Turning a Mess Into a Message
Restoration of Hope (#RestorationOfHope)
By Anne Granado
This article was truly a divine appointment. God brought Debbie Brower, Owner and Publisher of ALT Magazine, and Danny Stone, Founder and Director of Aftercare at Restoration of Hope, together at a community event. Danny was looking for exposure. Debbie is always looking for a story, and the rest is ALT article history. And God knew what He was doing when he brought these two together because the Restoration of Hope story is worth sharing with others.
Restoration of Hope is a home and a ministry for men who have experienced homelessness, struggled with drug addiction, or reentered society after prison. Right now, they are serving 61 men and do not turn anyone away, no matter how many times they may slide back into destructive behaviors. “Your mistake is not the fall; the fall is not getting back up. We don’t expect these men not to fall, and we are not surprised by it. We’ve all been through it ourselves,” Danny says. “But, you know, there’s a transformation that happens here. The changes we see from when they first come in to when you see them three months later are amazing.”
Restoration of Hope also has a great partnership with law enforcement in Texarkana and Community Healthcore. They are also approved by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) as a transitional living program, or what most people know as halfway houses. “However, we always say that we are not a halfway house; we are an ALL-the-way house for Jesus. Restoration of Hope knows that by putting Jesus first daily, He will carry us through any struggles we face in trying to live in a hopeless world,” Danny says. “Jesus gives us hope in a hopeless place.”
As Debbie and I made our way to Restoration of Hope one sunny afternoon in May for photography and a tour, we were immediately greeted warmly by Danny and other men and volunteers. We took a seat in the front office, a cozy room with big windows, and excitement permeated the air. We met Judy, Danny’s mother and co-founder of Restoration of Hope, along with her dog, Jazzy, and her “chosen” daughter, Pat Loe. We met Marquis. We met John. We met Joshua. Everyone wanted to say “Hi,” and everyone wanted to share their story. The enthusiasm was infectious, and it was clear that getting the word out about this ministry was of considerable importance. So, Danny started from the beginning, with others commenting and occasionally saying, “Amen.”
It all began with Danny’s father, Ross Stone. Danny’s vision for Restoration of Hope pays homage to his father’s lifelong dream of creating a place that supported men who needed to get back on their feet after homelessness, addiction, or prison. Ross was frustrated at seeing his own sons suffer from drug addiction. Danny’s brother spent over 20 years in prison, and his placement felt like a revolving door. “My dad always felt there should be a place that gave men a better set-up when they leave prison,” Danny says. “No matter how much he supported my brother, he always returned, and my dad believed there had to be a better way.”
Danny’s father saw that when men are released from prison, they are dropped off a bus with a bag in their hand. Many do not have a license or a birth certificate. They do not have a job or a support system. “The prison system is messed up. Many times they have more access to drugs on the inside than they do outside,” Danny says. “Then, what are they supposed to do when they leave? We expect them to be rehabilitated with absolutely no tools, no support, no help, no guidance.”
However, Danny was not ready to help his father’s vision come to life at that time. Unfortunately, Danny became mired in a drug addiction of his own. “I started shooting methamphetamines at 15 years old, and even though I was a Christian, I had a child-like faith, and I didn’t look to God to help me,” Danny says, “I had been hurt in the church when I was younger; I had actually lost my leg when I was 12-years-old. Maybe it was PTSD or anger, but soon, I turned to drugs.”
Despite his addiction, Danny was able to find financial success. He met a great woman and married her, and the couple had two daughters. However, his addiction was always lurking in the shadows, and when Danny and his wife divorced in 2008, his life spiraled out of control. Ten years later, Danny says he lost everything and was sent to prison because he could not escape his drug addiction. One month into his time behind bars, he lost his dad and could not attend his funeral. “It broke me that I couldn’t be there for my dad even though he was always there for me. It brought me to my knees, and I finally gave up and surrendered my life to Jesus. I made a promise to my father that night in prison to love as he loved, to give like he gave, to be the father to my kids like he was to me, and to take care of my mother till the day she joined him in heaven,” Danny says. “In the last five years before he died, my dad had given his life to Jesus, and the only comfort I had from his death was knowing where he was going.”
Danny immediately envisioned honoring his father’s memory: returning to Ross’s dream of a men’s ministry and making it come true. Inspired by this thought, Danny sat down and wrote a business plan. Little did he know his mother, Judy, was working on the same vision. “After four months of not seeing each other, Mom was coming to visit me, and I began praying that the Lord would work on her heart to hear my plan,” Danny says. “However, I didn’t know Mom was coming to convince me to help her with the same project. She had actually already found a place in Hope, Arkansas!”
When Judy came in as a visitor at the prison, the mother and son hugged, cried, and greeted each other. Afterward, Judy said, “Danny, I want to talk to you about something,” and Danny said, “Mama, I want to talk to you about something, too.” When the two started talking, they immediately knew that God had placed the same vision in their hearts and was calling them to build this vision together. “The only thing I disagreed with was the location in Hope, Arkansas. I said, ‘Mom, we needed to do this in Texarkana where there is a bigger need,’” Danny says. “However, we kept ‘Hope’ in the name as a nod to that original idea.”
Both Judy and Danny agreed that Restoration of Hope would be different– more focused on ministry, building up the men who walked through the doors, and finding a way to extend God’s grace. “Several places in the state are more centered on recovery, and we have more of a faith-based focus. We believe in the deliverance that comes with building a relationship with Jesus,” Danny says. “We don’t focus on the outcome of the problems such as homelessness, drugs, etc. We focus on the source of the problem, which we believe is sin. This approach has worked for me and many men who have graduated and now work here with us. We believe in true deliverance if we can change our hearts and desires.”
Today, Danny has been set free from his addiction, and his entire life’s mission is to help other men like himself. “I have honored that promise I made to my dad after his death, and in the three years we’ve been open, we have served over 100 men, and over 30 men have graduated. These men are holding successful jobs, and many of these have been reunited with their children and spouses,” Danny says. “But, none of this could have been done through my talents or works. It’s all been God, and I give Him all the praise and glory.”
Looking back, Danny says that the loss of his leg, his addiction, his divorce, and the loss of his father led him to where he is today. “I could have tried to start Restoration of Hope at age 40, but I wasn’t ready,” Danny says. “I really had to lose everything to be sold out to God and the work He wanted to do in my life.” After Danny was released, he and Judy began looking for a location for Restoration of Hope. They looked at a building on Hazel Street but were not immediately taken with the property. However, they saw a home across the street that had been the original Hazel Street Recovery Center for Juveniles. “I saw it and said, ‘Mom, this is it,’” Danny says.
The building was under foreclosure, and the bank wanted $140,000, which seemed out of reach for the mother and son team, especially for the initial investment. They sat down, prayed about it, and decided to offer the bank a “crazy number,” and miraculously, the bank accepted their offer.
Excited by the procurement of the physical building, Judy and Danny began to have big dreams for the facility. “We thought, ‘Oh, we spent $60,000 on the building, and now we will spend $40,000 getting it set up.’ So, my mom, who is NOT a millionaire, wrote a check from her personal account that was pretty much all she had, and we started a nonprofit, the Stone Foundation,” Danny says. “Unfortunately, the city came in and did a walkthrough, which turned our plans upside down.”
When Danny and Judy purchased the facility, it seemed perfect because it already had small bedrooms, a laundry room, and a kitchen. They thought they could get up and running once the sale was final. However, the city required them to bring the facility up to code. “We thought we could do it all ourselves, but the list of repairs was overwhelming,” Danny says. “We had to put in a sprinkler system, level the floor, expand the kitchen. It took a lot more than we originally thought.”
The next significant setback occurred when Danny and Judy went on a preplanned family cruise for seven days, and when they returned, the building had no heat or hot water. “Mom dropped me off December 26, 2019, and things weren’t working,” Danny says. “We found out that the copper from the building was missing.”
