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Keith and Heather Preston of Kenton believe they have a major key to addressing the drug abuse problem in Hardin County.
But in order for their Dream Center to become a reality, the community will need to buy into it – literally.
Keith knows the need for such a program firsthand. He is a recovering addict, who has been clean for 11 years. One of the people who assisted him in his recovery was Pastor Jim Goldsmith, who shared his 25 years experience with rehabilitation.
The Prestons, along with Goldsmith, are committed to leading others out of the depths of drug addiction, but they have found the scene changed.
“What we see now is completely different than what we were into,” said Goldsmith. “The people we see now literally expect to die doing what they are doing and they have no fear in that.”
“I had just started moving into the area where people are at now until God put his hand in and pulled me out,” said Keith.
While there continues to be a very serious heroin problem in Hardin County, said Keith, there is a growing concern with prescription drugs. Addicts are walking into homes, taking prescription pills out of family medicine shelves and touching nothing else.
“It’s not uncommon,” said Keith. “Nine times out of ten, the victims don’t report the theft to the police.”
When they do, he continued, the addicts look for reports in the newspaper of drug thefts. They know the victims need to refill their prescription and target the home for a return visit.
“They don’t carry any guns or knives,” said Goldsmith. “They know it won’t be considered a violent crime if they are caught and they will not go to jail.”
“The elderly are targets a lot of the time,” added Heather.
Those abusing “scripts” often turn to heroin because of the costs, said Goldsmith. Heroin is “dirt cheap” compared to the pills, which can have a market value of $20 each.
The search for a way to curb the local drug problem took an unexpected turn about eight years ago, when Heather heard of a treatment program in Los Angeles called the Dream Center.
The center was founded 17 years ago and works with the homeless population on Skid Row. Heather and Keith visited the Dream Center earlier this year and shared statistics from Hardin County with the center’s leaders.
They were so impacted by the data handed to them, the Dream Center agreed to assist the Prestons in establishing a center in Kenton using the same program which has found success in the urban settings.
“I’m not certain there is anything like a Dream Center in a rural setting,” said Goldsmith.
“They were surprised how bad it is here,” said Heather.
“They saw an opportunity for God to move,” agreed Keith.
The Dream Center’s founder has volunteered to visit Kenton during his vacation to provide guidance and training.
Soon after the couple returned from L.A., they learned of the closing of the Corinthian Nursing Facility in Kenton and owner Harry Hooyenga’s wish to donate the facility to an organization. Since then, they have worked with Hooyenga to convert the former nursing home into a drug treatment program. Eventually, the Prestons hope to see local addicts sentenced to their facility and programs from throughout the area also sending people to Kenton for addiction problems. But in order for that to become a reality, said Keith, the business, judicial and church communities will need to show their support.
He estimates it will take $500,000 to get the program started.
“We have everything in place except the financing,” said Preston. “This will not be a halfway house. This is a full-treatment facility and it will take thousands and thousands of dollars.”
The Dream Center not only would provide tools for people to battle their addiction, but provide them training to make it possible for them to return to the work force.
Keith and Heather are convinced their dedication to the Dream Center is worth the sacrifices they have made in their personal lives, both emotionally and financially. They hope to share their dedication with others.
The Dream Center has proven itself a success, said Keith. The couple has begun one of the programs they experienced in L.A. The Adopt A Block program establishes accountability by building a working relationship with the people who need their help, he said.
Project Prevent is an educational tool, which is designed to offer people options other than drug abuse to address problems in their lives.
The future of the program has now reached a point where it is beyond the control of the Prestons, they said. The Dream Center’s future now hinges on the community.
“Our goal is to connect with people and help them with their addictions,” said Goldsmith.
“Having a significant life is what happens to people when they are off drugs,” said Keith. “You’ve got to have a dream.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer