing to accept life on life’s terms, and he’d lost his fear of today, tomorrow and the hereafter: 

The power of God is amazing.  After all that had happened, what mountain wasn’t He going to move for me?  As long as I kept my heart right and continued to do what He asked me to do, I wasn’t going to worry.  In fact, it would have been a sin for me to worry.  At that point my doubt would have been like calling Him a liar.  Because He’d been faithful, and always would be.

Just last February Marty went to court and was permitted to plead to a lesser charge.  Nobody insisted that he take a rap for possession that would have landed him in jail again.  Thus, as of today, there are no more legal entanglements hanging over his head.

On the personal side, Marty has other good news too.  When he first got to CORE, Marty began regular church attendance here in Branson.  There he met Alyssa who, as of a month ago, is now his wife!  She’s a bona fide believer, Marty tells us.  “I never understood that God might put someone in my life as an instrument of sanctification,” he says, “but that’s what she is.  She prunes me, really.  She’s an absolute blessing.”

Marty readily sees blessings everywhere he looks these days: 

God’s blessed me in every way – my relationships, finances, everything.  I have a career today and love coming to work.  I’m a husband, father, son, and friend, in all the roles I’ve never been.  There’s nothing about my life that’s recognizable from before.  People I know from behind bars and on the streets think I’ve lost my mind when I talk about Jesus or the Steps.  Maybe I have lost my mind.  But I’ve got a new one.  And a new life.

Presently, Marty and Alyssa are busy building their life together as husband and wife.  Domestic life brings new challenges, but Marty looks forward to them.  As to CORE, Marty says “This is where God wants me to be.  I’m thinking I’ll be part of this place for a long time.”

Brittany Breunig: Redeemed

Brittany Breunig: Redeemed

We’ve said this before but, in the case of Brittany Breunig, she really bears no resemblance to the person who first came to CORE.  Today Brittany not only is recovered but she’s also a vibrant, engaging young professional soon to begin training to become assistant regional manager for a major hotel chain.  That’s a far cry from the emotionally detached and hardened twenty-something who came to us two years ago pursuant to court mandate.  Her future looks very bright and, notably, Brittany credits her recovery to the same Phelps County judge who ordered her here in the first place.

Her story properly starts in 2017, when Brittany Breunig had but one friend in the whole world.  The 24 year-old came from a family of strong and resilient but unemotional stoics.  Though they cared for her, she never knew it, and the one person whose love and good intentions she never doubted lie brain dead in a Rolla hospital.  She stood by his bedside while his life support was terminated.  “It was me, him and a nurse, and I stood there while they did it,” she recalls, “I said goodbye.”

Her bestie had overdosed on fentanyl.  If you read the news, that’s the same stuff that just hospitalized five West Point cadets over spring break.  Brittany was a user too, having started when she was fifteen years old.  She was prescribed Percocet, got hooked, and never stopped.  It had been all fun and games but, when her friend died, Brittany’s drug use took a decidedly dark turn.  

She recalls, “When that happened, I broke.  I no longer cared about having fun.  I only cared about doing shots till I didn’t wake up.  That’s when I drowned in my addiction.  It became misery and pain.”  While the psychology of addiction is complex, we assure the Reader that Brittany’s reaction is all too common.

Naturally, she got into trouble, beginning with her own overdose experiences.  There were multiple episodes.  The first reminds us of a scene from Pulp Fiction:

It was at this gas station in Saint Robert [near Ft. Leonard Wood].  I guess this army guy saw me, pulled me out of the car, and hit me in the chest on the ground.  As they’re calling the ambulance and all around me, I wake up and I’m like what the @#$% is going on?  I can’t breathe.  They’re like, you should be thanking him, but I’m saying don’t touch me, everybody get their hands off me.  I was upset.  

Today Brittany is grateful that he saved her life, but she still remembers that she “had this giant welt on my chest for three weeks that looked awful, like I had a tumor coming out of my shirt.”

Brittany vividly described for us how powerless she was against her addiction.  Several times she left the hospital AMA to find the next fix, sometimes walking for miles while sick to her stomach.  She sums up her addictive life in two words: insane and stupid.

