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Forge Founders Starting New Mission for Women In Wheeler County

Forge Founders Starting  New Mission for Women  In Wheeler County
NEW MISSION - Craig and Tiffany George, shown outside their new project location near Glenwood, are launching a mission to give women an opportunity to rebuild their lives after addiction. The Georges founded Forge, a similar program for men, in Toombs County.
Forge Founders Starting  New Mission for Women  In Wheeler County
NEW MISSION - Craig and Tiffany George, shown outside their new project location near Glenwood, are launching a mission to give women an opportunity to rebuild their lives after addiction. The Georges founded Forge, a similar program for men, in Toombs County.

The founders of Vidalia’s Addiction Recovery Center for men, known as Forge, are launching a similar program for women in Wheeler County. Craig and Tiffany George recently purchased the former Bridges of Hope women’s rehabilitation facility near Glenwood and plan to start operations there continued from page

soon. The couple will be living on the site on Stuckey Road, which is expected to eventually accept up to 60 women who are being given an opportunity to rebuild their lives.

The in-patient recovery program in Wheeler, to be known as The ARC (Addiction Recovery Center), was started with a business loan, and is designed to be self-sustaining. The female clients will work at outside jobs to pay for housing, meals, and services. Their tenure at The ARC will have an average range of approximately 12 to 24 months. “It is a program of progress, not time. Every woman’s stay will be determined by their maturity and their recovery,” George said.

While with The ARC, the women will be expected to give back by helping with local projects to better the community. “Forge pours back into Toombs County and The ARC will pour back into Wheeler County,” George explained. This may mean being employed in the community or volunteering in various ways.

The Wheeler County program is completely separate from the Vidalia program. Craig George will continue to serve as director of the Vidalia program while Tiffany George will direct the Wheeler venture. Participants will come from throughout the five-county area served by the Oconee Judicial Circuit, which will make client referrals, George said. The circuit is headquartered in Dodge County but includes Wheeler County and three other area counties.

At Forge, some 70% of the men are mandated to participate in the recovery program through the courts. At Forge, these individuals are afforded treatment rather than just given punitive measures. George said that although Forge accepts participants from anywhere, 65% of Forge’s population is from Toombs, and 75% of the graduates are from Toombs.

George said that he and his wife hope to build an alliance with the community and law enforcement in Wheeler County, just as has been done in Toombs County. “We involved law enforcement and the community as a whole throughout the course of the development of Forge in Toombs County,” he said, explaining that when law enforcement engages with individuals with less serious offenses, it can be a great opportunity to route offenders to another path besides jail.

Forge partners with the Pineland Community Service Board for resources such as counseling and drug rehabilitation. The network George and his board of directors have created in Toombs County can also be utilized for The ARC in Wheeler County. “We can go across county lines,” George said. Wheeler County, as a primarily rural location, cannot offer as many jobs as the clients may need, but employment links already established in Toombs County can solve this issue. The ARC will transport clients to work sites.

Addressing fears that Wheeler residents might have about safety when bringing a program like The ARC into the community, George said, “All or most of the individuals we will be working with are already in the community. While we will be working with challenged individuals, there will be high levels of accountability anywhere they go, a system of checks and balances.” The ARC will be fully staffed from the beginning, and staff will be expanded as the program grows.

How the Georges got involved in Forge and The ARC can be traced to Craig George’s own battle to recover from addiction. In 2015, as he started his road to recovery, and launched a construction business from his home base in Lyons. The business became very successful with its crew growing exponentially as the business expanded. Workers included many men who were struggling to regain their footing after drug and alcohol addiction, and George began to sponsor these workers in their recovery. He also began to realize that God was leading him toward a new mission which led to a momentous decision for the Georges. They shut down the construction company, sold the equipment, and together, started what would become Forge. “We put everything we had into it,” George said. Strongly supported by the community, Forge has spurred a second successful mission, Gardens of Hope, in Lyons.

Now, there are 48 men at Forge in various stages of recovery, and graduations are held about every four months.

