Dream coming true: Recovery center nears opening, founder says

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, January 23, 2019


By Ken Stickney


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BEAUMONT — A faith-based recovery center intent on righting troubled local lives will likely open its chief program within two weeks, its founder says.

Mike Conner, executive director of Dream Center of SETX, said Friday that the center, located on unincorporated land at the former site of a youth detention facility that fronts Highway 69, may open by late January but most probably by early February.

The center will embrace people who face “life-controlling” addictive problems, including drugs, alcohol, gambling and pornography, using a scriptural approach.

The center’s opening was planned in late 2016, when Conner and his wife, Vilma, first relocated to Jefferson County, but was slowed in part because of the impacts of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, which flooded their rental home in Beaumont.

Conner said the recovery program will be long term — as long as three years — for some people: Those enrolled may spend their initial time in recovery, then in job training and finally in transitioning back into the community. Those residents may include veterans struggling with acclimating to returning to civilian life.

Conner said the commitment to job training and transition to the community marks a departure in approach from other programs, which simply provide recovery.

Some staff members can help with some but not necessarily all vocational training. The center has about 1,000 square feet for developing training programs in welding and automotive repair and about twice that space for a planned program in carpentry. A goal is to mold programs to include certification. He said the center has discussed training programs with Lamar Institute of Technology and with Lamar State College Port Arthur.

The Conners, who both worked in a Dream Center in Los Angeles for more than a decade, will use their experiences from there to launch similar programs here.

The Dream Center is renting the facility from Jefferson County for a dollar a month under a long-term lease signed in late 2017. The site includes 13 buildings — they total about 180,000 square feet — on 50+ acres between Nederland and Beaumont. The buildings will house offices, training facilities, a gym, residential dorms and more.

Conner said there are seven staff members at the site. They are preparing residential dorms to accommodate the first two dozen people to seek recovery; he said those beds should be full within weeks. The Dream Center has been fielding inquiries about the program at 409-234-5255.

The acronym for the program is SUCCESS: Supernatural Understanding for Conquering Chaos and Eradicating Self Sabotage. He described it as Christ centered, biblically based. He said the state of Texas certifies faith-based recovery program under certain conditions.

The center is seeking partnerships with churches, higher education and community volunteers to launch the program and make it succeed. Conners said local churches have been supportive — the center has a mailing list of about 400 who provide support through prayer, volunteer work and financial support.

Conners has completed pastoral training — his wife is an ordained minister — and has been involved in ministry — sometimes part time or as a volunteer — since graduating high school in 1980. He took up full time pastoral duties 20 years ago. While the center’s programs will be faith based, he said, the center would not operate as a church, although there may be occasional services at the site.

He said he moved to Southeast Texas to be closer to his daughter, who lives with her husband in Mid County. He studied the Beaumont-Port Arthur area and saw a need because of the high rate of single mothers whose families are living in poverty. He also saw the area had a high crime rate.

Of interest: Conners said those who stay with the program for three years will likely move into what may be an area that will accommodate “tiny homes” — homes of some 200 to 400 square feet — on the grounds. He said a former pastoral partner has built tiny homes for such purposes and the carpentry shop may be able to assist with building or installing the homes.

He also said the guard house at the entrance of the facility may be used as a welcome center and gift shop, if items for sale can be built on site.

The center has been offering food and clothing to needy people for some time, and was giving out food Friday. He said in 2018 the center distributed 3,000 boxes of food, assisting as many as 10,000 people.