Most of us don’t need to look far to find a friend or family member who has been affected by drug or alcohol addiction. Having been a jail chaplain for almost 20 years, I’ve watched the revolving doors at the jail entrance bring people in and out who have either directly or indirectly been affected by drugs and alcohol.
As a chaplain, business executive and taxpayer I knew there had to be a better way, and there is: It’s called Oxford House transitional living for recovering addicts.
So, why are there only two Oxford Houses in Arkansas when neighboring states have many more? That’s a long story, but our story starts here and now. The Oxford Group of Northwest Arkansas is building more houses in NWA. Please join us!
After retiring from an 18-year career at Wal-Mart, I got involved with a program for children whose parents were in prison. I also mentored a young single mother in drug recovery by teaching her time management and life skills. Through those experiences I discovered my passion for working with people who are struggling to move forward in their lives.
My wife and I are on the board Essentials Outreach, which provides basic hygiene items to economically-struggling families. We served over 900 families last year in three communities.
When I was asked to join the board at Oxford House, I decided to dedicate myself to this cause. Meeting some of this program’s men and women just confirmed the need for local housing for individuals in recovery.
David currently serve as a clergy member at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Rogers. Prior to that, David was in the Diocese of West Missouri serving churches in Lee’s Summit and Cassville. He has also worked as a hospital and hospice chaplain.
After moving to NW Arkansas in 2006, David volunteered to be a chaplain with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. With support from the Sheriff, Chief Deputy and staff, he started a garden program for female inmates. It was an immediate success, and made a visible difference in the attitudes of the women. Local community members were also involved, and the garden now provides fresh vegetables to area food pantries. "It was truly a win-win endeavor."
Most of the women David met were incarcerated for drug or alcohol offenses, and -- when released -- either had no place to go, or returned to the same environment from which they had come. "I knew John Reese as a fellow jail minister and his background resolving housing problems for a vulnerable population. I said we have to solve this housing problem. Thank God he took up the problem, and out of his efforts we now have group working on the housing problem."
Rev. Sara Milford
Having grown up in Bentonville, the Rev. Sara Milford returned to Northwest Arkansas as Vicar of All Saints' Episcopal Church July 1, 2017. A graduate of the University of the South: The School of Theology, Mother Sara finds deciding which advocacy group to support any given day proves a greater challenge than whether or not to serve the weakest among us.
Mother Sara has volunteered in jail, prison, hospital, school, food pantry, and church. She has advocated for many things over the years, including the prevention and elimination of human trafficking, gun violence, and suicide. At the end of the day, she's grateful to come home to her husband and children, and take the dog on a quiet walk.
In 2000, my family and I moved to Bentonville, Arkansas after serving ten years as missionaries in Toluca, Mexico. For the last 18 years, I have been a minister at the Bentonville Church of Christ, and am currently the Outreach Minister. In 2007, we began a new ministry, Recovery for Life (RFL) to help Decision Point (DP) clients and graduates take the next step in their recovery journey. For over ten years, RFL has worked to assist hundreds of people who have graduated from the program to try to find safe and affordable housing. We have seen first-hand, both the tremendous need and the lack of available housing, which prompted us to work with DP to open two Oxford Houses in Northwest Arkansas (NWA) in 2010.
Peggy Hicks is a Northern NY native who has called NW Arkansas home for the last 28 years. She dedicates herself to working for the marginalized and oppressed as the Ministry Coordinator at First Christian Church Bentonville & WaterWay - where she serves on Pastoral Staff, coordinates church wide functions, manages facilities and directs all outreach projects including Clothed with Compassion; the church’s largest ongoing outreach project that has poured more than $150,000.00 in new clothing into NW Arkansas since 2011.
She volunteers with CanopyNWA and is currently working with other local leaders in addressing Bentonville's rapidly growing homeless community.
After attending a local presentation of Oxford House she felt compelled to join John Reese and his vision of opening as many Oxford House homes in Bentonville as needed, to provide good folks the opportunity to start fresh in a stable, supportive and loving environment.
Jeramy is a 30-year resident of Northwest Arkansas. His wife, Heather, and their two children Sofia and Declan enjoy the outdoors, as well as the culture and art experiences that NWA has to offer. His goal in working with the Oxford House Group is to lift up his fellow citizens in their times of need so that they may better themselves and the community around them.
Dick Kelsey is the head pastor at Rocky Branch Baptist Church in Rogers, Arkansas. He has a B.A. in pastoral ministries and a masters degree in education. In addition to pastoring, Dick has served as a Christian school administrator and owned numerous small businesses, including a residential boys home and drug and alcohol treatment facility. Dick served eight years in the Kansas Legislature as a representative and senator. He is the author of the book "The Success Puzzle," in which he provides spiritually driven guidance to help readers find their purpose, apply God’s principles, and ultimately achieve a fulfilling life.
Born and raised in California, Randy moved to NWA in 2004 along with his wife Jeanette. Since his retirement in 2013, Randy has been active in St. Stephens Benevolent ministry, which helps over 300 needy families in our community each year with food deliveries and financial support for utilities and housing. Through this ministry, Randy was given the opportunity to see firsthand the Oxford House model and how it has filled a housing need for individuals in recovery. "The men I have come in contact with at the Oxford House have all been grounded in their Christian faith and grateful for the opportunity of having a second chance at sober living in a safe and supportive environment. I welcome the opportunity to be part of the Oxford House board to do what I can to expand the footprint of Oxford Houses in our community."