David Partin’s Hope Building experience is a testament to the success of the program. After completing his training, David has gone on to secure full-time employment in Knott County. Read more about his story - in his own words - in the interview below.
David Partin (at left) with fellow Hope Building trainee Gary Mcintyre
How did you end up being a part of the Hope Building program at the Housing Development Alliance? DAVID: “I had been at Hickory Hill (Recovery Center) once before. It was my only real time with sobriety. I got into a lot of trouble when I was younger - mostly because of using. I was just your basic troubled child, man. I’ve got two sisters, and neither one has ever had any kind of addiction or anything like that. I had a pretty decent childhood. A better one than most of my friends had, really. So, I had no real reason to turn to something like that and really just made a life of that for a long time.
“My parole officer wanted me to get help, and it just happened to be at this recovery center up here (Hickory Hill). I went through the first phase of the program, and long story short, I ended up leaving there and had a relapse not long after that. Then, I went to WestCare out in Pikeville. I messed that up. I was there about 4 months and left there. About two weeks later, I ended up right back at Hickory Hill.
“I think it took me getting a taste of how really bad things could get. Like, how good I really had it at Hickory Hill. It was a lot different to me than anywhere else I had been, and I’ve been to a couple different ones. Seeing the guys come in and tell their stories, the guys that worked there – they have a lot of meetings where they have speakers who come from all over the state. That’s when I really started to slow down and take a look at things. I didn’t think that being clean was for me, that it was possible for me. I hadn’t bought into it. So, somewhere along three or four months in I started to open my mind to it, put some thought into it, and learn what others were doing. I started surrounding myself with the guys who seemed to want what I wanted – you know, the winners. It seemed like when I had something I was going through or something I wanted to talk about, they were always there. It just kind of worked out like that.
“I’d been at Hickory Hill probably about a year (and had gotten to a good place in my recovery). I was just stagnating where I was at. I wasn’t working. I was working on and off for a guy up there. Nothing really that you could really call part-time or anything. And I asked Mike (Nix) about what I should do, because I got to where I would ask people who were further along in recovery and whatever they’d tell me seemed to work out. So, he was talking about this program at HDA called Hope Building. It was just getting kicked off. Me and a buddy of mine were pretty much in the same position – we’d been there doing what all we could do, we’d got back, done our terms, and were just waiting in Phase 2, so we both signed up the same day. When it finally came around that they were ready to start it and put it together, it just took off.”
What did you think about Hope Building, when you first heard about it?
DAVID: Well, I was skeptical, because I hadn’t really done a lot of construction work or anything. And then, they brought us in and introduced us to Matt (Pratt) and Lonnie (Walker), the HDA carpenters that we would be working under. I don’t know – it’s just the atmosphere that it created. It was a laid back kind of conversation between us, when they interviewed us. I knew it was going to be okay right then. You know, I really think those two guys (Matt and Lonnie) are great! You’ve got a great couple of guys over Hope Building. They’re willing to let you make mistakes. They’ve got patience like you wouldn’t believe. They’ve got a real good way of working with you and showing you how to do things. It just worked out really well.
HDA Carpenters Matt Pratt and Lonnie Walker (at center) instruct the trainees in roofing.
Did you learn the construction techniques quickly?
DAVID: I had been around that kind of work a little bit in my past – the tools and the lifestyle that comes along with doing that kind of work. So, it wasn’t completely new, but if nothing else, I learned how a different crew would do it a different way. It opened my mind up to a lot of easier ways to get things done. And I think getting along with those two made it a lot easier, too. Just that we could share a lot of different things other than work. They’re good storytellers, and I enjoy a good story. As far as a lot of things I hadn’t done, anybody can use a hammer and a nail, but when it goes to the cutwork, the sheeting, the flooring – when you get right down to what all goes into a house and you do it all from start to finish, it’s a really big feeling to achieve something like that. You look back at it, and it’s beautiful. It really is.
Do you feel like it’s prepared you to have a job beyond the program?
DAVID: It has. It’s given me the confidence to be able to meet new people, and it’s given me confidence to pay my own bills and do things on my own. To be able to get together and do things with people even outside of the workforce – a lot of times, we’d clown around and stuff out back and that’s part of what I knew I was missing all along - just a different type of group of friends. It kind of makes you feel whole, in a sense.
Has the program helped you with your recovery? DAVID: Definitely. Usually, in that type of field, it seems like a lot of construction sites are filled with that type of thing – drug abuse and addiction. You see a lot of that around. I don’t know where else you could go to and work with a bunch of people and nobody there is using. And you know they’re not. That never has to cross your mind – that somebody’s going to say something about using or anything like that. It’s weird now when I look back at it, how it all just fell into place. It’s like a God thing. It’ll probably never happen again in my life, so it really stands out. It’s a beautiful experience.
David at work. The photo in the bottom right is of David with his fellow trainees and the HDA carpenters who guide the on-site training.
Have you been supported by other trainees and staff?
