One Last Second Chance: Terrell's Story

How HDA's Hope Building Builds Homes and Lives

Photos by Shawn Poynter/Poynter Photo Co.

After 15 years struggling with addiction, Terrell knew no one was coming to save him this time. If he was ever going to get home to his two little boys and be the father he wanted to be, he had to be the one to do it.

“But you can’t do this alone,” Terrell said, speaking of his recovery journey. “You have to let people help you – whether it’s big or small. Before long, you’ll realize that it’s possible. And it may take a whole bunch of tries. Just because you don’t get it right the first time doesn’t mean your life can’t change.”

Describing himself as “on fire to change,” Terrell made a list of small goals and big goals and watched those lists shrink over time, but as he sat on the grounds of Hickory Hill Recovery Center, an addiction recovery center for men in remote Knott County, Ky., he watched a group of men building a new house nearby and longed to be part of the crew. The men, many of whom were friends of his at Hickory Hill, had joined Hope Building, a new program at the Housing Development Alliance (HDA) offering paid, on-the-job training in construction for men and women in recovery.

Concerned that details of his past would prevent him from being accepted into the program, Terrell was overjoyed when he learned he’d been hired and was immediately sent out to worksites with HDA carpenters and lead Hope Building trainers Matthew Pratt and Lonnie Walker.

“Before we started building a house, I looked at the empty property there and thought this is how my life felt – like nothing. Someone can show you the blueprint of a house, but it’s still hard to imagine how it’s all going to turn out. As the walls are going up and you’re jumping from spot to spot putting in each nail, you have to keep faith that it’s all going to come together. And sure enough, it does.”

Over the course of the three-year POWER grant cycle, Hope Building will produce 15 new homes for middle-income families in East Kentucky. The program’s second crew of six trainees, of which Terrell was a member, built two houses, including the program’s first two-story house between June and November 2020. The home sold to a middle-income family, who was excited to start 2021 in their new home.

For Terrell, his journey in recovery has been sustained by having a job.

“I was at Hickory Hill at a rough time. The coronavirus had just hit,” he said. “I missed my kids, and I could have easily left at any point; but I knew that if I gave up that easy, I was going to give up when I got home. So, I stayed. Then, I got into Hope Building, and if it wasn’t for that job, I wouldn’t have been able to cross goals off my list. I was getting a paycheck and could save money and put a down payment on something my family needed. It changed my life, and it set me up to come home.”

His training in Hope Building led to a full-time job at a steel factory in his hometown of Ashland, Ky., which allowed him to make a home for his children and to create the life for himself he once never thought possible.

“If you don’t have a job, you get discouraged or depressed,” Terrell said. “Having that stability helps you stay on top of your goals and helps you keep doing the things you’re supposed to do, like paying your bills. If that job can keep you in that frame of mind, then it really helps you feel that things will be okay.”

He continued, “When I first came to my recovery program, I told myself that nobody would take me off that hill and that I would do whatever it took to get me home to my family and that when I left there, things would be in order. And I kept that promise.”

Terrell enjoys a break from the day's work with fellow Hope Building trainees at a worksite in Viper, KY.

Hope Building gave Terrell an opportunity to build the life he wanted, to show an often skeptical community his determination and talents, and has even revealed to him what he believes is his new life’s purpose: to give back by helping others on their own recovery journeys.

After several months of working at the steel factory, Terrell was offered his dream job! He now works full-time as an Outreach Peer Support Specialist at Pathways, Inc., a community-based center for mental health care in Ashland that aids with the treatment and prevention of alcohol and other addictions. The agency hired him to help get one of its new initiatives off the ground: traveling around the area in an RV, setting up in various places to offer help and advice to anyone and everyone who needs it.

“When you have people that are willing to give you a second chance, you’re happy to work, you’re happy to get out there and do something different with your life,” Terrell said. “I don’t know what my purpose is yet, but I’m glad to have the opportunity to figure out how I can help others. I just want to show people that there is an opportunity out there for them.”

That opportunity for Terrell started with a little bit of hope. Hope Building offered him a way to get where he wanted to go, and just like a house, hope is built from the ground up.

“You have to believe in yourself, and you have to put in the work,” Terrell said. “Building houses is like recovery: for this house to be built, I have to keep doing these little things that I do. And if you miss one, if you miss a nail or a wall, guess what’s going to happen? It’s going to crumble and fall. I hope I’m proof to people that it can be done. Your life can change.”

Click here to find out more about Hope Building at HDA and get updates from the program on Facebook.

Hope Building is made possible by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).


2 Responses

  1. This was awesome. I wanna say thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤ to everyone who helped me in any way small or big. I could have never done this alone like I tried so Many times before. BIG thanks to hope building for the opportunity to show me how building houses was so similar in my on journey of life. I’ll never forget this experience because it truly has made me a better person. There was definitely Many days of how or why but the faith that came about me was what kept me pushing not finish and nkt give up on myself. GOD, RECOVERY, FAMILY. Thank you HDA the ladies in the front office are amazing ppl the were always there to help me out know matter what it was. This even carried over when I returned to home. Forever grateful 🙏 GOD IS GREATER THAN OUR UPS AND DOWNS.!

    1. Thank you, Terrell! We all love you and are rooting for you every day. You are building an amazing life for you and your sons! Come see us when you can. – Your friends at HDA

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