Determined to get up and running, Danny stayed and toughed it out. He went to the restroom at Burger King on Stateline and drove to a truck stop to take showers. He got up at 4:30 a.m. every morning and read his Bible, did praise and worship, and started cooking on hot plates for breakfast. He began getting repairs done or working on the building himself, and slowly, men started to come.
When a man shows up at Restoration of Hope, whether because of a court mandate, a desperate family member or caregiver, or a desired oasis of air conditioning, they must follow several guidelines. First, if they are coming out of prison, they must commit to a three-month program. If they are homeless, they have to commit to a six-month program. Why the disparity? “If they’ve been in prison, they should have been off drugs for a while,” Danny says. “If they are currently on drugs, we’ve got to spend more time getting them detoxed and cleaned up before they are ready. But, honestly, it’s not about the amount of time in the program; it’s what they do with that time.”
Each participant in the program is added to a large wipe-off board in the front office, where their appointments and medications are tracked. The men are also added to the Life 360 app, monitored by Danny Stone, William Walter (the new Director), and other volunteers and workers. “Some people may worry about being tracked, but the men we are helping welcome more accountability,” Danny says. “Our doors are not magic doors; it takes hard work to truly overcome the things holding you back.”
Residents are also required to attend church services regularly. “When guys get mixed up in their habit, they have lasting effects from drugs like methamphetamine that many people do not know how to deal with. Many of our men have been to places like River Ridge, and they leave out with more drugs,” Judy says. “But, when you come in here, you get one main prescription, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Once the men have completed their allotted time, they can continue in the aftercare program, which aims to provide another preventive measure before they are entirely on their own. Men who have graduated from the program stay at the aftercare homes to provide another level of support as “house papas” or house leaders. “We are lucky to have acquired several new facilities recently. We have three aftercare homes right now, and we are about to close on a fourth one soon,” Danny says. “Our aftercare homes provide group living for the men as they seek jobs and get back on their feet. We charge the residents $150 a week to stay there and cover everything else. This little bit of rent is how we teach them to start being responsible and budget for their expenses.”
Also, when the men are ready, they seek gainful employment. Restoration of Hope runs a bus for men who work at Pilgrim’s Pride in Mount Pleasant. Danny and the other Restoration of Hope workers also try to bring out the individual talents of the men who come through their doors. “When I was in prison, I saw so many men who had all these skills,” Danny says. “They can make devices to do wrong and good; they really have amazing talents, but they just don’t know how to fulfill them because of their addictions.”
Right now, Restoration of Hope runs a construction company, Big Slice’s food truck, and two bays that they can use for mechanic work, painting, detailing, and welding. They also have a lawn service and are opening their resale store on June 1, 2023. “It can be hard for men who have been in prison to find a job, so we want to provide an opportunity for them to create their own job and contribute to the community in a meaningful way,” Danny says. “We need more community support for these men trying to get back on their feet. I hope this article helps get the word out about what we are doing here.”
Big Slice’s food truck, run by Marquis “Big Slice” Ewing, is an excellent example of the transformation Restoration of Hope can bring. Marquis is Restoration of Hope’s first graduate, and now he works at the facility to help other men who share his story. Marquis was a local rapper on a secular music record label called Uncut Records. As Marquis bought into the “lifestyle” he was selling in his music, he started dabbling in drugs. “I went from smoking marijuana and drinking to doing coke; next thing you know, I’m a full-blown addict. I went to about 19 treatment centers before I made my way to Restoration of Hope,” Marquis says. “I know you can’t really get kicked out of AA, but it sure felt like no one wanted to take a chance on me. I got into Haven Homes but got kicked out for doing drugs, and I thought for sure I had used my last chance.”
One hot summer day, Marquis happened upon Restoration of Hope, and he wondered if they had AC. “I’m not going to lie; I didn’t choose God; He chose me. I just wanted to get out of the sun. I had been walking around for eight days,” Marquis says. “But, you know what they say, ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear?’ Well, when I was ready, Danny was right in front of me.”