On the criminal side, Brittany was racking up charges faster than a dollar-store cashier.  By 2019 she had multiple charges pending in Phelps County and adjacent counties.  She was being held without bond in the county jail, and she knew her situation was bleak.  “I realized I didn’t have anybody who cared,” she says, “because I had become a terrible person. I was going to spend the rest of my life in prison.”  

Everybody was through with her antics – Probation & Parole, the county prosecutors, and judges included.  In fact, all seemingly wanted her gone — except one person.  There was one person left who saw a glimmer of hope for her, and that was Judge William L. Hickle.  But there would be no more second chances, he warned, and he was sending her to a place in Branson to get help.  That place was CORE.

At CORE Brittany found herself in a new and different but wonderful setting.  Having spent two years with us, she describes CORE as being filled with “God magic” and explains “I’ve never experienced anything like this place, it’s amazing.  How all this stuff works together, it’s like magic in this place.”  

She has found real friendship and support here.  When she first got to CORE, Brittany was a self-described “tough guy” who was so disassociated from her emotions that she “suffered from a hardened heart and inability to be vulnerable with anyone”.  Here she found a sorority of like-minded women who live, study, and socialize together, and she began to open up.  She vividly remembers her “first big sincere laugh” where she felt pure joy in recovery.  She and her CORE sisters were together, safe and having fun, “just acting completely immature and goofy — ‘happy, joyous and free.’”

Most importantly, Brittany has developed a relationship with God, and it is this that powers her recovery.  She is still on a journey to better understand God, she tells us.  Sometimes she gets goosebumps while praying.  Brittany also attributes all of her personal growth to God:

To have this deep, intimate relationship with God now, I realize how empty I was before.  I thought I was tough but all my strengths — being heartless, tough — were actually weaknesses.  Being vulnerable and compassionate and empathetic are God-given gifts, the way God has changed my heart. 

Brittany credits God with having given her the willingness and ability to reach people in need. She has shared her experience, strength and hope with others and referred them to our program.

Once Brittany went “all in” with the 12 Steps, good things started to happen.  The memories of traumatic events in her past life receded and were replaced by an attitude of acceptance and sense of peace.  She blossomed socially, and devoted herself to service and helping newcomers.  Then she decided to stay an additional year with CORE.  She currently serves both as a house manager and as a member of CORE’s Second Mile benevolent group.  

Alas, Brittany will be leaving us soon.  Professionally, she’s been climbing the corporate ladder and has management responsibilities for two Branson hotels.  She’s also soon to start training for an assistant district manager position within her company.  Ultimately, this will take her away from CORE.  Since we are a recovery program, the day must come where a client leaves to begin life as a productive member of society, although we will be sad to see her go.  Moreover, we are so pleased and proud for her accomplishments.  We foresee good things in her future!

Reflecting on her last two years, Brittany says “I’m a fan of CORE; I’m a completely different person now from when I first got here.”  More than anyone, however, she thinks back to the perceptive judge who initially sent her to us.  Because of the pandemic, she hasn’t had the chance to thank him in person.  Nevertheless, she says, “I would love to have a conversation with him.  Something he may not receive a lot of but I would like to give is gratitude.  He changed everything for me, and I’d just like to express my thanks.”

Chris Combs: About Time

Chris Combs: About Time

Time.  The ticking of a second hand, passing of minutes and days, and relentless progression of months, years, and decades.  Chris Combs thinks a lot about time these days.  

We sat down last week and talked with Chris, a Taney County native and father of two who recently commenced CORE’s one-year recovery program.  In his view, time is a finite, nonrenewable resource.  It’s an irreversible arrow that mustn’t be taken for granted.  For this reason, Chris has made his new mission in life sharing the message of recovery with newcomers:

There’s still more that I need to do here at CORE.  I see all these youngsters coming in and out of here, and they all have so much potential.  Maybe I can be a father figure to some of them, I don’t know, but I don’t want to see them still trying to figure it out at my age.  All the wasted time they’ll never get back, being away from family, kids – you can’t get time back.  I want to help them all.” 

His own odyssey with drugs began more than thirty years ago.  “I was probably 16 the first time I smoked pot.  My senior year I started dabbling in methamphetamine.  One thing led to another.”  In the beginning meth seemed to imbue him with endless energy.  He says, “I got things done.  I could work all night and not need sleep.  It was go go go.”  This energized state, albeit real, was short-lived.  He soon fell headlong into the nightmarish existence of addiction.  

It was killing me mentally and physically,” he relates, “being paranoid and always emotionally stressed out.  I was a real basket case.”  Notwithstanding, social isolation is what best exemplifies Chris’ life on meth.  He avoided family and friends, and people generally, while “always looking over my shoulder, or wondering who was going to tell on me, or when they were going to come through my door.  Everywhere I went, whether by myself or with someone, it was the same.”  His aversion to people profoundly affected his life – his relationships, freedom, productivity, and self-respect. 

Chris found himself trapped in recurrent solitude.  While on methamphetamines, he was paranoid and fearful of people.  Yet, he was sober and receptive to others only while institutionalized or incarcerated.  Either way, he lived isolated and alone. 

A week before coming to CORE, however, Chris had a life-changing epiphany: he was out of time.  All those years were simply gone, with only the broken hearts of loved ones and his personal regrets to show for it.  He’d been running his entire adult life, from family, friends, the law, and even complete strangers.  Something had to give:  

Staying under the radar, paranoid, the only thing I ever accomplished was hurting my family by not being there for them.  I hated myself.  So, I’d gotten pulled over by the police and caught with an ounce of meth.  At first I took off running, and I’d gotten away from them, too.  Then I just stopped.  It hit me.  I couldn’t run anymore.  That’s all I was doing.  I was tired of that and wasn’t going to do it anymore.  So I walked back and found them and put my hands in the air.

While sitting in jail Chris heard about CORE, “They told me that if I wanted to change my life for the better, to get ahold of Bracy Sams at CORE, that he’s the one who’d get me into the program.”  

Once at CORE, Chris’ initial progress happened in fits and starts because he hadn’t fully conceded to his innermost self that he’s powerless over drugs.  He comes from a traditional family where one just makes up his mind and then does it.  In other words, he was running on his own power, which in recovery never works.  So Chris “would bounce out [of CORE] and go back to the same thing.  I thought I’d be okay, but I’d be back at it the same day I left.”  

Today Chris has found real recovery, for which he relies on not himself but God:

God – I couldn’t do anything without Him.  He walks with me every day.  When I wake up in the morning, I pray before I leave the house.  When I get home I pray before I lay my head down.  Even working . . . praying there too.  If it wasn’t for God, I don’t know where I’d be right now.”

He acknowledges CORE’s help in his recovery too, saying the best thing about it is the people.  “CORE’s done a lot for me,” he says, “by making me realize that I’m important to others and there’s no limits to what I can do once I get my head right.”  Of the program he says: 

If it wasn’t for the 12 Steps I wouldn’t have made it.  People have different ways to look at it, but the way I do it is right straight out of the book.  Me working my steps, doing 10, 11, and 12 every day . . . .  You have to work them or it gets tricky.  You can’t just white knuckle it.  Fake-it-till-you-make-it does not work.  You waste CORE’s time and everybody else’s if you’re not willing to do the steps.” 

As of today Chris is accomplishing what he wants and needs to do.  Rather than turning back the clock, he’s making new memories, memories of lasting significance.  His children are back in his life, as an example.  They now enjoy regular outings together and keep in phone contact.  His mother is happier for him now than she’s ever been, too, telling him “you got it this time, and I don’t have to worry about you anymore.”  

Additionally, Chris’ court cases have been resolved and, for the first time in twenty years, he has a driver’s license.  On top of all this, Chris is putting his natural talents in landscaping to good use at a prestigious golf course.  He’s not only working toward financial security, but he’s also meeting financial obligations toward his children, too.

We are so happy for Chris and wish him well during his time with us – which we hope and pray will be long and abundant.  Happily, his immediate plans for the future are “to stay awhile at CORE and give back.  Just help these people achieve some of the blessings I have today.”  Step Twelve is carrying the message and putting program principles into practice in all of our affairs.  We can’t think of a better place for Chris to do this than CORE!

Prayer And Recovery

Prayer And Recovery

You can tell a lot about somebody by their prayers.

Prayer seems as natural as breathing for many people.  Almost everybody prays.  More than half of America prays daily.  The number goes up dramatically if we include weekly prayer.  There are even persons without a religion who pray, if the surveys and polls are to be believed.  Lifting our hearts and minds to God appears almost instinctual.  We talk to Him about our needs, complaints, and difficulties.  We solicit guidance, offer thanks, and ask pardon for wrongs, too.

