New ARC dedicated in Portland

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Larger facility offers hope to more beneficiaries.

by Christin Davis –

The new dining hall (Photo by Christin Davis]

Captain Erick Wilkerson, current administrator of the Portland, Ore., Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC), welcomed an overflowing crowd to the service of dedication for the ARC command’s newest center on May 23.

This center—a $25 million project on nearly 15 acres of land outside of downtown Portland—is the first ARC residence and warehouse constructed in the Western Territory since the Riverside County center in 1993.

“This facility is like a metaphor for you in your recovery,” Wilkerson said to the beneficiaries. “From humble beginnings, you can move to a beautiful, fuller life.”

Wilkerson has personal experience with this metaphor. In 1994, he was an addict, living homeless in Los Angeles, Calif. After meeting a woman who told him about Jesus, he recalls weeping and asking God for help. Wilkerson said he opened a phone book and prayed that God would lead him to the right place.

“I could hear him—clear as you can hear me—call me to The Salvation Army,” he said.

Wilkerson dialed the listed number at 4 a.m. and a recorded message invited him to the Santa Monica ARC.

“I put on my best, crummy clothes and went in,” he said. “Everything—my purpose and outlook on life—changed.

“That’s what this place does; it changes people,” Wilkerson said. “I can hardly believe that 16 years later, this homeless guy is running the program.”

Presenting the best
The former residence and warehouse, built in 1897 and 1917, respectively, were dilapidated and forlorn—so dated that even hitching rings for horse bridles remain in the concrete outside.

“The seed for the new building started in my mind right when I walked in the door of the old Portland facility,” said Territorial Commander Commissioner Philip Swyers of his first visit there roughly five years ago. “When working with hurting, addicted people, we need to do our best work and need to present physical and spiritual healing in the best way possible. The dedication of the new Portland ARC is an answer to prayer.”

It came just in time. Only a week before the dedication events, a water main under the former residential building broke, flooding the basement.

“This is hallowed ground; a lot of history, healing, happened here,” Wilkerson said. “However, it is lacking a lot, and the new facility will improve every aspect of the way we operate.”

A new space
The new 43,000 sq. ft. residence and 75,000 sq. ft. warehouse, designed by Group Mackenzie with general contracting by Skanska USA, sit in a grove of oak trees. A few trees that had to be removed during construction were mill-cured and installed as the chapel’s external and interior oak crosses.

Thirty-three percent of beneficiaries in Portland are self-referred and roughly 440 men have graduated from the program in the last five years, according to Major Janene Zielinski, ARC command program secretary.

A total of 121 men will live in three-person rooms, with new furniture and individual lockers. Each of the two residential floors has a laundry room and a bathroom with 10 showers. Volunteer stylists will offer haircuts in the new barbershop. A weight room provides a dedicated area for workouts.

The dining area features an open-beam ceiling and surrounding windows. The adjoining commercial kitchen has walk-in freezer and refrigeration space and a separate dish room. Outside, a covered and heated patio overlooks a basketball court alongside an indoor TV and game room.

A number of offices are reserved for individual counseling and classrooms seat 36 people each. Next door to the center’s library, a computer training room has 10 new computers.

Sustaining the center
The Portland ARC boasts the largest stream of donations of any center in the West, and has dramatically improved its sales figures in the past 10 years—up 197 percent from 2000. For fiscal year 2009/2010, the sales are expected to top $7 million, according to Major Michael Zielinski, ARC command business secretary.

“Without financial success, we cannot have a successful program,” said Major Man-Hee Chang, commander of the West’s ARC command. “The financial revenue in Portland has been growing, and we anticipate this center to reach number one in sales.”

The center will also be opening a new store this summer down the road from the residence and warehouse. At 40,000 sq. ft., it will be the largest in the territory.

A place to grow
“A lot of our beneficiaries come out of institutions,” Zielinski said. “Here, we tell them there are no bars on the door—this campus is a place for you to grow.”

With 22 ARCs in the Western Territory, Zielinski said most were built before the 1950s.

“We should be rebuilding one center every four to five years,” he said. “We now have the scope template.”

According to Chang, plans are developing to build new centers in Santa Monica and Bakersfield, Calif., in the next three years.

In Portland, beneficiaries and staff are eager to move into the new center this July.

“This is an investment in the community,” said Major Donald Hostetler, Cascade divisional commander. “The ARC program…operates on the sale of reclaimed goods so that we may reclaim lives. We will be proud to show off our buildings here, but prouder to show the products of people that are changed.”

Frank Smith
Frank Smith will soon graduate from the Portland ARC. After relapsing, he returned to the Portland ARC to complete the program a second time.

“This place has character,” Smith said. “I’ve had a front seat to watching God change people’s lives; they come in beat up and leave restored.”

Smith is a recovering heroin addict, who sold the drug on the streets for 20 years. Following graduation, he plans to work in the warehouse.

“Seeing God work here in other people’s lives has helped me believe, grow and change,” he said. “I want to help people avoid the road that I went down. If there’s anything I can do to help, I will.”

Charles Lincoln
Charles Lincoln, the current resident manager, became an employee of the Portland ARC in February 2007 after graduating from the program.

At 17, Lincoln joined the military and served in Desert Storm. After 13 years in the U.S. Army, Lincoln was discharged following a DUI charge. As he found work, he said he would always lose the job due to crack cocaine addiction.

In 1999, Lincoln graduated from an ARC program. Nine months later, he relapsed and arrived at the Portland ARC on July 5, 2006.

“My plan was not to be the manager,” he said. “I didn’t choose this; God chose me.”

Lincoln said moving to the new facility is bittersweet.

“My life changed in the ARC, so it’s sad to leave it,” he said. “I see myself—where I was four years ago—every day in this place. I see myself in these men.”

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