DEBBI “MA DEB” McClure accepts a donation from Syrah Technologies. Almost Home is a faith-based, addiction recovery ministry. Pictured are Sandi Burley, Concordia Parish Police Jury secretary/treasurer, McClure, Richard Young, Shanari Taylor, both from Rig Masters and Anne Duncan, vice president of USA processing operations for Syrah Technologies. (Sentinel photo by Joe Curtis)

Ma Deb’s family includes men, women, all colors, shapes, sizes and backgrounds. They may differ in appearance and socio-economic backgrounds, but they all have two things in common: they have been affected by drug and alcohol abuse and Ma Deb’s love.

Debbi McClure, executive director of Almost Home, considers the people who her organization serves family, and the majority of those participants consider her a quasi-mother, hence her name “Ma Deb.”

“The bottom line is love,” Ma Deb said. “You just love them. You got to be very, very structured. You got to be very, very tough but you got to show them love.”

Almost Home is a faith-based rehabilitation center based in Jonesville, housing men and women (in different facilities) who suffer from addiction. The program has four houses, a church plus two smaller “houses” in the back.

“I call it Almost Home because it is almost home,” Ma Deb said.

Almost Home averages 50 “family members” in the program.  Participants stay in the program for 90 days but some have stayed as long as 19 months. Length of stay can be longer, and is up to participants whether or not they feel “comfortable” with being on their own and not going back to the devastating lifestyle of drug abuse.

Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous classes are offered to program participants and the public at the program’s church. Other classes such as parenting, grief, anger and abandonment are also offered.

Participants also go through intensive out-patient programs by licensed Christian counselors.

While conducting a recent tour of Almost Home facilities, she tidies up a nearly immaculate bedroom. She tucks in a minuscule portion of blue jeans peaking out of a drawer and straightens an already linear picture. 

She runs a tight ship and structured program with militaristic precision and organization, and the people in the program love her and her strict rules. 

“I don’t play because you can’t,” Ma Deb said.

Program participants are required to perform daily tasks such as keeping their rooms clean including making their beds, performing chores around the home, and they work regular jobs.

As far as the made beds, “Messy beds equals messy minds,” she said. “They’re busy all the time.” 

Each room has three or four bunk beds, drawers and some have chairs.

The previous home owners “just thought they were building (the home) for themselves,” she said, laughing.

Each bedroom in the main house is dedicated to a family’s lost loved ones. Families donate time and money and each of the four bedrooms have been redone with new furniture.

The middle room is dedicated to a very special person, dear to Ma Deb’s heart: Her daughter, Leslie Wilson, who was tragically killed in a 2016 car accident. She was 40.

Along with various home chores, participants are able to work “regular jobs.” They start out working at Almost Home’s thrift store.

“We started them out in the Thrift Store,” she said. “We can tell if they are good workers in case we send them out.”

While working at the thrift store and other jobs, money earned goes toward participants’ back child support and various fines.

Men and women participating in the program soon graduate into outside jobs such as Rig Masters, a local business in Monterey. A Rig Master crew with some Almost Home participants recently worked at Syrah Technologies in Vidalia.

Anne Duncan, vice president of USA Processing Operations for Syrah,  said the group was pleasant and worked hard.

Duncan was so impressed she presented Almost Home with a monetary donation to help with the monthly expenses.

Ma Deb admits in 2018 when she began, she had no monetary support from businesses or people, but she felt led by God to branch out into a new ministry.

“I was doing prison ministry, and people would tell me one hour is not enough,” Ma Deb said. “They would say: ‘When I leave from here I am going to go back to the same crack house that I left out of, and I will be back in jail.’”

She gives all the credit to God.

“The Lord just opened up for me to get this,” she said, looking at the house. “I was coming back from Jasper, Texas, and I just felt the need to come and get started. The doors just started opening up.”

The program receives no government funds. It is run by the generosity of churches, people and companies such as Syrah and Rig Pro. There are volunteers and Almost Home employees house mothers and men who work two weeks on and two weeks off.

Ma Deb, a former missionary, is confident God will continue to bless her program and “family.”

“The Lord led me into this,” she said. “He has me here, so I can still be doing missionary work. Now, He just brings people to me.”

To donate to Almost Home, interested people may call (318) 339-7789 or mail checks to P.O Box 1120, Jonesville, LA 71343.

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