While prayer is common, there is a lot of diversity in the content of our prayers.  Beyond our immediate needs, our prayers may be very different depending on who we are and our concept of God.  For example, should we pray for stuff like, say, ice cream?  What about wealth and worldly success?  Or someone who has died?  Or the complete destruction of our enemies?  People of various denominations and beliefs respond to such questions differently, either answering “yes” or “no,” or “it depends.”  The upshot, however, is that people pray according to their character and understanding of God.

This is more than an academic matter.  Prayers like the ones just mentioned are commonplace on social media.  Nevertheless, our intent here is not to unravel their merits.  We merely point out that they reveal something beyond the actual request being made.  They divulge insight about the temperament and theology of the person or persons who make such requests of God.  

Which brings us to CORE.  We teach the recovery program outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Prayer is integral to the 12 Step program, even though AA is not a religious denomination and doesn’t promote any particular church.  The Big Book broadly suggests that we pray for God’s “protection and care with complete abandon.”  Step Eleven specifically directs us to seek “through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we [understand] Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”  The Big Book is replete with instructions about prayer, all of which are part and parcel of its clear-cut, precise directions for recovery.

With the foregoing in mind, we offer below an outline of what prayer necessarily includes for us at CORE who are recovered.  We’re talking everybody – starting from our CEO and down to our clients, staff, and residence managers.  This comes from the Big Book recovery program we were taught as clients and since have learned to apply in our daily lives.  Our hope is that the Reader will find such disclosure revealing, that it will shed light on who we are and our understanding of God.

For us who have recovered, prayer begins each morning when we wake up and meditate on the day ahead.  (Yes, meditation also is “a thing” at CORE.)  “Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.”  In keeping with our mission to carry the message of recovery to others, we specifically ask God what we can do for people who are still sick, and ask that He show us “the way of patience, tolerance, kindliness and love.”  If we face indecision during meditation, “we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or decision.”  

We conclude the period of meditation “with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of […] problems.  We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only.”  In fact, we “are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends” and may ask for ourselves only if others will be helped.  

Although morning meditations are considered a time of orientation and planning, we may freely supplement them with a devotion from a religious denomination, and with prayers obtained from other religious sources.  

During our daily lives we are bound to carry the vision of God’s will into all our activities.  Thus, it is common practice among us to remind ourselves that God is running the show that is our lives.  We humbly pray “How can I best serve Thee – Thy will (not mine) be done.”  In all of our dealings, love and tolerance of others is our code.  “We continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.  When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them.”   Our further practice is to “pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action.”

In the evenings we do another meditation.  We ask ourselves, “Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid?  Do we owe an apology?  Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once?  Were we kind and loving toward all?  What could we have done better?  Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time?  Or were we thinking of what we could pack into the stream of life?”  During this meditation we are careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, as this is thought to diminish our usefulness to others.  “After making our review we ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.”  

The foregoing summarizes the overall structure of our daily prayer practice and its themes.  This is how we pray, both in substance and in confident anticipation of God’s response.  Our customs may strike the Reader as unfamiliar, but over time they have become a familiar, natural part of our thinking and daily routine.  

Keep in mind that this isn’t the limit of Big Book guidance about prayer.  Still other guidance relates to particular Steps which may or may not be prayed daily.  As an example, there is the Third Step prayer, where we expressly turn our will and life over to the care of God.  We specifically ask that God relieve us from the “bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.  Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.”  Still another is the Fourth Step, where there are several suggested prayers, but one of which is what we pray concerning those about whom we hold resentments.  We ask God “to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend.”  And, in the Sixth and Seventh Steps we ask for willingness to let go and that God “remove from me every single [character] defect which stands in the way of my usefulness to You and my fellows.”  

Additional direction about prayer within the Big Book addresses still other specific, life problems that, again, may or may not be encountered daily.  As a whole the Big Book guides our recovery culture and, ultimately, our corporate culture.  The above encompasses the prayer strategy we pursue daily.  Our hope is that this peek into our common practice enlightens the Reader about who we are at CORE.