When Danny opened his doors to Marquis, the business was not even “legal” yet, but Danny still gave up his personal bed for Marquis. Danny took the recliner. “I fed him and took care of him,” Danny says. “He was coming off the street and ended up sleeping, tossing, turning, and detoxing for three days.”
But Marquis had no intention of really getting better. “When I first arrived, I was about to embark on Restoration of Hope like I had done every other place. I knew what to say to stay, and then I knew how to get back on the street and fall off real bad,” Marquis says. “I’d stay homeless for a while, go somewhere, use it and suck up the air, and leave again. I was perfectly ok with that.”
The turning point for Marquis stemmed from Danny’s hospitable and sacrificial treatment; it was different from anything Marquis had experienced at other facilities. “When I was growing up, my mother used to have a guest bedroom with good china and furniture we weren’t allowed to touch, and when family or a special guest came over, she would give them all the best stuff. Stuff we weren’t even allowed to breathe on,” Marquis says. “And that’s what Danny did for me. Most places I had been treated me the way I looked. They were like, ‘Yea, you can have that cot over there,’ but Danny gave me his own bed. He gave me his own clothes. Danny is a great mentor, and he showed me the love of God.”
When Marquis finally got out of detox, he remembers Danny and Judy asking him what his dream was, and he said something vaguely about a food truck or restaurant. “I never even thought about that because it seemed like such a far-fetched thing,” Marquis says. “And then, years later, when I showed myself approved and sought Jesus with everything I had, they helped me get that business going. Now, I have Big Slice’s food truck, but let the truth be told: what happened to me here on the inside could not compare to a million chain restaurants. I didn’t ever foresee myself thinking or acting the way I am now, nor did I want to.”
Danny is also proud of Marquis because of his work to receive full custody of his two children. “Marquis is not a statistic. He’s a chain breaker and a cycle breaker,” Danny says. “He is raising his boys right and teaching them to love God.”
Many of the residents have lost custody of their children, but Danny and the others at Restoration of Hope try to help them reunite with their families and work to restore those relationships. Although Marquis does not have a relationship with his boy’s mother, who was incarcerated for nine years, Marquis’ experience of changing his life and giving it to God has motivated him to reach out with a helping hand. “I think we’ve been doing a good job of edifying and helping her. We got her a hotel room so she can see the children,” Marquis says. “She seems to be on the right track. She’s been watching what we’ve been doing here at Restoration of Hope, and I think it’s inspired her.”
But, how things are today at Restoration of Hope differs from how it has always been. It has not been an easy journey. When Danny first started, things moved slowly. Danny and Judy had put so much into the organization, but it did not seem to be taking off, and Danny wondered why. “I just remember telling the Lord that we need men for this to grow. We needed more men in the program, but we also needed men who graduated to stay, disciple, and mentor the next group. I saw other programs that seemed to be doing well and kept wondering what I was doing wrong. We would get 16 men and lose 7 men. We would get 17 and lose 4 back to the streets,” Danny says. “But, I just wasn’t ready yet. God kept teaching me and preparing me. Then, we started writing out scriptures on the doorways and praying over the building, and things started exploding.”
Suddenly, Danny would get men into the program, and when they lost four, another four would take their places. “The spirit of God started changing these men. They wanted to be a part of what we were doing, and now, they won’t leave. We would have to kick them out, and we aren’t going to do that. They can stay as long as they want,” Danny says. “We call these men ‘lifers.’ They are the ones that want to stay and disciple others in a fellowship of men, which is why our program is so successful.”
Recently, a resident made it through the allotted time period and started aftercare. However, after only one week in aftercare, he relapsed. He took fentanyl and ended up in the hospital, where he almost died. “One thing we don’t do is give up on them. Many places would kick him out, but we know that there is a process in a recovery program. It’s been a battle,” Danny says. “But, I see so many situations from my life that I see in these men, and I want to help them because I understand. None of us want to get high, but we always go to get high.”
