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Charities renovate building

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- With volunteers wielding paint rollers, hammers and shovels, a former drug den on Residence Avenue emerges as a light office for a non-profit group.

Mission Change brought about 80 volunteers to 421 Residence Ave. Saturday to tear down, fix up and paint a dilapidated eyesore into a rehabilitated office building for GraceWay, a substance abuse recovery group for women.

"We knew the building needed renovation and we just felt a need to come here, raise awareness and take action," said LaDonna Urick, a founder of Mission Change. "When they told me all the work needed, building and painting, I said 'Don't worry, we have people for that.' "

And the people from Mission Change dripped sweat, smiled and worked to rehabilitate a home that had once housed mattresses for derelicts. Crisp white walls took the place of dirty gang-graffiti scrawled panels.

The house could be a metaphor for the women who with the help of the GraceWay organization rebuild their lives through a 12-step program.

"We have an 80 percent success rate for those women who stay with us for six months," said Liz Dixon, GraceWay development director. "We are a long-term program that lasts from six months to two years. We want women to get their lives together not just get sober."

To help with this goal, Dixon said GraceWay offers two residences. GraceWay Recovery Residence is the initial living sober residence. A Victorian home that was rehabilitated on the 400 block of West Tift Avenue it sparkles with plum exterior paint and white gingerbread trim.

Once a woman goes through the initial residential recovery program, she then progresses to "The Way" a sober living apartment building next door. The women hold jobs, pay rent and begin living responsibly as taxpayers in the community.

Part of the training to help women re-enter responsible life will be held in the office being rehabilitated Saturday. Plans call for the offices to be used to safely conduct family workshops group meetings and other activities such as therapeutic art classes.

"In eight years we have 198 graduates," Dixon said. "We have a woman who was left by her parents at 17 with a Chick-fil-a bag before they went to prison. She has been here a year, got her GED and has a job."

A non-profit organization, GraceWay has no ties to any government funding, Dixon said. It exists on the contributions of individuals, businesses and other civic organizations.

Anyone wishing to help GraceWay can call (229) 446-4550.