* * *

Above all, CORE is a Christian organization that isn’t shy about prayer.  We teach that the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible.  At CORE’s recovery centers, our staff members lead prayer during individual meetings, staff meetings, classes, and groups.  The clients living in our residential facilities pray before and after house meetings.  At our weekly worship services, we give praise and pray before and after the message, and at the beginning and end of the service.  We also maintain a prayer list for individuals in need, and we hold weekly Monday Morning Prayer for clients at all our recovery centers.  Prayer is an important part of every special event, too.  In all of our activities, we try to take to heart Paul’s words, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

Jen Brinkmann, A New Life

Jen Brinkmann, A New Life

Meet Jen Brinkmann – Women’s Intake Coordinator for our Branson Center!  On the day we caught up with Jen, classes are scheduled and the Center’s corridors are bustling with human activity.  Women pop in and out of her office asking questions while her phone is ringing.  Despite her title, her work obviously goes beyond simply welcoming new clients.  

Once class begins, however, things noticeably quiet down, and we talk with Jen about her addiction, recovery, and life at CORE.  Things get serious, too, really quickly!  While Jen describes herself as a plain-spoken woman of few words, her simple words paint a vivid picture of the scene more than two years ago where she hit rock bottom.  

Imagine a nondescript place somewhere in rural Missouri, a patch of dirt and grass that’s completely empty except for a lone woman kneeling in the soil.  She has blonde hair, and she is sniffling, then whimpering, choking back the tears, and crying so hard that she cannot fully wipe away the tears streaming from her cheeks.  Her life has been one of great heartache and personal loss.  She’d come to expect as much, but this moment was different.  She wasn’t asking for much – only to be clean and sober for the arrival of her first grandchild.  She already was resigned to life’s disappointments, but this simple thing . . . she couldn’t even get this right.

Jen is describing for us the beginning of a spiritual experience.  Unlike pretenders at AA meetings who only love talking about bright lights and ecstatic episodes, Jen candidly recounts for us an event that she says is both too painful to remember but should never, ever be forgotten. The last trace of obstinacy finally had been crushed out of her.  Jen still keeps a written record of it somewhere in her 4th Step paperwork, which she thoughtfully has saved, and it’s worth reviewing how she got to that moment.

Although her parents’ divorce during her teens left her feeling abandoned, by the age of 20 Jen was in a secure relationship with a man she loved, and they had her first child, Ryan.  She appeared to have a promising future when tragedy hit.  “Ryan was three years old,” she says, “when we lost his dad to a car accident.  I found out I was pregnant with our second a few weeks after the funeral.  So it was just us three.”  Jen set out raising the children by herself, working a full-time job, and taking classes to become an EMT.  The tragic twist of fate that stole away her partner and best friend placed great stress on her, however.  She was parenting all alone, and she did not handle it well.

She only worked as an EMT for a year before quitting.  “It was because of the car accident.  I got anxiety really bad because I thought I might find somebody that I knew.”  As the grind, stress, and loneliness took their toll, Jen began to self-medicate with opioid pills.  “I got pretty bad on those, having to have about ten a day or I was sick,” she remembers.  From pills she went to methamphetamines.  She tried to hold it together but couldn’t.  

I start neglecting my kids.  My two jobs turned into one job, then none, and we lost our place.”  Then came an encounter with law enforcement and an arrest, after which her father arrived to take her children.  After that, “I just went hard,” she says.  She lived couch to couch and trap house to trap house, but mostly out of her car with a boyfriend who was physically abusive.  The meth took its toll on her physically, too, “I didn’t look anorexic, just dead, like a walking zombie.  It’s not a great way to live.”  This went on for years, until something happened that was personally important to her, something that made her want to quit drugs for good.   

When her son turned twenty, he brought glad tidings: a grandbaby on the way!  More than anything in the world, Jen wanted to be a good grandmother to the child.  She promised that she would get it together, and she meant it.  “When she was born, I was five days clean.  I told Ryan, I’ll be a better grandma for Lucy,” Jen remembers.  Yet, despite her promise, “that only lasted for about eight months until the obsession took over and I ended up getting high again.”  

She was left bewildered, confused, and hurt by her inability to quit – all of which brings us full circle back to the day when Jen Brinkmann melted down completely:

I really didn’t care whether I lived or died.  I remember crying out to God, hitting my knees on the ground, because I had come apart – a sense of hopelessness, despair, and not caring anymore because I was so beat down.” 

