Non-profit expands to serve parish’s drug court participants

August 15, 2014 at 10:21 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Humble Hearts Association founder Donna Miller poses with Judge Lauren Lemmon of the 29th Judicial District Court in Hahnville.
Humble Hearts Association founder Donna Miller poses with Judge Lauren Lemmon of the 29th Judicial District Court in Hahnville.
Nestled in an out of the way part of the parish next to a duck hunting camp in Paradis is a new center where drug offenders in St. Charles Parish are offered a way to do community service that is not only a help to the community at large, but also to themselves.

This is the site of the newly opened second office of the Humble Hearts Association that serves participants of the drug court program that has been offered in St. Charles Parish criminal courts since 2001.

Drug court is a 16 to 18 month program meant to help participants avoid jail time by taking part on outpatient counseling, court appearances, meetings for addiction problems, drug testing and offers ways for participants to obtain a GED and gain and hold steady employment.

Donna Miller founded Humble Hearts Association six years ago as a prison ministry to reach, and attempt to help, those incarcerated across the country. Although she was already serving the population of Nelson Coleman Correctional Facility through the organization’s first office based out of Fellowship Community Church in Bayou Gauche, Miller and the Humble Hearts Association opened the new office to focus solely on offering life skill training to local drug offenders and provide a more immediate community impact.

Through the newly opened office, Humble Hearts offers drug court participants anger management, parenting and financial planning classes that help them fulfill goals set out by the drug court program.

“They get a certificate too so they can bring that to the judge. It gives them a sense of accomplishment that they have achieved something. Maybe they have never achieved anything ever and now they have something they did,” Miller said.

Although Miller said the stigma attached to working with drug offenders may turn other charitable organizations off - and the rate of recovery for those she has helped through Humble Hearts not been as high as what she would have hoped - she feels that if she can reach a few people through her efforts then it is all worth it.

“When you’ve been doing this so long you get discouraged because other people don’t care and you are trying to get them to care about something that is so frowned upon.

Sometimes you get discouraged because you find the person you have been helping goes back, but it is the one out of 100 that you do help,” she said.

Miller said what she is trying to accomplish is to help people put their lives back together so they can overcome addiction issues and be reintegrated into the community.

“I am just trying to give back to the community to make it a safer place for everybody and I’m hoping that through my influence on the people I do talk to that they would change their life around,” Miller said.

Miller points to a recent law that was passed in the 2014 Louisiana legislature that creates a minimum mandatory two-year sentence for those charged with simple heroin possession as what the state should not be doing.

“At least try to give them the opportunity to change because at least they might change. If they would just take those people and let me deal with a couple of them at a time instead of sending them back I feel I can help them and then if not they can put them in jail. Don’t just throw them in jail for two years,” she said.  

Miller said it just makes sense to her for those in the program to work on themselves.

“I just feel that a community service should be giving back to their recovery. Instead of working at the animal shelter for one day, they should come out of it with life skills,” she said. “Mine is community service with a twist.”

In the end, Miller said she is just happy to have the chance to help.

“I am just grateful that Judge (Lauren) Lemmon and Judge (Michele) Morel have given me the opportunity to do what I can do,” she said.  

In addition to opening the new office, Humble Hearts was just recently granted non-profit status and is currently seeking donations. Miller said that in particular the new office needs computers for training sessions with drug court participants.

“If companies or individuals want to get involved they can contact me,” she said. “If they have used laptops we need them.”

If you would like to get involved with Humble Hearts by providing a donation, volunteering or inviting Miller to your church to speak, she be reached at (714) 348-1307 or by mail at P.O. Box 1475, Paradis, LA 70080.

View other articles written Kyle Barnett

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