Getting back to tradition: Local drug court helps families in recovery celebrate Christmas

Sierra Rains
A woman serves food for drug court participants and their families at the program's second annual Christmas party.

Christmas music and chatter echoed down the halls of the Colvert Ministry Center Monday night as individuals in recovery from addiction gathered with their families for a revived Christmas tradition. 

The 20th District Drug Court brought back the program’s annual Christmas party last year as a way to help families re-unite and heal together. The move to revive the tradition came after a change in administration. “We kind of kicked it off last year and got back to a tradition that had been, not forgotten, but just kind of neglected for a while,” said John Terry, Executive Director of the 20th District Drug Court. 

Terry said there has been wide community support for the families who are working to better their lives, shown in the form of donations. “That’s allowed us the opportunity to provide gifts for all of the participants and all of their children,” he said. 

A woman and her child choose presents at the 20th District Drug Court's second annual Christmas party.

The drug court currently has 27 participants, and enough donations came in for each one of their children to pick out two or more gifts. Terry said a wide variety of toys were donated for children of all age groups, with older children receiving $50 gift cards to GameStop and Walmart. 

Adults also got the chance to grab a gift and each family received a large ham to take home. Those who weren’t able to make it to the Christmas celebration will have their gifts delivered to them by volunteers in the drug court. 

“This year we’ve got a few of our participants that are in a treatment facility so we’re going to be able to take their presents to their families, that way they can enjoy it,” Terry said. 

The Christmas tradition was revived last year in an effort to improve the program, and Terry said the impact has been clear. “I know that it makes a difference in that they’re able to go and spend that time with their kids,” Terry said.

Two children pick out presents at the 20th District Drug Court's second annual Christmas party.

Court costs and fees can also place an additional burden on families at this time of year and donations from the community help the drug court alleviate some of that weight for participants. 

“Sometimes with their court costs and their fines and fees, even with their drug court fees and rent and everything, they just don’t have the extra to give during Christmas,” Terry said. “So that gives us the opportunity to step in and fill that gap. It makes a huge impact on the participants.” 

Drug court participants and their families were also able to enjoy a nice meal from Caddo Street BBQ during the celebration, courtesy of a group of former participants who have graduated from the program.

20th District Drug Court Director John Terry says a few words to the participants and their families during the program's second annual Christmas party.

Terry said the graduates are a part of a mentors group that was established this year as another way to help encourage individuals going through recovery. The graduates decided to help give back by holding two fundraisers to pay for the catering at the Christmas party. 

“Those programs within the program are really making an impact," Terry said. “So many more are getting the chance to go to treatment facilities, even in spite of COVID-19, we’ve been able to get four or five in the past month in treatment." 

Terry said the Christmas party has made a positive impact on the local drug court program, and he is very thankful for the continued support and all of those who donated to make it possible this year. “We’re really thankful, they really went out of their way this year and donated a lot for us,” he said.