We often see the best of humanity shine forth in such moments, but no one would come to her aid on that day.  Even if somebody had come, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, and she knew it.  She didn’t really expect God to hear her, either.  As it turns out, however, her redemption already was in the works.  

How did I end up at CORE?” she asks rhetorically, “That girl,” as she slides a piece of paper across her desk before us.  At once we recognize it as CORE literature.  We also know whose picture appears on it, our own Nicole Nelson.  We reported Nicole’s story months ago.  She’s the twenty-something member of CORE who flits about saving people where she finds them.  This revelation catches us unawares but, as it turns out, the two used to run together.  At that time Nicole was already at CORE and doing well, and the two were in contact with each other.  Jen remembers that “she kept telling me, you should just come; just do it.”  Happily, Jen did decide to come to Branson, a decision that well may have saved her life.

At CORE, Jen wasted no time in working her steps.  Within two months she had experienced the miraculous change that only the Steps can bring.  Jen gives all the glory to God:

At CORE I learned about the 12 Steps.  God and the 12 Steps are why I’m recovered.  That’s what was missing before, when I tried to do it on my own and it didn’t work.  I was powerless.  I didn’t have a relationship with God before.  Now, I’m strongly connected.  I can really see how He works in my life and in the lives of others.”

Once Jen recovered, all sorts of good things began happening, too!  Most importantly, she has become the daughter, mother, and grandmother, whom she always wanted to be, and the person whom her family always wanted and deserved.  They are thrilled that she is doing so well.  Jen also moved her way up in responsibility at CORE.  From chore coordinator, she became an assistant house manager, and then house manager.  At her employment she likewise worked hard to become a supervisor, and then received an unexpected phone call.  CORE’s Program Manager Kevin Hunt called her about taking a job as our women’s intake coordinator.  “That blew my mind,” she says, “Who?  Me?” 

Jen gladly accepted and hasn’t looked back.  Although she does all of our women’s intakes, all of the girls look to her for guidance, so her job also involves a lot of problem solving, too.  “Like anytime a house manager has a matter with a girl not working her steps, or a discipline issue,” she says, “they come to me and ask, what should I do?  So I have to lean into God for answers and give wise counsel.”  Above all, Jen’s cardinal rule is to do no harm, “to be able to help, not hurt, and for them to feel loved.”  She seems to be doing just that, because everybody we’ve asked agrees that Jen has a good and sincere heart.   

Reflecting on her time here at CORE, Jen says “My journey to CORE led me back to God” and “it had a lot to do with my recovery.  I wouldn’t be here without it.  I wouldn’t have my relationships with my family.  I’d still be out there lost.”

We are so pleased and happy for Jen and her family!  We foresee a long, successful association between her and CORE in the future.  As addicts and alcoholics we can be so obstinate and stubborn.  As Jen’s experience shows, once we turn our will and life over to the care of God, real miracles happen!

The Best Thing About CORE

The Best Thing About CORE

We asked CORE House Managers, “What’s the best thing about CORE?” 

Why seek their views?  Simple: they have ample experience in our program, having volunteered to stay well beyond their initial year at CORE to give back and help others! 

Please keep in mind that they were free to answer in any way they wanted.  It could be stuff like our classes, making new friends, our residential amenities – virtually anything! Their captivating insights are set forth below:  

At CORE I arrived to a point where I could turn my will and life over to the care of God, instead of running the show myself.  There’s also accountability here and other options that will help with recovery.” 
– Neil “Duck Daddy” Finley (Duck House)

God uses CORE to bring people together in one house, one class, and one building, who normally wouldn’t mix.  We all mesh because we have a common understanding.  We want a different life.  We want to live.” 
– Mykaella Ross (JJ House)

 “There’s structure here upon which to create a solid foundation from scratch.  It’s a start and a base, and a place to gain some kind of grounding.  It’s a center for faith, too, something to hold on to while you’re growing into recovery and giving it a shot.  I’ve seen many miracles here.”
– Joe Redl (Cardinal House)

My journey to CORE was the path back to God.  That’s the best and most important thing, finding my way back to God.”
– Jen Brinkmann (Quail House) 

