NC home offers haven to drug addicts, alcoholics

  • Posted: Monday, March 11, 2013 12:43 a.m.
    UPDATED: Monday, March 11, 2013 12:44 a.m.
Journal Photo by Lauren Carroll---11/14/2012---Solus Christus residents Lisa Matheson, left, and Montonya Sauls, right, hold hands during a prayer before lunch at the farm Wednesday, November 14, 2012.
Journal Photo by Lauren Carroll---11/14/2012---Solus Christus residents Lisa Matheson, left, and Montonya Sauls, right, hold hands during a prayer before lunch at the farm Wednesday, November 14, 2012.

EAST BEND (AP) — The six-acre farm Randy and Paula Borton moved to in 2007 looks a lot like those belonging to their neighbors in eastern Yadkin County.

The living space inside the rambling, five-bedroom farmhouse is tidy and neatly kept. The kitchen is spacious, well-used and inviting; the adjacent dining room holds a large table more than adequate for feeding a large family.

Outside, the Bortons keep an assortment of animals — chickens, goats and alpacas (small llamas) — and a good-sized vegetable garden. The grass stays mowed and the flower beds weeded. Leaves, as soon as they fall, are blown into neat piles.

Picnic tables, a swing hanging from a large tree near the road and a hand-crafted sign announcing the name of the farm, Solus Christus, round out an idyllic scene worthy of a postcard.

There is one thing that distinguishes the Bortons’ farm from others. They’re not raising a family, not in the traditional sense. Nor are they terribly interested in growing crops.

They’re trying to save the lost souls of drug addicts and alcoholics.

There was no one bolt of lightning, no road to Damascus moment that caused the Bortons to dedicate their lives to what some might think is a losing proposition.

Rather, it was a gradual process, a persistent calling that led them to plunk down $220,000 at a real-estate auction in 2007.

“Paula always had the heart for mission work,” said Randy Borton, 60, one recent afternoon while sitting under a shade tree at Solus Christus. “Me, my heart was always after doing business. I wanted to build my kingdom here on earth.”

And build he did. Randy Borton left his native Michigan in 1979, headed to Florida with $13,000 — his life’s savings — and a plan to open a doughnut shop. A little more than three years later, he had six stores selling doughnuts and pizza to snowbirds.

“It just shows you how driven I was to succeed in business,” he said. “I worked night and day to accomplish that.”

He sold them in 1983, and decided the next year to move to Winston-Salem to be closer to Paula’s relatives. They moved into in a seven-bedroom, four-bath home in the West End neighborhood, and Randy Borton set about looking for his next business opportunity. Eventually he decided to manufacture and market snack cakes, a business he still runs in Winston-Salem. “In my late 40s or early 50s, I started to feel God’s pull in my heart,” Randy Borton said. “I continued to live my life the way I had before but I knew my time was running out.”

At some point, a verse from Matthew 13 caught his eye.

Making a decision

“The kingdom of heaven is life treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

“Let me put it this way,” he said. “I was not running in my joy to sell what I had.”

But he was thinking. And that was a start.

About 10 years ago, Randy Borton made a decision. He would listen to that internal pull and do something different.

“I asked God to change my life so I didn’t die with regrets,” he said.

The next day, he says, he met a man on the street and struck up a conversation. The man was a cocaine addict; he’d been living in a rooming house for years, surrounded by others caught in the same cycle.

Randy Borton was touched by the man’s persistence and offered him a room in his house in the West End to help remove him from temptation. Soon, a second man — this one a heroin addict looking for a place to stay until a spot opened in a rehabilitation center — moved in, too.

“I tell people that Noah built the ark and took in his charges two by two,” he said. “At one point we had 20 sleeping on floors in our house.”

For five years, the Bortons opened their home. They learned the ins and outs of the legal system, and learned much about the world of clinics and rehab centers. There is almost always a wait to get a bed in rehab; finding a serene, safe place to stay until then is difficult.

“If they want help, there is a short window of time to find it,” said Paula Borton. “The wait can be three or four months.”

Throughout the learning process, the Bortons figured out that women almost always have it tougher than men and that fewer resources targeted females with addiction problems.

At that point, the mission became clear. The Bortons needed to open a safe place for women who want help with their addictions and combine it with their deep Christian faith.

A bridge

“We wanted it to serve as a sort of bridge until we can find them a spot in a Christian rehab center,” Paula Borton said.

The next step for the Bortons was expanding. They learned about the property in Yadkin County and decided to attend the auction in fall 2007.

“We showed up with the $220,000 figure in mind,” Randy Borton said. “We got within $2,000 (at $218,000) and I said, ‘This is my last bid.”’

The Bortons offered the $220,000. No one matched, and the gavel came down. Sold to the couple from Winston-Salem.

What happened over the next few weeks defies conventional explanation. Paula Borton incorporated Solus Christus as a nonprofit and they started to work transforming the house and grounds.

Little by little, things started happening. Furnishings showed up. A 12-passenger van and a pickup truck were donated. Church groups started coming by to offer help; a new roof, front porch and a sidewalk were added. Fencing for the animals was built.

One afternoon while the Bortons were painting inside, a man pulled up in a large truck and started pouring a new gravel driveway.

“He said he’d been clean for 20 years and had heard about what we were doing,” Randy Borton said. “We never asked for a thing. Everything we needed showed up in two weeks. It just happened.”

The next summer, a group from Pinedale Christian Church in Winston-Salem came by to see what could be done. The members wound up constructing a 1,500-square foot activity building complete with offices, restrooms and meeting space.

All the while, the Bortons were taking in women seeking to help themselves. Soon their contacts in Christian rehab centers began referring women on their waiting lists. The project snowballed.

Since 2007, more than 450 women have come through Solus Christus.

While they’re waiting for a place in rehab, the women at the farm do chores for three hours a day. They take classes taught by volunteers and study their Bibles. They support and encourage one another.

“Until I got here, I didn’t have peace in my heart,” said Sandra Butler, 45, a recovering alcoholic from Bladen County, who has since joined the staff. “This means everything to me. This ministry is my heart. When I saw how they’d given up their lives, I knew this was real.”

In exchange, the Bortons ask that the women (or their loved ones) come up with $50 a week. But that’s no deal-breaker; no one truly seeking help is turned away. Donations are always welcome, and the Bortons opened a thrift store by the same name in downtown Winston-Salem to help raise money to support the farm. There are still obstacles. Fuel and food are expensive. And the tranquility of the farm is occasionally broken by dust-ups caused by women burdened by the stress of detoxification and making wholesale changes to their lives.

But whatever the difficulties, the payoff is well worth it.

“To see the change in these women’s lives is incredible,” said Paula Borton.

“This is a wonderful thing to be part of,” said Randy Borton, finishing the thought for his wife. “Christ is walking among the least of us, women who are dealing with the biggest struggle of their lives. God shows up fastest for them.”

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