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Residential recovery helping addicts find success

WORTHINGTON -- In the nearly four years since Project Morning Star opened south of Worthington in October 2014, more than 100 men, women and children have passed through its doors.

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Beth Hoekstra (left) and Lee Stewart stand outside the offices of Project Morning Star Residential Recovery, south of Worthington. Hoekstra, the director of operations, is just months away from marking her fifth year of sobriety from opiates. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - In the nearly four years since Project Morning Star opened south of Worthington in October 2014, more than 100 men, women and children have passed through its doors.

More than half of the adults found success - they have a job, a place to live, completed treatment and work with their probation agent - while getting their life back on track at the residential recovery center.

Beth Hoekstra, director of operations at Project Morning Star, said of the 35 women who’ve entered residential recovery, 25 were deemed successful, four were terminated from the home due to relapse and six were terminated because they wouldn’t follow house rules (skipping Celebrate Recovery treatment, church or bible study, or failing to be home by curfew are the most commonly broken rules).

In the men’s house, 44 entered residential recovery, 21 were successfully transitioned into the community, 12 were terminated due to relapse and 11 were terminated for non-compliance of rules.

Those who’ve been terminated are considered for a second chance if they get themselves back on track, Hoekstra said, adding that some people have been back a second time in an attempt to overcome an addiction.

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Project Morning Star’s two-house acreage sits just south of Indian Lake Baptist Church in rural Worthington. Men stay in one house, women in another, and children stay with their parent in either house.

Hoekstra said Project Morning Star works hand in hand with Celebrate Recovery and drug court “for the common goal of helping people and teaching them they don’t have to live with addiction.”

The residents at Project Morning Star are dealing with an array of addictions, from opiates to methamphetamine, alcohol, prescription or over-the-counter medications and gambling.

While Hoekstra said her work can be discouraging when people relapse or just can’t seem to overcome their addiction, she has to believe that even helping just one person having a better life means she’s done her job.

“I would love for everyone who comes here to do well, but it’s unrealistic to have that expectation,” she said. “We’ve helped a lot of people.”
Project Morning Star’s residential recovery homes have a maximum occupancy of five adult males and five adult females. As of Monday, there were four women and four men in residency. Those who have been convicted of violent crimes are not eligible to participate in the residential recovery offered at Project Morning Star.

As director, Hoekstra not only handles the day-to-day business operations such as occupancy and billing, but also conducts random urinalysis on residents to ensure they’re following the rules. She has assistance from house managers - one in each home.

While the residents are asked to pay $500 per month - less than half of the estimated $1,100 per month needed to cover room and board per person - Hoekstra said  grants and donations are brought in as well.

“There’s no funding from the government to help keep us going,” she said. “We have a GoFundMe page and Facebook (page). People are welcome to give a monetary donation or just volunteer their time - helping with projects on the acreage or come out to have coffee with those who are here.

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“You don’t have to be wealthy or have an extreme talent to make a difference in someone’s life,” she added.

Hoekstra said for every dollar spent assisting those in recovery, it saves the community $14 through a decrease in social services, reduced crime and better parenting.

“We are a fraction of what it costs to house someone in prison,” she added.

While many of those who come to Project Morning Star were referred, Hoekstra said there are also walk-ins. Her current house manager, Lee Stewart, is an example.

Stewart came to Project Morning Star April 2 after completing a 60-day treatment program in New Ulm for alcoholism.

“Lee came because he wanted to help,” Hoekstra said. “He wasn’t forced by law enforcement.”

House managers can stay for up to two years, while residents may stay anywhere from three months to a year.

“We have a few alumni that have left and come back to volunteer,” Hoekstra said. “That is the coolest thing.”

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She’s also pleased with how the neighborhood has been accepting of the residents and the recovery work taking place at Project Morning Star.

“We’ve changed how people view addiction,” she said. “These are just normal people that got addicted and made a bad decision. They’re good people asking for help and support.”

September is National Recovery Month. Anyone interested in making a contribution to Project Morning Star is welcome to visit their GoFundMe page or make a tax-deductible contribution to them at P.O. Box 1050, Worthington.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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