is this year's top honoree among the Jefferson Award nominees.Flores
used to be a heroin addict , but he
ways and now operates New Life Fellowship Home and New Life Church
Thirty-five years ago , Jose Luis Flores was a heroin addict who lived in abandoned buildings.But Flores
has changed a lot over the years - for the better.And he
has helped others in the same kinds of situations change for the better.Largely through Flores' efforts , hundreds of people in Corpus Christi have found stable lives after battling alcoholism , drug addiction and homelessness.Flores became a pastor in 1981 and now operates New Life Fellowship Home in Corpus Christi
.New Life treats about 1 , 000 drug addicts and alcoholics , free , at its five locations around the city , with a main home at 1207 Craig St..I see people change.This is my reward , Flores
said.When I see a person that was on the streets , sleeping on the streets or going without family and work for years , and I see them . . . getting work , getting restored to their full potential , it's very rewarding..He
was rewarded again Friday when he
received the top honor in the Caller-Times/Channel
6 Jefferson Awards program.He
was among 10 medallion winners and 39 honorees who were recognized through the program.He
is now automatically one of the nationwide candidates for the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service Benefiting Local Communities.Five people will be selected for that award during a gala June 12 in Washington , D.C..The gala is to be hosted by the American Institute for Public Service
.Joe Gonzales , 54 , said he
fears what would have become of him without Flores
The home introduced him to Jesus , and Flores
started to guide him , and he
started to listen.I thank God for him.He's
been a good father to me..
began using heroin when he
was 13 and living in Puerto Rico.Four years later , he
moved with an uncle to Chicago.But he
kept using heroin.For several months , he
was so destitute that he
was living in abandoned buildings.Heroin became my God , my father , my mother , everything , Flores
said.It was a $100-a-day habit.I lived just for that.It was hell.I was alive , but I was dead.I was sick when I didn't have the drug in my system. . . . And I had to go to the street to find my next fix..'A very dangerous life'
It was a very dangerous life , Flores
said.At any moment , they can kill you.You can't live in certain areas.I didn't care too much for anyone's life or even my own.I was blind.I had become insensitive..But Flores' life began to change for the better when he
was about 23.
I was tired of living the way I was living , Flores
said.Not long after the encounter , Flores moved to San Antonio and joined Victory Life , a faith-based program that reaches out to people on the streets
.That's where he
met Freddie Garcia , a pastor who eventually became Flores'
took me to his
house and took care of me and taught me and sent me to school , and he
trained me for the work I'm doing now , Flores
prayed for me and told me my problem was not drugs.My problem was my sinful nature.I found God's love and people who really cared for me..Flores finished the Victory Life program in six months and then attended Latin American Bible School near Los Angeles
.He became a minister
.Flores came to Corpus Christi in 1981 and founded New Life Fellowship Home
.As many as 50 men and women live at the home's facilities at any given time.Flores
and more than 20 volunteer caregivers - all of whom previously were clients who completed the home's program - work one-on-one with clients.'Spiritual therapy'
Jose Luis Flores was named the top honoree at the luncheon honoring this year's Jefferson Award volunteers.
tries to instill in each client a sense of responsibility , a work ethic and a love of God.Clients hear Bible stories of people lifted out of criminal behavior through God.We use the Bible like a spiritual therapy , Flores
said.The spirit of God changes the person.We don't see it , but we feel it..Working with the clients is a tough job , he
said.These people have been neglected , Flores
said.They have been abandoned.The people become hard.They don't trust.You need to win their trust.We become friends first.And then , after that , when you made him your friend , you can tell him his
condition : You are a drug addict.
This work is not easy , Flores
said.This is work.We are on the front line.This is a very hard ministry.If you're not called to do it , don't do it.If you don't feel it , don't do it , because you will be a failure.You need to want to do it..
About 60 percent of clients complete the program , which lasts six to nine months , said Flores' wife , Lucy Flores
, who does administrative work for New Life Fellowship Home.Flores
caregivers have an advantage because they have gone through the pain of addiction themselves , and clients know that.We lived the life , Flores
said.We understand them , the way they think , where they're coming from..
Contact Dan Parker at 886-3618 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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