ADVANCE, Mo. (KFVS) - If you see someone struggling with substance abuse or homelessness do you look the other way, or do you open your home to help them? This month’s Everyday Hero has made it his mission in life to help the lost find a path to a better life.
Every day for the last nine years the doors to the Amen Center in Advance, Missouri have opened to those who often find all other doors closed to them.
“When we first opened there was eight grownups and 22 kids within the first six months,” said Amen Center founder Danny Hollowell. “Everybody said we didn’t have a homeless problem, but we do.”
Thousands of people who are either down on their luck or trapped in the cycle of addiction have found their way to the Amen Center looking for help.
“We’ve had them here from Alaska. We’ve had them here from St. Louis. We’ve had them here from Alabama. They come from me everywhere,” said Hollowell. “We try to get them back on their feet and help them do the best we can to get them jobs and get them back into community. Teach them new ways."
The reason they come to the Amen Center is to get a second chance. That’s something that Hollowell understands better than most.
“If you’ve not been in that drug system or that drinking system it’s kind of hard to understand,” said Hollowell.
Hollowell’s own struggles with substance abuse landed him on the wrong side of the law in his thirties with a criminal record for drug charges.
“I went to prison for two and a half years, myself,” said Hollowell. “I went to my own hometown and nobody wanted to give me another chance. You know – you’re bad you’re gonna stay bad. That’s not right. The Lord opened my heart in a different way, and I love the people who is down and out because that was me.”
Hollowell said that is his calling - to love his neighbor as himself.
“I tried everything that was wrong, and the Lord told me one day, ‘Son, you always run and dive into what’s wrong, why don’t you try wading into something that’s right,'” said Hollowell. “So I get my feet wet a little bit everyday trying to get closer to him. And he is amazing. I watch people come here and say I can’t do that I’m a felon. Well I was too. God can open doors in your life that are just unbelievable.”
Hollowell found his mission 14 years ago when he and his wife Shirley opened their home to a complete stranger.
“I was lost. Every door was closed to me,” said recovering addict Grady Perkins. “Danny picked me up off the streets and I moved into their home in Cape Girardeau. I was strung out on crack cocaine. I’ve been clean 14 years now.”
Perkins said he can’t imagine where he would be now had Hollowell not stepped in to help him all those years ago.
“I was addicted for many years,” said Perkins. “I can remember eating out of dumpsters. I can remember sleeping in the park. I can remember sleeping on steps at crack motels. I can remember walking up and down the street with no coat – cold. And I always think about how I could have been. My addiction was very strong.”
Now Perkins has a home of his own, a loving wife, and a very happy life.
“I get emotional when I think about how God has turned my life around,” Perkins said. “You know, I really, really thank God so much for Danny. I know it’s not him, it’s God working through him, but he has had a great impact on my life.”
Toby Smalley found the Amen Center in 2013 after he said he nearly drank himself to death.
“This place saved my life,” Smalley said. “My mother passed away. My third marriage fell apart. I commenced doing a lot of drinking and I ended up in a place in Hayti and they called Ms. Shirley [Hollowell]. And the first question Ms. Shirley asked me is, ‘why do you want to come here?’ And I told her I want to live. So with the help of Danny – God finally showed me his purpose for my life. Which is this place.”
Now, Smalley works at the Amen Center helping others the way Hollowell and his wife helped him.
“I’ve been addicted to drugs. I’ve been an alcoholic. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been down a lot of dirty and dark roads and I understand a lot and I’m learning a lot as I go along here. My brothers and sisters teach me something new every day,” Smalley said.
Hollowell said that’s the goal of the Amen Center: to change one life at a time, one day at a time.
“I can’t help everyone – but I try to help the ones I can,” said Hollowell. “That’s what we’re here for. To lead them in the right direction to get them out of all this turmoil that’s out in the world. Show them that things are better. But you’ve gotta go for it. You’ve gotta fight the good fight.”
To receive help at the Amen Center, Hollowell said everyone must undergo a background check. While a criminal record is not a problem, an active warrant is. He said he won’t hide anyone. He said he just wants to lead them the light.
The Amen Center operates entirely on donations. If you’d like to support the Amen Center you can donate via PayPal through their website, or mail a check to: Amen Center, P.O. Box 159, Delta MO. 63744.