DAVID: Oh yeah. We were on that job, and we had people coming up to look at the things we’d finished and things we still needed to do. Scott (McReynolds - HDA Executive Director) has shown up on the job quite a few times. Judge Alison Wells (Perry Circuit Judge) has visited. Just seeing people mix – people who are on our level and from a different background, a different level, it just makes it seem possible. I used to think differently, you know – if a person was an officer, for example, I thought that you were so different from me, but it’s not really like that, if you give it a chance. There’s good people on both sides. The stigma hurts us the most. If we can be just a little part in changing that – in people coming together, because that’s what it’s going to take, especially in small areas like this. We have to give each other a chance. That’s not done enough, and I think this program is a perfect example of that.
Do the people who live near the house (the construction site in Emmalena) ever stop by and talk to you guys?
DAVID: They do. I think it means a lot for them to look at the completed house and see that we can complete a job on time and efficiently.
What would you say to people who are afraid to purchase the home because of its proximity to Hickory Hill Recovery Center? (NOTE: This Hope Building home sold earlier this year.)
DAVID: I would say they need to open their minds and see us in the community doing what we’re doing. We all need to unite and come together, because doing something together is so much easier and so much quicker than when we’re pulling against each other. This program is a perfect example of when that’s done, you can look back and good things happen on both sides. It’s a win for everybody – you’re building a home for a low to middle-income family who’s probably really, really needing it. These are energy efficient homes. They’ve got the best in them. I just don’t see how you could go wrong! If those negative voices could just hush for a minute and let somebody run this whole thing by them, it would have to make sense to them. If they would just open up and listen to it … They would see that it’s possible – that it does work, if they’ll just let it.
What’s a typical work day like in Hope Building?
DAVID: Every day, it’s learning something new. Sometimes, they’d split the crew up and part of us would work on digging the footer and the rest would work at another site. We haven’t worked on things like wiring and plumbing, but as far as framing, putting it together, and finishing the houses - we did it.
What did you think when you saw the finished product?
DAVID: It felt awesome. It makes you proud. It gives you confidence. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something. And that’s what we (the trainees, who are in recovery) have always been missing anyway. That’s a lot of it really. That’s a huge step right there. It helps you open up, as a person. That first house has been a long time coming. I mean, we had so many struggles. So many things happened from point A to point B. So many stop signs and things that slowed us down! The footer was a beast, which was Day One.
A lot of times, I had to realize that things aren’t going to be perfect. It’s like recovery - recovery is kind of like the rough part of framing. As long as you’re within a quarter of an eighth of an inch or whatever, put a nail in it. It’s going to work out; it’s going to be okay. That’s like life – it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s not the end, if you have to put something together just to (move on). Just take it a piece at a time. I think about how far I’ve come, like all the things I’ve put back together in my life now. Like my relationship with my family – my mother and father, specifically. I realize now that some things – just in the waiting period (in the recovery journey) – there’s time in between there and there’s nothing you can do with that time. It just takes time to get better.
What does your family think about what you’ve accomplished?
DAVID: They’re the big guys on your Facebook page! They’re always commenting. They love it. They are very supportive. They want me back around home, but they realize now that being away from there - the geographical distance - is very important. It’s important for me to stick it out and stay at Hickory Hill. And it does get rough, man! I’m by myself, and now and then, I feel like I’ve jumped out into something that’s a little too high for me and I’ve struggled. But the people I’ve got around me now, the guys at Hickory Hill – they catch me every time. Now, it’s a bigger circle, with the people here in Hope Building, and now that I’m finished with the training program, I just don’t know how I’m going to feel about not seeing this crew every day.
NOTE: David now has a full-time job at Hickory Hill. He’s a Monitor, which is a very important job at the Recovery Center and involves helping other men navigate life in recovery.
How do you feel about having a new, full-time job and one that’s so important?
DAVID: It’s a big responsibility, and I know I’m going to learn a lot. As the men progress at Hickory Hill, I’ll get to know a lot of them on a personal level. I’ll learn a lot about their lives, and hopefully, I can add something to them that would work out in a positive way. And they’re going to help me in the same way, because that was me that came there that first day – broken and sick and disgusted and tired and all those things that come with you in your bags and whatever you bring. But it’s going to work out.
Do you agree that a job is crucial to staying in recovery?
DAVID: Definitely. It’s one more responsibility. It’s a way of life. It’s what everybody here does every day – they get up, suit up, and show up to do their job, whatever that job is. It’s paying your way through life. You just have to put the time in. That’s the thing that helps the most, I think – people expect you there, so you get there.
Hope Building's first completed home. The home sold in Spring 2020.
Would you recommend this program to others?
DAVID: We’ve actually got information about Hope Building plastered up on a bulletin board at Hickory Hill! There’s already a lot of questions about it. The guys are really wanting to get all the details, see what’s becoming of it and how it’s working out. Really, me and (fellow Hope Building trainee) Bobby (Partin - no relation) started at the same time, so we’ve got to see that this program is real, it’s true, and it’s working out. The education part of it is a big, important thing, too, to a lot of people. So, really, it’s a win all the way around.
It’s good to be doing something. Even if it’s in the mud, the wind and the rain – I’d rather be out doing something that I could look back on and tell that I actually put something together. So, you get a lot of pleasure out of working with Hope Building. It’s made a big difference in my life, and I would recommend it to anybody. To anybody that’s sitting still, man, and feels like they’re not growing: you definitely need to move into something like this!