A self-sustaining organization, Turning Point Ministries honored its parishioners at its annual fundraising dinner on March 23, marking more than two decades of guiding troubled men away from temptation and back to faith.
The 20th annual dinner recognized former substance and domestic-violence abusers at the Old Eucalyptus School House near El Centro. In front of an audience of more than 200, many attorneys, probation officers and well-wishers cheered the men who shared life-altering stories.
Graduating from the program next month is Roman Flores. He is 34 and has been in the Holtville Turning Point home for a year after he violated probation following injuries he caused his wife in a domestic violence dispute. Flores has a job lined up at a produce packing shed and he credits Turning Point.
“I already knew I needed to change my lifestyle when I got there,” said Flores. “It’s not an easy place--lots of discipline and structure. But I’m looking forward to being a father again to my daughters. I’m a little nervous to get back into circulation, but I’m a changed man.”
Norman Chandler is pastor and director of Turning Point and also former student of Mike Johnson the founder. Through its shelter home and outpatient anger management classes at Gateway Church in Brawley, the church has reached thousands of men in 23 years of ministry. Turning Point supports itself with this annual dinner in the spring and another in the fall, along with its lawn care and car washing services.
“A majority of our men are struggling with drugs, alcohol or anger,” said Chandler. “Sin comes in all shapes and sizes. We have men from 17 to 70. We provide an environment free from distraction and temptation as much as possible, but it’s up to the individual to find faith. Yet, it’s God who gets all the glory for everything that goes on in this ministry.”
Keynote speaker for the evening was Imperial County District Attorney Gilbert Otero. He recalled when he first came to the office the assumption was to put everybody in jail. But Otero maintains he rejected that approach.
“As long as I am in the District Attorney’s Office, we’re trying to help people,” said Otero. “I’m not perfect. I’ve fallen short plenty of times. But I thank Norman for this opportunity to get this message out.”
Michal Dotts is a young man who successfully graduated from Turning Point but his journey rather than being a linear path was one that diverted back to self-indulgent behavior. Abused as a child in San Diego, Dotts nurtured his psychic pain with drugs as a young adult. He became so distraught he decided to commit suicide after becoming homeless.
However, his father got him to Turning Point and Dotts appeared on the threshold of recovery after three months, then bailed for San Diego where he fell back into his former life and was arrested for drug sales. To avoid jail, Dotts agreed to return to Turning Point where he stayed a year. Free at last from demons of addiction, Dotts returned to San Diego where he is now happily married to Danielle with two daughters and successfully runs a window cleaning service.
“I came to faith by a process of elimination: 12-step, rehab, meth clinics … none of it worked,” said Dotts.
“Some people have to go rock-bottom. The best part, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d go through all the pain because I now empathize with others and I can speak to them with the authority of hope.”