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Project Morning Star moves forward

WORTHINGTON — After receiving approval at Tuesday’s Nobles County Board meeting, Project Morning Star, a residential recovery program sponsored by First Baptist Church in Worthington, will move forward with the purchase of two residences on a Roberts Avenue acreage.

Project Morning Star began as an extension of First Baptist’s Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step recovery program.

Randy Simonson, now board president of Project Morning Star, stated that he noticed a common theme in people who attended Celebrate Recovery.

“When people get out of incarceration, because of their circumstances or because of the housing situation in Worthington, they don’t have a safe environment to go back to,” Simonson said. “Over 50 percent of people who are released from jail cycle back in because they don’t have a sober and safe home to go back to, so that was one main reason why we began Project Morning Star.”

What started as an exploratory group that met to talk about the possibility of creating a sober living community, has now grown into an eight-person board of directors who each specialize in different areas of the recovery process.

“Sherri Smith, who works for the Minnesota Cornerstone Drug Court, is on our board, and she has been great in working with us, and a lot of our residents will come from drug court; but not necessarily,” said Tom Christian, director or Project Morning Star. “Roxanne Hayenga, who is the community development coordinator for the customized training at Minnesota West, is also on our board, and so she will help residents with the education portion.”

“We’ve drawn in a lot of different people to act as advisors in different areas,” he added.

The two homes located on the property, five rooms in each house, are for men and women who are committed to their recovery process. Participants of the program will have the security of private rooms, communal meals and support.

The average length of stay for the recovery residents is three to 12 months, according to Christian.

“This gives them time to get a handle on their recovery, and we will provide job and life skills training to help them do that,” Christian said. “We want to give people every possible opportunity to gain the confidence and skills to enter in the community.”

Project Morning Star is now in the process of finalizing the purchase of the property and then will move into the next stage, renovations.

“We’re looking at about $15,000 to $30,000 worth of renovations that need to be done, and including the purchase of the property, the total cost is about $350,000,” Christian said.

Christian, who lives across from the property with his family, also addressed the concerns that have been brought up by neighbors near the property.

“I absolutely understand their concerns, but this is not to be confused with a halfway house, he said. “This recovery program isn’t for people with violent crimes. This is for people who we feel will be successful in recovery, whether it be from substance or alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, co-dependency issues, or people involved in an abusive relationship who need a safe environment.”

Christian hopes the renovations will be completed by mid-summer, and then Project Morning Star will be able to receive residents.

The board also plans on eventually expanding the program and possibly being able to build a specialized apartment complex.

“Maybe a few years into this we can start expanding to have some private cottages on the acreage, and with this new tax abatement, the idea of building our own sober-living apartment complex seems a lot more feasible,” Christian said.

One of the project’s goals is to not only help people be successful in their recovery process, but to humanize the issue of addiction.

“Anonymity and protecting the privacy of our residents is very important to us, but Project Morning Star will be a high-profile organization,” Christian said.”You will see us be out in the public and at community events. I want people to drive past and see the beautiful grounds and see the family type environment that we do have.”

To make a donation or learn more about Project Morning Star, visit

Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.

Erin Trester
Erin Trester is the crime and city reporter for the Daily Globe. She's a native of Lewiston, MN, but moved to Buffalo, NY to attend college and obtained her bachelor's degree in Communications. She started at the Western New York Catholic Newspaper as a reporter in Buffalo, but in October 2013 she returned to her home state to start with the Daily Globe. Most of her spare time is taken up by her 13-year-old thoroughbred named Faith, but some of her other hobbies include reading, fishing and spending time with friends and family. 
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