BAKER — Depending on whom you talk to, Buck Ward Road residents' property values will dip in the not-too-distant future, or more men recovering from addiction will get the help they need.


BAKER — Depending on whom you talk to, Buck Ward Road residents' property values will dip in the not-too-distant future, or more men recovering from addiction will get the help they need.



The stalemate between two groups follows a six-year-old substance abuse rehabilitation ministry's plans to expand in a residential/agricultural zoned area.



A number of Baker residents are concerned about Exodos Ministries, a Christian nonprofit organization, moving from Crestview to Baker. Six Buck Ward Road residents signed a Nov. 10 letter to the News Bulletin expressing opposition to the plan. They're part of a roughly 10-member committee spreading the word about their new neighbor.



And, some committee members said, there are many more Baker residents who feel the same way.



Click here for the Buck Ward Road Six's Nov. 10 signed letter to the News Bulletin>>



Editorial: The Northwest Florida Daily News says: "Exodos (Ministries) should be allowed to proceed with its plans" in Baker>>



 



WATCH: Video of Buck Ward Road protest signs is on the bottom of this page. 



"I could get you 200 signatures...," resident David Howard said Monday in a telephone interview.



In addition to the letter, the group has placed numerous signs about the move along Buck Ward Road.



"Ever since we started putting these signs up, I think the word is spreading rapidly," said Clyde Lewis, a resident here for more than 42 years."I probably get asked about it (by other Baker residents) two or three times a day. They're asking me, 'What's going on?' and my response is that they're putting in a drug and alcohol abuse center and that the community at Buck Ward Road is mostly opposed to it."



RESIDENTS' KEY CONCERNS



The Buck Ward Road Six presented four points in the letter, as follows:



•Opposition to Exodos "lies solely against its location and not in the Exodos mission. We are pro-religion and supportive of faith-based rehabilitative efforts like those of Exodos."



•Members want a town hall meeting so Baker residents can understand what Exodos' presence would involve. Buck Ward Road opposition members said they made two requests to meet with Exodos board members, but both were declined.



•Neighbors contend that Exodos' operation "does not conform with the current Baker community environment," and suggested the nonprofit consider a commercial-zoned site instead.



•Finally, "inconsistencies of intent are concerning," the letter states. Exodos' board president allegedly stated that plans called for a facility to serve 16 people, with growing room for 32 men, but the vice president allegedly stated to a different resident that plans called for a facility serving "no more than five" men, and construction on dormitories for troubled youths.



'THERE'S NOTHING TO FEAR'



Exodos Ministries' board of directors contends there are misconceptions about the ministry's services.



"We're not a program; we're family," said Kyra Crowson, Exodos' admissions director and secretary of the board. "We are not a detox facility. We don't accept strung out guys."



The ministry — which is funded by a $3,200 admission fee per client, some local churches, private donations and proceeds from its North Ferdon Boulevard thrift store in Crestview — helps only HIV negative men who've undergone detoxification, committed no serious crimes, like assault, and don't have hepatitis or tuberculosis, Crowson said.



"We're just an aftercare program ... after you've detoxed ... so you can develop new ways to cope with life, and you've tried everything else and realize that there might be some truth that a relationship with Jesus Christ could be life changing."



Clients may be there to move past problems with abusing prescription drugs or alcohol, or because they selected Exodos to satisfy a probation order, but the service isn't punishment, Crowson said.



"(Clients) are not trying to leave; they want to be there," she said.



As for concerns about inconsistencies in the number of men the facility will serve, Crowson said conversations the Buck Ward Six cited in the letter were informal, "between two friends ... it was just a matter of speculation."



Formal plans will soon be revealed, but the goal is to build a house that initially serves eight men and eventually can minister to 16 men, she said.



COMMUNICATION CONCERNS



The Buck Ward Six stressed that they support Exodos' mission, but just don't want the rehabilitation center in their neighborhood.



In addition, they want to know more specific information about the plans.



Looking at Exodos' client application, some committee members said the "Reason for Admission" raises concerns. Options include addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex and pornography, along with having emotional and marital issues.



"What are the safety and security provisions to be employed at the facility?" the letter states.



And it's one of many questions, with too few answers, committee members said.



"There's been no interaction with the community whatsoever," Lewis said.



Exodos' board declined a request for a town hall meeting on the matter, committee members said.



Crowson said local lawyers and pastors advised the group that "you don't ... plan a meeting where we have a bunch of angry people and hand them a microphone."



She said the board was willing to reschedule one planned meeting once they learned that the Buck Ward committee wanted to meet with the full board. But "ultimately ... I got a text back (from the Buck Ward group) saying, never mind, we're not going to do it at all," Crowson said.



Exodos presented an Oct. 11 block party to celebrate its move to Baker, and the Buck Ward committee was welcome to ask questions during the public event, but didn't, she said.



However, Crowson said, maybe the committee didn't know that Exodos was willing to take questions.



Either way, from Exodos' vantage, this isn't an us-against-them issue, she said.



"We love our neighbors and I wish our neighbors understood that we are serving our neighbors," Crowson said. 



Meanwhile, Bonnie Grundel, a Baker resident of almost 28 years, said she would like to see the nonprofit operate elsewhere for one main reason. 



"I don't want a change in my neighborhood," she said. "I want it to remain the same.



"I mean the relationships that all of us neighbors have shared ... I don't want the character of the neighborhood to change."



What's your view? Write a letter to the editor or tweet News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni.