“We give kids their parents back.”

So says the running headline on the Salvation Army’s Combat-Addiction webpage. Through its addiction recovery program, the Salvation Army helps over 150,000 people per year suffering with drug addiction, helping make families whole again. They provide free counseling, housing, employment assistance, and support for individuals suffering from long-term alcohol and drug dependency.

Salvation Army - Peyton Anderson
Local business owner Kelly Ferguson won his fight against drug addiction with the help of Salvation Army Exodus Program Photo by Rodricka Foreman

The local chapter of the organization is located at 1955 Broadway in Macon. The facility includes emergency shelter for women, men, and families in crisis, including those suffering financial difficulty or homelessness.

On the same campus, individuals battling with addiction are entered into what is known as the Exodus Program. The program is a 6-month long, on-site faith-based drug rehabilitation program. The program focuses on helping individuals battle their drug addiction while helping them build skills they can use once they complete the program. These skills include job readiness and employment skills.

Members of the Exodus Program partake in group and individual counseling to deal with the root causes of their substance abuse issues. They also attend Bible study and church services at a chapel on campus, building their strength in faith. Finally, some members are able to work at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, allowing them to gain work experience and build their social skills.

For one of the program’s previous members, the Salvation Army’s mission especially rings true. Kelly Ferguson was once homeless and struggling with addiction. A native of Miami, Florida, Kelly struggled through a difficult and chaotic childhood. His mother died when he was 9 years old, leaving Kelly to be raised by his father, who was an alcoholic.

Kelly lacked stability in his home life, and it soon affected his education. “Due to my mother’s death, it was hard for me to function in school,” Kelly says. Without the support of his family, Kelly dropped out of school and got involved in street life. He soon turned to drugs.

“To be honest, I had no structure as far as being a human being,” Kelly explains. “I just became an animal in the streets.”

Waking up in an abandoned building one morning, something clicked inside Kelly. “For some apparent reason something just got in me to get help,” he explains.

“It was the first time in my life I asked for help,” Kelly adds. Kelly became clean, but it did not last. He says that he “messed up again” and became addicted once more.

Once again, it was waking up in an abandoned building after a drug binge that brought Kelly to seek sobriety. This time, though, he awoke in an abandoned lighthouse in Georgia. He was led to seek help again.

It was 2006. A friend offered him the opportunity to come to Macon, and Kelly obliged. Once he arrived in Macon, the friend dropped him off in the parking lot of the Salvation Army. “When I came, I had nothing, just a pair of shoes I had stolen, and some clothes that were so dirty and nasty I wouldn’t give them to anybody even if I washed them” Kelly says.

With the help of the Salvation Army Exodus Program, Kelly eventually became clean and he now leads a very productive life. He is the owner of Kelly Service Pros, LLC, a commercial and residential cleaning agency that specializes in facilities management, carpet cleaning, floor detailing, upholstery, product distribution, and more.

To conduct this interview, I met Kelly at The Salvation Army, the same one where his friend dropped off in the parking lot back in 2006. Except this time, he is dressed nicely, and he is not a member of the program anymore but one of its volunteers. He walks in the chapel and his stride is assertive, not arrogant but accomplished, and yet he is also humble. We conduct the interview in the chapel where he now leads church service and mentors to the program participants every Tuesday. It’s the same chapel where he once sat as an Exodus Program participant.

In addition to being a business owner, Kelly is also a motivational speaker and an ordained minister who speaks at different treatment facilities. He shares his story in hopes that he will connect with others who are struggling with chemical dependence. He hopes to inspire others to seek and maintain sobriety.

In his spare time, Kelly also volunteers in the community. Of his volunteer efforts, feeding the homeless is one that is most dear to him. “I try to do it as much as I can,” he says.

Sometimes this means using his own money to buy meals and pass them out to homeless individuals on the streets. “I just give back what was given to me” Kelly says.

The Exodus program is a Christian-based program of the Salvation Army that is free to its participants. Most of the funds for the program come from donations. Stories like Kelly’s show us that opportunities like the Exodus Program are critical to the community. The Salvation Army is giving individuals a second chance at life, bridging relationships, and bringing families back together.

To donate, or for more information on the Exodus program, contact the Salvation Army at (478) 746-8572 or on their website at http://www.salvationarmyusa.org