Danny, Marquis, William, Judy, Pat, and all the other workers at Restoration of Hope must have a lot of patience, but it is worth it in the long run. Another resident, John, was also recently reunited with his children after a long road to recovery. In 2019, he was kicked out of Haven Homes for doing drugs, and while Danny was on the cruise with his family, they paid for John to have a place to stay for a week until they could return and get the place up and running. But John, knowing the place was empty, had a little party while they were gone. “The place was trashed when we got home, but we did not kick him out. He left and lived on the street for three years. We would see him, give him food, and say, ‘John, come on! Aren’t you tired of this?’ He had a girlfriend named Amber, who was run over by a car. Then, he was even worse off,” Danny says. “But, we finally got him to come over here. We prayed over him, and here he is now. He’s a ‘lifer’ now, and we have many other success stories like these.”
Another example of the grace Restoration of Hope shows its residents occurred when a 33-year-old resident got his driver’s license and bought his first car, a Camaro, after getting on his feet. However, before he could make his first payment, he relapsed. “He was staying out at the lake and didn’t want to show up. But he was still on Life 360. I called him and said, ‘Come in and quit worrying about what you did. You will start over, but quit being ashamed of what you did,’” Danny says. “And we’ve paid his car note while he started at the beginning for a third time. Not many places would help him keep that car, but because of what we do and how we do it, we can help them. We aren’t going to give up on them.”
So, how do the staff and volunteers keep extending grace and mercy to the men who relapse? How do they cope with the extreme highs and lows of helping men in recovery?
“We understand it because we’ve been through it,” Joshua says.
“And the love of Jesus Christ,” Marquis says.
“It’s hard to understand until you’ve been through an addiction,” Joshua says.
“We aren’t offering sympathy, but we’ve got empathy because we know what it’s like. I’ve been to 19 treatment centers,” Marquis says.
“I don’t focus on the ones we lose. I focus on the ones we gain,” Danny says. “And we are gaining more and more. It’s getting really exciting.”
Restoration of Hope continues to grow. The organization recently purchased the old Biker Church, and the new church building will provide a place for 30 more beds, increasing their capacity to 90 men. However, Danny’s vision for the future includes a lot more than that. “We hope to have a facility in Arkansas as well as grow our current and future businesses run by Restoration of Hope graduates, but we need community support,” Danny says. “We need people to help us in our mission to ‘turn a mess into a message’ just like what happened in my life.”
Danny says that the Texarkana community can support the ministry of Restoration of Hope in many ways. People can donate clothing and other items at their new resale store (1618 Seventh Street). In addition, people can hire Restoration of Hope Construction, which specializes in painting and flooring, but they also do remodeling, repairs, and electrical work and can service HVAC systems. In addition, Restoration of Hope has a place to work on lawnmowers, welding, and cars.
Danny knows Restoration of Hope needs community support to truly live out their mission and vision. “Texarkana is a great community, and so many people would love to help. We need help financially, mentors, donations of food and clothing, and people to hire us and put us to work. Our guys truly work for food!” Danny says. “I also want to thank Jeni Eldridge and her staff from Haven Homes. We work well together, and they have been very generous with donations of food and drinks. I’m proud to say that we are a team helping the community and not competing with each other.”
Danny believes in the military catchphrase, “No man left behind,” and he sees honor in that sentiment. However, he feels that he left many men behind when battling addiction and spending time in prison. “I found the Living Water that delivered me, and until Jesus calls me home, I’m going back to share that Living Water with all the men I left behind,” Danny says. “We are like the infantry in the Marines on the front lines as soldiers for Christ. The same determination we had serving our life of sin is the same determination we have to bring others out of their sin. We are going to win the lost souls at any cost.”
If you want to know more about Restoration of Hope, please visit their website, their Facebook page, or call Danny at (870)-833-3488.