After 21 years, the Live and Kicking Winners Circle of Tyler — a program that serves those who have been in prison or are recovering from addiction — finally has a permanent home.

The group hosted a ribbon cutting at the new site, 1505 Texas College Road, with city and county officials, as well as supporters and people who have been through their recovery programs.

Tyler Winners Circle's mission is to "break the chains of addictions and criminal thinking — thereby changing and saving lives."

"If we can change their thinking, we can change their lives," Executive Director Eric Broughton said.

The recovery center plans to accomplish this by educating, preventing and intervening in addictive and criminal behavior for youth and former inmates.

Deerdra McCloud started the Tyler chapter of Winners Circle in 1994 upon her return to Tyler after a stint in prison. The group's first meetings were in her cousin's record shop.

Like many of the members, the group has seen its own setbacks. Over the course of its existence, the group has moved into a series of temporary locations and then at one point found a home of its own, only to see the city change zoning rules to prohibit recovery centers in residential areas.

The group bounced back and eventually found the means to establish a permanent recovery center.

For years a nightclub sat on the site of the new center, which Winners Circle members said was notorious for criminal activity.

"You could get anything you want," McCloud said during her speech. "Now God is doing for people what they couldn't do for themselves."

Now, with the help of the city, Thompson Construction and donors, a recovery center for those in need sits on the same ground.

"From a place of dope to a place of hope is the point of Winners Circle of Tyler," Broughton said.

The center started as an old portable unit from Griffin Elementary School, and with the help of Thompson Construction, it has nearly doubled in size.

The group is still in need of supplies to aid its members in recovery and reintegration into society, such as office supplies, computers and desks.

"I couldn't begin to fathom or estimate how many people they've helped. This group not only helps families, but they have programs to help youths with incarcerated parents," City Councilman Darryl Bowdre said.

Bowdre has worked with the Winners Circle for 17 years. He said he has watched some of the members transform their lives and become productive members of society.

He credits the program's success to its stance on personal accountability and self-reflection.

"The winners circle is a unique, one-of-a-kind program. Their main ingredient is accountability," Bowdre said. "With that accountability, they're taught teamwork and how to work together, and all these years and this finished product here today is proof positive of what they can accomplish."

Smith County Judge Joel Baker presented the group with a resolution of support from the Smith County Commissioners Court and said he considers the program one of the most successful in the county. Mayor Pro Tem Ed Moore presented the group with a proclamation from the city. Mayor Martin Heines also was in attendance.

"Drugs and alcohol are simply a symptom of a deeper problem," Bowdre said. "What the Winners Circle does is peel back the layers of that onion and get to the meat of the problem. That challenges them to own up to what their real problems are and deal with them."

For more information about the Live and Kicking Winners Circle of Tyler, call 903-780-5456.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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