If you follow the clear-cut, precise directions of the Big Book, at CORE you build a relationship with God that allows you to recover.  It’s here where we learn how to step out of self and give back even though we spent all our lives just taking.  We learn what it’s like having that blessing at the end of the day, knowing we helped somebody without wanting anything in return.” 
– James Favor (Seahawk House) 

There are so many things, but one is the change of lifestyle.  CORE provides a safe, drug-free, and drama-free environment in which to make the changes we wanted by moving here.  It’s the right setting to build a new life in.” 
– Mikayla Brillos (Outdoor House)

Learning patience.  Initially I was going to leave after my year was up, but I received counsel from Kevin Hunt and began learning patience, about receiving the things hoped for when we wait.  By being grounded, working on myself, and practicing patience, things started happening.  I didn’t jump the gun just because I was feeling better, and good things came to me.  Patience probably kept me from getting ‘hit in the face’ because I wasn’t really prepared, too.” 
– Scott Bourbon (Bird House)

CORE is where I was introduced to God as my Higher Power.  It is a completely judgment-free zone where I could turn my life around with the 12 Steps.” 
– Alicia Short (Vaughn House)

Finding purpose in life, and truly knowing what it feels like to have peace and contentment.  Even before I started using drugs, I was never truly happy.  I was always trying to find the next thing to make me happy.  I didn’t understand what it meant to have a relationship with God.  I know what that is now.  I know what it means to have peace and what it means to know God.”
– Blake Wilson (Pelican House)

I was so emotionally detached when I first got here.  CORE gave me a human connection where I could allow myself to love others and let them love me.  That’s how I learned to love myself, which I had to do before I could go on to learn anything else.  It was the first thing that started the ‘psychic change’ and led to all my spiritual growth.”  – Brittany Breunig (6th Street House)

It’s the mutual trust and friendship here, the camaraderie.  Everyone here shares the same problem.  We’re going through the same thing and trying to do the same thing, which is recover.  So our community is the best thing, in my opinion – the ‘C’ in CORE.” 
– Dylan Butler (Falcon House)

The fellowship has become ‘family.’  If I really needed something, there might be 200 people here who would come to my assistance at the drop of a hat, without even thinking about it or asking what they’ll get in return.  That’s family.” 
– Kim Stewart (Swan House)

Everyone who’s a house manager or works here has already been through the program.  When I first got here, I knew that they had all been where I was.  By following their example and suggestions I was able to build a relationship with God and Jesus Christ.” 
– Mitchell Brooks (Sparrow House) 

Finding a relationship with God.  CORE is where I found it, through the 12 Steps.”
– Bracy Sams (Hawkeye House)

I love the fellowship here, welcoming the newcomer, socializing with the women, and helping them.  Spirituality plays a big role in our program here, too.  It’s really the foundation of our recovery program, and leading by example helps build that.”
– Tamara Spencer (Quail House) 

It’s a safe place to come find recovery, but even more, CORE gives you the opportunity to pass on what is given to you.  At so many places you come, you get, and you go.  Not here.  You’re not a product of CORE; you become part of CORE.  Now you are in a position to help others, to teach, and to carry a message of hope.” 
– Marty Neal (Raven House) 

CORE redirected my life.  If you knew me before CORE, I’d been a drug addict forever, was fresh out of jail, and just lost.  No communication with my family; things were just a mess.  From the second I entered CORE, I knew that it’s what I wanted.  I completely turned my life around.  So of course my family is now a big supporter.  They’re ‘Team CORE’ too.” 
– Sherrie Bowman (Dove House) 

The camaraderie that comes with it.  Everybody in leadership has come through this program already.  They struggled with addiction too.  This is not someplace with counselors who never lived it.  You come into CORE surrounded by staff who were once there too, and they have recovered.” 
– Jeremy Hampton (Condor House)

CORE is like a toolbox when you’re going to work.  They give you so many tools that when you leave the program, you can still use them every day to stay clean and healthy.  It’s a simple program, and if you just do it the way they suggest, it becomes so much easier.” 
– Kelly Creson (Eagle House)

CORE/Hollister School District’s Holiday Store Spreads Christmas Cheer!

CORE/Hollister School District’s Holiday Store Spreads Christmas Cheer!

