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Forge Restores Five More Men

Forge Restores  Five More Men
SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY – The Blue Marquee Theatre was filled with community members and friends and family of the graduates on June 3, which exemplified the support which the surrounding area has for Forge and other local recovery communities.
Forge Restores  Five More Men
SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY – The Blue Marquee Theatre was filled with community members and friends and family of the graduates on June 3, which exemplified the support which the surrounding area has for Forge and other local recovery communities.

Forge Recovery Center celebrated the recovery of five men on Saturday, June 3, as Anthony Tapley, Matthew Holley, Luke Ferrell, Kelman Mathews, and James “Jimbo” Partin graduated from the Center’s program.

“Moments like this are what we do this for,” Forge Executive Director Craig George emphasized. “I can’t express the gratitude that I have to lead such a fine organization.”

According to Forge Board of Directors Chairman Glen Williamson, the mission statement of the Center is “to restore men to freedom, hope, and purpose.”

During his address to the audience, Williamson presented the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definitions for these concepts to further emphasize the change that Forge helps to evoke in its residents: “restore”— to return someone or something to a former condition, a place, or position; “freedom” – the quality or state of being free, the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice of action, liberation from slavery or from the power of another or something else; “hope” – the desire of, accompanied expectation of or belief in, fulfillment; “purpose” – the reason for which something is done or created, or the reason that something exists.

“So, that’s the way that Webster’s [Dictionary] describes it. That’s not the way that we describe it; that’s not the way I describe it,” Williamson continued. “The way I describe those concepts is Anthony, Kelman, Matt, Luke, and Jimbo.”

He added, “Most graduations, you get a piece of paper. I graduated from high school, from college, and they gave me a piece of paper. [They] told me to go figure out what [I] [wanted] to do with [my] life. This graduation is a little different.”

During the ceremony, a slideshow of each man’s time at the Center was shown, and the men were given a chance to speak.

Anthony Tapley

According to Forge Executive Director Craig George, Anthony Tapley is the youngest man who has completed Forge’s program, as he accomplished this feat at the age of 21.

“[Anthony] came here at age 20. He did not feel that he had a problem or that he belonged [at Forge]. After sharing a story about stolen copper and scrap yards, we were convinced that he was one of us,” George shared. “I have watched him come from a quiet, uncertain young man and become a leader, who has the courage to say exactly what needs to be said at almost any given time. At 21 years old, he has earned the respect of his peers as a leader of this program.”

Upon receiving his plaque, Tapley turned to address the crowd. “I want to thank Craig, this group of guys, past graduates, and everyone for all they’ve done for me. Y’all have seen me buck a few times – I even tried to call a lawyer [so I would get to] go home. I wasn’t hearing this and didn’t want to do it, but we made it. Thank y’all,” he emphasized.

Matthew Holley

Described as “one of the most easygoing, funloving, and hardworking men” that George said he had ever met, Holley’s time at Forge was one of both growth and friendship.

“He never meets a stranger, and he even managed to get me a little time with Governor Brian Kemp,” George told attendees. “This man has pushed forward with a peace that surpasses all understanding in times of adversity and loss. His character speaks for itself. I look forward to working with him as a graduate to help guide me and Forge, as we continue to restore men together.”

Holley also spoke to the audience. “Man, what a journey this has been,” he emphasized. “I have seen a lot of growth in a lot of people here. I came to this program really broken spiritually . I found myself in the front yard of [one of my] clients’ houses, behind the bush, on my knees praying for some help because I really couldn’t do it. It was just beyond me at that point where to turn to.”

He recalled the nights when he and neighboring bunkmate, James “Jimbo” Partin, would stay up discussing the Bible and studying the Apostle Paul’s writings. “Man, I turned to the right place – I couldn’t have done it without God. I had to get out of myself and get in the right place to really wrap my mind around things.”

In his conclusion, he thanked Forge leaders, fellow classmates, and his family for helping him and allowing him to grow.

Luke Ferrell

According to George, Forge leadership was worried that Ferrell would not complete the program after his first few days at Forge.

“I am so happy to see him complete the process and become a graduate of Forge. I was honestly devastated at the thought of him not graduating, but he did it,” George said. “From the beginning of his stay at Forge, he has had to practice acceptance to the highest level. The toughest three spiritual principles to practice are acceptance, patience, and tolerance. He used all of these as life has continued to show up in major ways.”

George continued, “The experience of every season of life, with its mountain tops and valleys, is why our program is as long as it is. It is important to learn to dig our heels in and remain in recovery through all the hills of life. I could not be more proud of him and I am grateful to see him do this and walk across this stage.”

Ferrell spoke on his experience at Forge. “I am grateful. Forge changed my life. These guys showed me a new way of life, and I am very appreciative. Thank y’all,” he summarized.

Kelman Mathews

Mathews was praised for his journey not only through recovery, but also to leadership within the Center.

“He has found a new life and a new identity as a restored man in recovery while he has been at Forge,” George shared. “He has completely bought into this organization and leads with truth in a very assertive, unapologetic way that has gained him the upmost respect by his peers, as well as our staff.”

