Teen Challenge Program visited by Senator Coons

By Tony E. Windsor

Few local transformations are more dramatic than that which has taken place in the Third and North streets area of Seaford. Once dubbed notoriously as Crack Alley, in the 1980s, this area acquired national attention as the illicit drug crack cocaine began to infest cities throughout the country, making its debut along the east coast.

Today, on the very streets where open-air drug sales took place and countless arrests and drug raids were carried out, there stands a complex of buildings representing a mission of hope for those caught up in the misery of drug and alcohol addiction. Almost thumbing a nose at the infamous reputation that this area of Seaford once held, Delmarva Teen Challenge has rescued over 100 men whose lives were being destroyed by addictions.

Using a foundation of Christian spirituality, Teen Challenge was started by Pastor David Wilkerson in New York in 1960. Since then, the drug rehabilitation program has grown to over 170 centers in 48 states and nearly 250 centers in 80 countries. According to information from Teen Challenge, in Puerto Rico the organization is building an AIDS hospital, the first of its kind. Wilkerson has also founded a global evangelistic ministry, World Challenge.

In 1963, Wilkerson wrote a book about the work he and his ministry were doing to help youth in New York City who were addicted to drugs and involved with gangs. The book, The Cross and the Switchblade, became a best seller and has sold over 15 million copies in 30 different languages.

In 1970, a movie based on the book was released starring Pat Boone as Wilkerson. The movie, according to World Film Crusade, has been viewed by an estimated 50 million people in over 30 languages in 150 countries. Another real-life character in the movie is gang member, Nicky Cruz, who was portrayed in the movie by Erik Estrada in his debut role. Cruz, a former New York City gang member has also written about his lifes transformation thanks to Wilkersons ministry. Today Cruz is an international Christian Evangelist and a movie about his life story entitled a Thousand Pieces, is being planned for release soon.

The Delmarva Teen Challenge program is built from the seeds of David Wilkersons original ministry and at the helm of the local operation is Bob Carey, who brings not only a knowledge of how the Teen Challenge program operates, but also a personal, first-hand testimony of how successful it can be.

A former DuPont chemist in Wilmington, Carey lost his job with the chemical giant because of his inability to cope with his alcoholism. He is not shy about sharing his story of living an affluent lifestyle in the early 1990s, when at 36 years of age, he was fired from DuPont. From there he left his financially-secure lifestyle to live on the streets of Baltimore, Md. as a homeless alcoholic.

Some Christian acquaintances befriended Carey while he was living on the streets and they guided him to Teen Challenge in Capitol Heights, Maryland.

A short time later he was transferred to Life Challenge of Southeastern Michigan, which was formerly Detroit Teen Challenge. Since that time Carey not only became a recovering alcoholic, but attended Bible College in Detroit and completed his ministers certification with the Assemblies of God and became a full time minister.

In 2008, he came to Seaford and learned about the Third and North Street Mission project that had been built on the sight of the former Crack Alley. I spoke at an engagement in the area and was asked if I would consider coming on to head up the Mission project, Carey said. I told them no, but followed up by saying I would come here if they would start a Teen Challenge in Seaford. I have been here ever since.

Recently, Carey hosted a visit with Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, who came to see the Teen Challenge operation first-hand. Coons said he was asked by dear friend Dale Dukes, former Sussex County Council president, to stop by and see the program. Dale told me it was an opportunity to be inspired and encouraged; he was absolutely right. I am inspired by what is happening here at Teen Challenge in Seaford.

With Carey as a guide, Coons toured the Teen Challenge campus. Carey explained that the Teen Challenge Program provides a safe and nurturing environment for men who want to change their lives. However, he said the program expects the participants to be responsible and accountable. Teen Challenge participants are expected to dress appropriately, assume cleaning duties throughout the facilities and attend faith-based classes each day.

Carey told Coons that those men who are accepted at Teen Challenge have to want to be here. He said, We help people who want to be helped. I have seen some miracles. It happens as long as everyone is willing to comply.

Carey said 109 men have graduated from the one-year Teen Challenge program. The program is now planning some major enhancements, including the building of a 5,000 square-foot education center with chapel and cafeteria. Another major development for the program is the planned capital campaign to raise funds to build an additional facility to begin serving women. Carey said the facility, planned to be located on an empty lot at the corner of Third and North streets which was formerly home to a bar, will provide Teen Challenge program support to women 18 and older and mothers with children six-years-old and younger.

Coons visited with some of the men who are currently in the Teen Challenge program and shared his excitement about what Christ is doing in their lives. I believe it is important to find a place where you are loved and respected. That is all people need, he said. I am so inspired by the good things that each of you are getting here, both through Christ, and the wonderful facility and program.

To learn more about Delmarva Teen Challenge, call 629-2559 or visit www.delmarvateenchallenge.org.

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