The Gooden Family
What started out as a few leaky pipes resulted in Derwin and his wife, Frances, losing their house and most everything they owned.
“After paying for repairs and water bills costing over $800 a month, she lost her job and then I lost mine,” Derwin explains. “We quickly went through our savings and before we knew it, two cars disappeared from the driveway.”
“Repo.” Frances whispers.
After living in hotel rooms with their three kids, ages 5, 8, and 16, the couple turned to Dallas LIFE. “I heard about it from a woman at church.” Frances recalls. “She said it was a good place for children and families.” “We really believe that when we came here, it was God controlling our steps,” Derwin adds.
Since arriving at Dallas LIFE six months ago, both Derwin and Frances have earned jobs at the shelter – he as the assistant manager of the convenience store, and she as the second floor supervisor.
Their children have also adjusted incredibly well here. “They fell right into it!” Derwin laughs. “There was one thing that really helped the transition and that was putting a name to our family. We took our last name, and put “TEAM” in front of it. No matter what we do or where we go, we do it together, as a team. And they love that closeness.”
With the help and support of Dallas LIFE, all three of their children are involved in after school activities and their oldest son is about to begin his first job. He’s caught on super quickly in his training. “They told him that training for the job usually takes about 13 weeks. For him, they said it would only take three weeks.” Derwin beams.
Both Derwin and Frances are in the Homeless No More Recovery Program. When asked to name their favorite program class, neither of them could name one. Instead, they named five. “They’re not preaching at you. They’re giving you life lessons, things that are going to help you on your walk with God.” Derwin explains. “AND I’ve gotten my CDL, so my job options are going to be great as well.”
Frances nods before adding, “I know that there’s a purpose to the program. It helped me to see a lot of things that I didn’t see before, and helped me grow in ways that I didn’t think I needed to.”
One thing that both Derwin and Frances made perfectly clear is that they will not keep their new found success—and faith—to themselves.
“When we were established in a home we used to say we need to go give back and volunteer. We need to take our kids and show them how the less fortunate live. We never did. Now both agree that we will give back to Dallas LIFE,” Derwin states. “God uses us as seeds. He blesses us with certain things, but those things are meant to bless someone else with, not for us to hold onto. Our cup is already overflowing.”
Derwin then raises a hand. “I gotta say one more thing. There should be a Dallas LIFE everywhere.” How great that would be!
Reginald closes his eyes and recalls his favorite memory: playing a nine-foot grand piano at Radio City Music Hall in 1985. He hums a tune to himself, moving his fingers over the cool desk top and letting them traipse over the imaginary keys. He smiles, pauses, and then opens his eyes to resume the interview.
At the time Reginald played at Radio City Music Hall, he was attending West Point and serving as a musician to the choir. He remembers playing all along the east coast and working with prominent gospel writers. He also recalls taking it all for granted.
“In 1985, I left West Point. Then in 1995, I was diagnosed with aids. In 1997 I was in a car accident and in 1999 I found out that I had avascular necrosis in both of my hips and my shoulders. Basically, they were deteriorating.”
In 2000, Reginald received disability and in 2002, he qualified for a series of surgeries to replace his hips and shoulders. However, he didn’t have his first surgery until 2007 because he had a developed an addiction; first to pain killers, and then, to crack cocaine.
“The pain I experienced made me a sitting, sleeping, working, 24/7 monster,” Reginald begins. “I got to a point where I didn’t know what to do. I started with pain killers and then went to cocaine to help fight the pain, but then addiction caught hold.”
In 2011, Reginald came to Dallas LIFE and while at the shelter he suffered a brain aneurysm. “Then my aneurysm had an aneurysm.” Reginald adds, explaining that while in the hospital a second aneurysm was discovered directly over the first one.
Months after he was discharged from the hospital, Reginald left Dallas LIFE without completing the recovery program. He explains that during this first stay he had gone through the motions, but never “fully surrendered”.