George added, “He is very possibly the funniest man I have ever met. His humor and wit comes out effortlessly. It doesn’t take much positivity and humor to make even the toughest times bearable. Kelman, you have helped us all get through some very tough times during your stay at Forge. Your impact on the lives of others is bigger than you know. Please continue in your efforts of helping others – you’re a game changer in this community.”

Mathews thanked Forge for the new life the program has helped him gain. “The only thing I can think to share right now is gratitude, because with my life the way it was headed and the way I was living, without Forge, I don’t know where I would be right now. I was not in a great place at all; I was in a very dark place,” he explained.

“It’s kind of funny how God works because I was about to kill myself the day that I got arrested,” he continued. “The day I was about to take my life was actually the day I was sent to jail, sent to Forge, and met Craig George. My whole life has been nothing but positive since then. That was the best and worst day of my life. I am so grateful for everything, even the bad times that led me up to that point, because without them, I wouldn’t be here anymore. I am so grateful for all the guys and all the other graduates. I just know the gratitude is the biggest thing for me.”

James “Jimbo” Partin James “Jimbo” Partin has become a well-known advocate for recovery throughout the community during his time at Forge, as he works with Toombs County Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery, and volunteers throughout the area.

“We saved [ Jimbo] for last because usually, no one wants to follow after him,” George stated with a laugh. “I’ve had a unique opportunity to work with this man in the development of Toombs County Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery, and Gardens of Hope RCO. He is the real deal – if you watch him, you’ll know him by his fruit. But, trust me, he has some pretty cool words, too. This man is making a huge impact on Toombs County.”

Partin addressed the crowd on his journey at Forge. “This has been a ride, man. This program is the real deal. I was kind of skeptical about it at first; I tried to dodge it, to be honest. When I first talked to Craig, I was like ‘Man, this guy is a drill sergeant!” But really, what he was trying to do was lay it all out – you don’t come in blind, everything was just as he said it was,” Partin affirmed.

He continued, “This program has been good to me. I ended up getting here and kind of fell in a leadership position. Things just got to going along for me, and next thing I knew, obviously, Craig and Todd believed in me. They were like, ‘Hey, there’s a position coming up [within a recovery organization], and we think you would be suited for it.’ Of course, I prayed about it, but then I was like, ‘Why not? It’s going to help people.’ Anything I can do to help the next man, I will do. I truly believe that’s how you keep what you have – you can’t keep what you have unless you give it away.”

He shared his gratitude to George and Forge Assistant Director Todd Hamm, who Partin said taught him how to love people as they are. Partin also thanked his fellow graduates for their friendship and encouragement throughout the highs and lows of their time in the program.

Partin shared memories of praying out loud in the bathroom stall at the Forge. “I was asking God for direction,” he explained. “And usually, what I have found is, when I ask God for direction, it is usually not what I want to do. I was not wanting to stay, but God wanted me to stay. I’m so glad that I listened to God. I’m so glad that I’ve learned to listen when I pray, and not just pray and ask, but pray and listen – it’s been critical for me and helped me grow.”

The next steps for Partin are to continue his job with Toombs Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery, where he works daily to help addicts in their first month of residency at Forge.

Others’ Reflections

George also reflected on his journey with Forge. “For those of you who may not know me, I am Craig George, and I am a person in long-term recovery – that is the driving force behind everything I do. God has given me a gift and the ability to live two lives in the course of one lifetime. continued from page

I choose to honor that gift by dedicating my life to Him and those seeking freedom from active addiction,” he remarked.

Forge Assistant Director Todd Hamm also shared a few thoughts on the occasion. “In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered a speech posing a question: what is your life’s blueprint? MLK went on to convey a message of three crucial principles of life – the principle of sense of personal significance, the principle of determination to achieve excellence, and the eternal principles of beauty, love, and justice,” he shared.

He continued, “I have personally witnessed these three principles in the actions of these Forge graduates. These men are returning citizens and have found freedom, hope, and purpose as men in long-term recovery. Observing their dedication to the recovery community, their families, and their own personal recovery has been a spiritual experience. The graduates of Forge are men of humility, distinction, and perseverance, and I am honored to have been a small piece of their journey.”

Four of the five previous Forge graduates – Andrew Lillard, Mike Erwin, Michael Podlesny, and Tim Fowler – spoke to the graduates, giving them pieces of advice. Also, the current residents at Forge each took time to share their congratulations and well wishes for the men.

At the end of the ceremony, family members of the graduates and community members each shared their own thoughts regarding the Forge and the men’s accomplishment.

About Forge

Forge is an inpatient recovery center that exists to restore men to freedom, hope, and purpose. The Center’s 12-step program is designed to help men (18 years of age and older) who suffer from addiction, both chemical and behavioral. The program is a 12-24 month community- based program that is focused on returning men to their families and society as productive and contributing members of their communities. Currently, the facility houses around 30 men.

RESTORED – The five graduates have completed Forge’s 12-step program and will now reintegrate into their families and society. L to R: Kelman Mathews, Anthony Tapley, James “Jimbo” Partin, Luke Ferrell, Matthew Holley.

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