Hundreds of Taney County children almost didn’t have Christmas this past year.  Thanks to the generosity of donors and clients, and some quick thinking by leadership, the unthinkable was averted, and Christmas was saved!

CORE’s clients have numerous community projects they work on throughout the year.  One of the new favorites is the CORE/Hollister School District Holiday Store, where underprivileged families can obtain household goods and toys completely free of charge.  The original Holiday Store was first conceived during the 2020 pandemic and turned out to be a stunning success.  Seeking to repeat the original achievement, throughout the year our clients diligently collected, sorted, conducted quality assurance on, and stored thousands of items generously donated by Tri-Lakes retailers.  This year, however, there was an unexpected glitch that put Christmas cheer at risk.

As Christmas approached, our CEO Cary McKee met with Hollister School District staff at our warehouse location housing all of the Christmas items.  As they surveyed the year’s collection, Cary noticed something that troubled him.  Where were all the toys?

At that time I noticed that we were limited on toys,” Cary told us, “we had quite a bit of items for adults, but how do we supplement the toys that are needed?  Because that’s what this is about, putting smiles on children’s faces and giving hope to those in need.”  The thought of children not having presents to open on Christmas morning was unbearable to Cary.  He knew that something had to be done, and fast.

Time was running short, too, because the Holiday Store was barely over a month away.  So, Cary did three things.  First, he appealed directly to CORE staff and clients who wished to buy and donate toys for the event.  Second, he created a Giving Tuesday campaign to appeal to donors wanting to give the children a happy holiday.  Third, CORE committed itself to donating funds as well.  And the result?  Based on what we learned from Cary, we’d say Super Awesome!

First, as Cary said, “Although this was a last minute toy drive, when we asked who would be willing to contribute a 10 or 20 dollar gift for the cause, there was an outpouring of support.  There were so many gifts being brought in – games, toys, bicycles – you name it.  They really did a great job buying middle school age-appropriate gifts, especially, the things that we may not have thought of as a staff.

Second, “Giving Tuesday not only met its goal but also exceeded it.  CORE did spend money out of its general funds to acquire items for the children, but the generosity of Giving Tuesday donors helped to greatly enlarge expenditures for the children.”

Third, the monies available to obtain toys were so great that our purchases began making a noticeable dent in the stocks of certain Tri-Lakes retailers.  For this reason, CORE’s procurement staff thoughtfully began staggering purchases between stores so that nobody would run out of a particular item.  The results were startling, and touching.  Within a week, the conference room at CORE’s Branson Recovery Center was jam packed with toys!  

Now it was time to set up the Holiday Store.  Last year’s store had taken nearly a month.  This year’s store took barely a week to set up because our client volunteers already had done much of the preparatory work throughout the year.  So, when the time came to move items over to the school district, our trucks were able to move items already organized and checked for quality.   In addition, the latest store benefitted from the people at CORE and the school district already knowing each other.  As Hollister Middle School counselor Sandy Brown told us, “Whatever we needed, we all worked together.  We dropped what we were doing and helped each other.  I think that’s pretty cool.  I just think CORE’s awesome.”

We very much want to thank Superintendent Dr. Brian Wilson and all of the school district’s counselors who made the Holiday Store possible.  Not only did they create space in which to set up an entire store, but they also undertook the absolutely monumental task of discovering families in need and identifying individual needs within each family.  They were present from start to finish and made sure that everyone was blessed.  We specifically want to mention here each member of the counseling staff: Sandy Brown, Middle School; Tonya Nash and Jessica Frost, High School; Ben Gibson, Elementary School; and Shannon Donathan, Early Childhood Center.  They all worked so hard!

The event ran during the week of December 13th and was a resounding success. There were lots of smiles and tears from thankful parents.  There were some unexpected and pleasant surprises, too.  Sandy told us that several families who shopped in the Holiday Store from the previous year returned this year saying, “you helped us before, and now we want to pay it forward.  So they adopted kids this year.”

Cary expressed his thanks to Dr. Wilson, school district staff, and CORE’s clients and staff, all of whom made the Holiday Store another incredible event and blessing for the community.  Moreover, to make sure that the children next year won’t do without, Cary’s already entered into a donorship agreement involving a major internet retailer.  He told us with a twinkle in his eye, “Next year we’ll be able to work on receiving goods from that partnership too.”