Hartford couple building home for men recovering from addiction
Tony and Lynn Wood have a big dinner table. They need one to accommodate their large family and a revolving door of people they help on the path to recovery.
Through their ministry, the Woods are giving recovering addicts a home and a fighting chance to restore their lives.
“I once was a drug addict and a guy that didn’t have his life together,” says Tony, founder and director of True Freedom Ministries. “Jesus got ahold of me, and when he did, I became concerned about everybody else and helping them. I had a vision for Freedom House that I knew was from God.”
The endeavor started on a small scale with an opportunity to help one person who was recovering from addiction and needed a job. The Woods say the man’s life was transformed through gainful employment at Tony’s home-building company, along with discipleship and practical life guidance.
Helping that person find stability and restore meaning to his life over 12 years ago inspired the Woods to help as many people as they could with the same idea: helping people escape the cycle of addiction by teaching them to live by faith and restoring broken relationships with family.
“Most commonly, when people have a history of drug abuse and alcohol abuse and things like that, they have broken relationships with their families, and it’s really hard to gain employment afterwards,” says Lynn, affectionately called “Mama Lynn” by the people in their program. “A lot of them get out of jail and they just repeat the same cycle because they’re helpless and they have no resources to pull from, because oftentimes, their family has lost faith in them.”
For over a decade, the Woods have been informally assisting people by feeding them, allowing people to set up campers or tents on their Hartford property, and sharing the gospel with them, in addition to giving them jobs.
“We can just give them a safe place where they have a chance,” Lynn says. “If they’re really serious about this, we’re going to help them have the means to follow through.”
However, the Woods outgrew the current model of their informal program and had to start turning people away, thus inspiring the idea to build Freedom House.
Freedom House, a 24-bed men’s recovery facility, is the heart of a plan for a ministry that seeks to provide men with a history of alcohol and substance abuse with a program to restore their lives. The program includes a whole life assessment to help participants stay sober, reestablish relationships with their families, create a plan for their financial responsibilities such as paying child support and fines and other legal responsibilities.
During their time at Freedom House, the participants will also have the opportunity to volunteer and give back to their community.
'Overwhelming' Community Support
“The main goal is for them to have a relationship with Jesus, because we know that if we can get that right then everything else will work itself out,” Tony says. “You can’t do what we’ve done in as short an amount of time as we have accomplished it without this being the plan of the Lord, because there has been an overwhelming amount of donations from the community.”
The Woods’ dedication to the cause earned them a $12,500 grant award from Wiregrass Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round Up Foundation to help get the Freedom House nonprofit up and running. About 85% of WEC’s members volunteer to round their monthly bills to the next-highest dollar to contribute to Operation Round Up. The foundation collects more than $120,000 annually, which is then disbursed to worthy causes through grants, big and small.
“That’s what this program is all about,” says Brad Kimbro, WEC’s chief operations officer. “It’s going to stay here in this area to do things to certainly improve quality of life and give these guys the opportunity to better the outcomes for their lives.
“Members can feel a great deal of pride that the amount they’re contributing may just individually be a small amount of change, but collectively amounts to a larger sum of money that we can then put back into the community to help people here. Our members’ contribution is the reason it can continue to do great work.”
The Woods were also nominated and selected as Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass, a partnership with WTVY that provides money and recognition to unsung local organizations and individuals who help members of the community. As part of the program, the pair received a $1,000 grant to continue their mission.
“That’s just a great thing to recognize how blessed you are to be rescued from that less-than-desirable lifestyle and think, ‘I could use what happened to me and maybe use that to help someone else,’” Kimbro says. “Our foundation was extremely pleased to provide a grant to help them continue to serve others. Who knows what this ministry will be able to do and to help people overcome?”
Construction on Freedom House was nearly completed during a May visit to the property in Hartford. Once finished, True Freedom Ministries will have the only rehabilitation program in Geneva County for those recovering from addiction.
“We can’t help everybody,” Tony says, “but I am going to do everything that the Lord will allow me to do and do my part.”
Visit the Freedom House website for more information about the program.