After leaving the shelter, Reginald stayed clean for over a year before resuming his cocaine use. For the next three years he continued using drugs and made a living playing music for churches.
“I’m a preacher’s son. I could fake a lot of things and I got really good at it,” he explains. “They all thought I was right there with them, but the entire time I was in the middle of my addiction. If I left one church, another one would immediately hire me.”
In March 2015, Reginald’s addiction was at an all-time high. “The Lord was saying to me, ‘Enough is enough’. I kept picturing Bob and Mary Ann Sweeney at Dallas LIFE. I kept seeing their faces and finally I thought, ‘I need to go back’. This was the only place I walked away from and stayed clean for a year and a half. Dallas LIFE was where I wanted to come back to. I called and left a message. A few days later I checked my voicemail and heard the voice of my angel, Mary Ann Sweeney.”
According to Reginald, he returned to Dallas LIFE in August of 2015 and changed his approach to the program. “This time I completely surrendered to God. These eight months have been the most fulfilling and enjoyable months of my life. They haven’t been easy, but they have been worth it! God is good, God is just awesome! All I can do with my little ole self is sit down and watch God do His thing!”
After graduating from the Dallas LIFE Seniors and Overcomers Program, Reginald has a long list of things he hopes to accomplish!
“I’ve started laying the tracks for an album. It’s called, The Songs Momma Used to Sing. I’ve also written books to help teach people music, one is a 104-page book just of Christmas songs! Eventually I plan to get my degree in music, but my biggest dream is to open up my own music studio.”
Now that he has fully surrendered to God, we have no doubt that Reginald can accomplish anything he sets his mind to!
“The hope that I could not find, the strength that I could not find, the motivation to stop using drugs that I could not find–I finally found it, at Dallas LIFE.”
“It was devastating to my children when I relapsed. I never thought I would be back at that point again. I thought I was done, but drugs are powerful.”
Farria has battled addiction her entire life. Two years ago she was living with her husband and their four children, working a job she enjoyed. Then, after being six years sober, she relapsed. Her husband, eighteen years sober, relapsed with her.
“Our drug abuse took us down really, really fast. It took us to the level of poverty. We ended up losing our home, our belongings, and our family got separated. Drugs brought me to the point where I had nothing.” She recalls.
After relapsing, Farria spent one month in detox at the Carrollton Springs Treatment Center. There her counselor referred her to Dallas LIFE.
“I came here in October of last year and I dug a little deeper. I found out what was causing me to relapse,” Farria begins, “Drugs brought me to having nothing, but since coming to Dallas LIFE I’ve regained my dignity, my sanity, my self-esteem and most importantly, I’ve regained my relationship with Christ.”
Farria continues, recalling her time at Dallas LIFE with a smile and fighting back tears of joy. She talks about her favorite class, God’s Beauty Inside and Out, taught by Mrs. Johnson.
“She teaches us about God loving us for who we are, regardless of what we’ve done in life. She says that no matter what we’ve been through or what we’ve done, that God loves us and forgives us and that if we don’t love ourselves, then we can’t love anybody else. He’s forgiven us so we need to forgive ourselves.”
Farria is now scheduled to graduate from the Homeless No More Recovery Program in August 2016 and when asked if her family will attend the ceremony, she replies, “I know they will! Everybody is rooting for me! They tell me how proud they are of me. My kids have said, ‘Momma you really have yourself together this time’.”
After graduation Farria plans to further her education and become a drug counselor. She explains, “I feel like that’s why I went through periods of drug abuse, so that I can help the next addict stay clean. There are a lot of people suffering and if they just had someone they could call or someone they could cry to, they may not go out and use. I believe that I can help save another addict.”
According to Farria, graduating from Dallas LIFE will mean that she can accomplish something, that she doesn’t have to give up or give into drugs. For Farria, graduation means, “I made it.”
“If I had not walked through these doors I would probably be somewhere under a bridge if not dead. If I hadn’t walked through those doors I would not be sitting here discussing my sobriety. Dallas LIFE saved my life.”