Grant helps center for homeless veterans
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
10/23/12 at 6:08 AM
Whenever Ralph walks across the fresh, clean carpets or uses his newly renovated bathroom, he will feel the appreciation.
And Ralph, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, said the new, clean wares will create an atmosphere to help continue his recovery.
"It's not something you hear every day, it's something you'll see," said Ralph, who asked that his last name not be used.
A $4,700 grant in materials and labor from Home Depot to 12&12 will renovate all the bathrooms in the 31-bed transitional living center, deep-clean all the carpets in the apartments and complete landscaping around the facility. Fifty Home Depot associates and the 33 men at the facility tackled most of the work Saturday, with three bathroom remodels left to complete this weekend.
It's the first major renovation since the Bryce House was converted in 2006 to a center focused on recovery and treatment for homeless male veterans battling addiction.
"All are things that are needed," said Bryan Day, 12&12's executive director. "They are going to get some work done."
Ralph has been at Bryce House and clean and sober since April 2010, giving him stability that has been fleeting in his life.
After he left the Marines in 1977, he got married and held a job for about nine years.
"Things just slowly over the years started getting worse, because I was always rebellious," Ralph said. "And I like to party. I liked to drink, I like to smoke weed. It never really got me in trouble."
Then he racked up several DUI arrests in a row.
"Things were getting way out of hand, and I didn't know what to do about it so I just kept on," Ralph said.
A judge ordered him to a recovery program in Texas, which he said helped him tremendously. It kept him clean and sober for five years.
Then he decided to come back to Oklahoma.
"Big mistake," Ralph said. "I should have never come back."
He got back in with the old crowd and got back to old habits. Soon another DUI was on his record.
He sold everything, quit his job, lost his driver's license, and his wife filed for divorce. And his sons didn't want anything to do with him.
"This last time was the worst of all, I think," Ralph said. "It took its toll. Probably more emotionally than anything."
He had hit bottom again. With no other options or ways out, he went to the Muskogee VA center. There they told him about Bryce House and the recovery process at 12&12.
He went to the center about 9 a.m. and was in the recovery program by that afternoon.
"I don't know where I would be right now if I wasn't here," Ralph said about Bryce House. "I didn't even know it existed until I came to Tulsa."
Wally Bryce, chairman of the 12&12 board of directors and the son of the 12&12's founder, Walter Bryce, said Bryce House provides critical care for veterans, a mission close to his family's heart.
"This is one of the best kept secrets in Tulsa," Wally Bryce said. "This addiction isn't just veterans, it's a plague upon the state. It's our way of helping."
Bryce House is funded by VA grants, but additional work in upkeep can be expensive, Day said.
"When you're making progress like this, maintaining our status and our facilities is expensive," he said. "Help from the community is key for us. It lets us keep operating."
Ralph said the appreciation and care shown to him here has been part of his recovery.
"Since I've been in Tulsa, I've noticed something I haven't seen all these years," he said. "I don't know how many times I've had people come up to me to say thank you. I never heard that before. Then you get people like Home Depot, where saying thank you isn't enough."
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Vietnam War Army veteran Quintin Downey watches as Home Depot employee and volunteer Jonathan Cherry helps with renovations at the Bryce House in Tulsa last week. The 12&12 group received a nearly $5,000 grant to renovate the transitional facility for homeless veterans. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Home Depot employee volunteers and veterans work together on renovations at the Bryce House in Tulsa, a center focused on recovery and treatment for homeless male veterans battling addiction. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World