“It is not designed to work quickly. It took over two years to get our first five graduates,” George said of the process of changing lives. And it took a long time to get Forge to a place where it was selfsustaining. “Once we got 25 beds filled, we started to break even.” The men are expected to “have some skin in the game” and pay their own way. They pay for food, housing, and counseling. “We are not dependent on donors. We are self-sustaining, and once we started to generate revenue, we gave back to the community.”

Forge started its residential program in a small, two-bedroom house on 2nd Street in Vidalia and began obtaining other property, including a Depression Era structure on First Street built by the Civilian Conservation Corps which once housed the community library and most recently served as the Vidalia Woman’s Club meeting place. An old funeral home next door was acquired, and recently an additional four houses in the neighborhood have been donated for future apartments for the men. In time, the Georges sold Forge’s property for $10 to the Board of Directors, with George staying on as a Director. “I want it to outlast me,” George said of his hopes for the future of the program.

With Forge firmly established, the Georges were drawn to Wheeler County when the former Bridges of Hope site grabbed their attention. The rural location was perfect for their next venture. “We are people of faith, and we were both in agreement about doing this. The facility itself was appealing and was the whole reason for why this vision came to life,” George said.

Substance misuse is a common issue across America, but “we need to have solutions,” George said. “We have been able to help tremendously in Toombs County, and we want to do the same in Wheeler County. We plan to make a full investment here. We just want the blessings of the community,” George said.

“A true solution to finding freedom is finding purpose, and connecting to the community is what makes this work,” George said of the importance of good community relations. “We look for any opportunity to carry this message.”

Tiffany George affirmed, “We’re excited to bring The ARC into Wheeler County. I’ve witnessed lives being transformed over the course of approximately 10 years. People are really getting another chance at a better life. It’s truly beautiful, inspiring and moving.”

She added, “We have created a program that really works well in Toombs County and we are thrilled to grow and reach women in Wheeler County now. We pray that the community will come alongside of us in our efforts to restore women. I believe that we are the hands and feet of continued from page

our Lord, and that He has blessed this mission. I am looking forward to seeing Him move in the lives of these women in a mighty way!”

How Forge and The ARC Work Forge and The ARC are in-patient recovery centers that exist to restore individuals to freedom, hope, and purpose. The 12step program used by these centers is designed to help individuals (18 years of age and older) who suffer from addiction, both chemical and behavioral. The program is a 12-24 month community-based discipline that is focused on returning clients to their families and society as productive and contributing members of their communities.

Recovery is a life-long journey that begins with acceptance of a problem and the decision to change. Recovery is not easy and requires more than just the absence of drugs and alcohol. This program is built around the concept that addiction is a disease. It is progressive, chronic, and fatal, but it is treatable when recovery of the mind, body, and spirit are addressed Adherence to the spiritual principles of the 12-step method of recovery coupled with a no-nonsense, tough love approach gives program residents the tools they need to forge a new mindset and way of life where they are able to effectively manage themselves after treatment, according to Forge’s website.

The program requires adherence to a strict daily schedule and holds the residents accountable for their actions by encouraging them to recognize and address emotional conflicts in order to promote effective communication with God, themselves, and others. As residents progress through the four phases of the program, they are granted more responsibility so they ultimately learn how to respond in healthy ways to pressure and make decisions based upon the spiritual principles contained in the 12 steps.

The program focuses on the educational, vocational, social, and spiritual development of residents through the following services: Counseling Daily Process Groups Peer-to-Peer Accountability Life Skills Training 12-Step Work Community Service Structured Employment Physical, Mental, & Spiritual Workouts

CLOSING – Gathered for the closing on the former Bridges of Hope property, now known as The ARC, are, from left: Craig George (Director-Forge Recovery Center); Tiffany George (Director-The ARC); Massie McIntyre (Attorney-The ARC); Winfred Murphy (Director-Bridges of Hope); Jimmy Dixon (Realtor-Tom Peterson Realty); David Morgan (Attorney-Bridges of Hope); and Samantha Marsh (Loan Officer- Altamaha Bank).

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