Ministry restores lives in Victoria

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Oct. 19, 2013 at 5:19 a.m.

Jennifer Jewell Young, 38, stared into the mirror and sobbed as she surveyed the track marks that scarred her arms.

"Lord, I just want to be whole again," she cried.

Restoration House in Victoria hosted its annual fundraiser Saturday.

The house opened its doors to Young in 2011. The faith-based program helps young women overcome their drug and alcohol addictions. The structured environment emphasizes inner healing and transformation through a relationship with Jesus.

"When the women hear the rules and still want to come, that shows a strong desire to change," said Theresa Klacman, founder and director of the house.

Young began using drugs and drinking when she was 13. She mimicked her mother, who had five more children with Young's step-father.

"I had no concept of love," Young said. "Everyone who loved me just wanted to touch or molest me growing up."

Her addictions escalated from alcohol and pot to cocaine and meth.

"I always said I'd never use IV drugs because my Mom did them," Young said.

Her compulsion to feel high controlled her life, and she overdosed three times.

Gang members became her support system until she pushed them away after one raped her.

At 21, she was pregnant and devastated because her high school sweetheart returned to his ex-girlfriend and denied the baby was his. The police picked her up as she staggered down the street with a whiskey bottle in her hand.

The night started with a public intoxication charge and ended with assault of an officer.

"I was drunk out of my mind and pregnant," Young said. "I thought they were being rough with me."

She wrestled with five officers and kicked one in the neck. The department did not immediately charge her with assault.

Young returned to her friends and her habits after her release.

"I was constantly influenced by my friends and family," Young said. "I wanted love and attention."

Young's daughter arrived prematurely and weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces.

Child protective services arrived at the hospital, but so did Young's grandmother, who returned home with her great-granddaughter.

"That was a love offering," Young said. "But I just saw it as an opportunity to go back to my ways."

Nueces County ultimately prosecuted Young for injuring an officer, but the judge showed her leniency. He sentenced her to two years in prison and 10 years probation.

She spent her first year in the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville.

"It's a death row prison, so I was bullied by the inmates who were there for life," she said.

She found the chapel at the prison, and in that chapel she was saved and baptized. Good behavior earned her privileged positions in the commissary and mail room. She worked closely with the warden and his staff.

She moved to the Lockhart Correctional Facility the next year.

On the bus trip to her new home, she saw the shape of an angel with his sword drawn in the clouds.

The first Bible passage she read upon her arrival was Exodus 23:20: "Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared."

Young endured more bullying and sexual advances in Lockhart's unit.

"Even the guards hit on the women," she said.

She found the church but wavered between her faith and her dramatics.

After Young's release from prison, she met the father of her next four children. They married in 2004.

Young received her certified nursing assistant certificate in 2005, the same day her grandmother died.

"She said she was so proud of me," Young said. "She was so strong. She was my rock."

Young relapsed and was arrested for possession of meth on the anniversary of her grandmother's death in 2009.

"I was in jail before I realized what day it was," she said. "I just started crying."

Young entered the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment program at Dayton County Jail for nine months. The program teaches inmates about accountability.

She then transferred to a halfway house in Victoria to avoid returning to her hometown vices in Corpus Christi. However, the habits crept back into her life.

When Perpetual Help Home could not care for her any longer, she called the Restoration House.

She talked to Klacman three times before she made a commitment to enter the program.

"I was searching for help, and Theresa's name kept coming up," Young said.

She abandoned an abusive boyfriend she met in the halfway house and moved into the Restoration House.

Her days began at 5:45 a.m. and ended at 9:30 p.m.

The program offered free counseling services and Bible study, as well as classes in healthy living and child development.

"The curriculum helps women change their thinking, let go of addictions and learn forgiveness through Bible studies," Klacman said.

Young never dreamed she would take her grandmother's place as a prayer warrior.

"The ministry teaches residents to live Godly lives," Young said. "It breaks generational curses and strongholds."

Young graduated in eight months and moved into the transitional house with her children.

"We were able to heal as a family there," Young said. "We learned values and teamwork."

She applied for Social Security disability benefits, which hinged on a judge's opinion because of Young's past.

The Nueces County judge called her at Restoration House and said, "You've been to hell and back - walked all over, homeless, abused."

The document she received from his office was stamped with the words, "Fully Favored."



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