By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Photo by Chuck Kirman/Ventura County Star

Teen Challenge helps women kick addictions

August 5, 2014 Ventura County Star

VENTURA, Calif. - Since kicking a six-year heroin addiction at a Christian-based rehab center in Ventura, Angela Douglas is giving back as a graduate, helping others find a solution.

“If it weren’t for this place, I’d probably be dead,” said Douglas, 29, of Santa Paula, who graduated in 2008 from Teen Challenge. The nonprofit offers a free, 12-month local residential program for women age 18 and older who are working to overcome drug and alcohol addictions.

Despite failing rehabilitation in jail, Douglas said the faith-based philosophy at Teen Challenge provided the foundation for her recovery.

“It’s all about God,” Douglas said. “The void I was feeling — the thing that made me long for drugs for alcohol for anything to fulfill my happiness — once I asked Jesus into my heart, that was filled.”

During a fundraising dinner Saturday, fellow graduate Maria Luna was among many staff members alumni serving guests and talking about the program’s role in her life.

“God has restored my mind and heart from the dark place I lived for so many years,” said Luna, 50, who completed the program in 2003. “Teen Challenge saved my life. I was given a second chance.”

About 60 guests — including alumni, board members and parents — attended the dinner, which generated about $4,400. Guests took tours, met current and past participants, heard testimonials and learned how they could help.

The local site is part of Teen Challenge International, a nonprofit serving men and women at more than 200 centers throughout the U.S. The program, based on peer-to-peer mentoring, is overseen by alumni.

“After they graduate, they can attend the Teen Challenge Ministry Institute for one year at no cost to get ready for this kind of work,” said Rosie Weir, of Ojai, director of Teen Challenge Ventura, which serves Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.

“Women come to us for help because they need a place to recover from abusive situations they find themselves in because of drug and alcohol addictions,” Weir said. “They usually have no funds or insurance to get help.”

Teen Challenge Ventura, coined “Miracle Mountain” by its students, is on 143 acres in the Ventura foothills.

The nonprofit’s 59 beds are filled, and there’s a lengthy waiting list, Weir said.

“We received approximately 3,000 calls for help last year,” Weir said. “Our phones ring all day long.”

Teen Challenge was founded by David Wilkerson in 1958 in New York City and is now in more than 80 countries. Although the name includes the word “teen,” it doesn’t limit participation to adolescents, Weir said.

In Ventura, where the facility opened in 1972, the rules are strict. Participants rise at 6 a.m. to fulfill a day of prayer, choir practice, cleaning, cooking, laundry and classroom instruction. They also take on jobs at the site.

Upon arrival, each participant is assigned a bunk bed with one nightstand, as well as a small, numbered space inside a closet where each has a small spot on the wall to hang clothes.

“It’s about structure and discipline. We run a tight ship here, so we have to make every space count,” Weir said. “They’re very grateful, and they follow the rules. They feel good about themselves that they’ve arrived here.”

Colleen Webb, a graduate who lives on site as a staff member in charge of kitchen operations, said she was brokenhearted from a 30-year alcohol addiction when she arrived.

“I’d probably be in prison or dead the way my life was going,” said Webb, 48, who graduated in 2011. “Teen Challenge completely changed my life. God healed me from the inside out.”

Because Ventura Teen Challenge operates entirely on donations, staff and students raise funds throughout the year with a golf tournament, a dinner for families and supporters, a “walk for recovery” and other events.

The program takes $1,500 per woman per month, and all money to cover costs is donated, Weir said.

Visit or call 648-3295 for more information or to donate.

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