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Karen Foxx describes turnaround from crack addict to pastor

EAST SPENCER — Karen Foxx says she has come from prostitution, homelessness and drug addiction to co-found a church, write a book, have five children and marry her first love.

“Whenever you want to change, you can do that,” Foxx said matter-of-factly.

Foxx, a Salisbury native, hit her breaking point when she sat down to light a crack pipe and the wind knocked the cocaine off the pipe. Two more times, she placed a crack rock onto the pipe and the wind blew it off.

Foxx said that was her wake-up call. It was all she needed to accept Jesus Christ into her heart, and she’s never turned back, she said.

She got on her knees and prayed because she knew she couldn’t help herself.

“God has a way of getting your attention,” Foxx said. “I was tired of being a prostitute, a liar, a lesbian. I said God, there has to be a better way.”

‘Rocky’ childhood

Foxx grew up without a father in her life but had her mother and siblings. She admits her childhood was “rocky,” and she was molested at an early age.

Foxx said she had been so abused by men that she decided if they were going to use her for sex, she may as well get paid for it. She started prostituting herself, which she said led to an addiction to money and eventually drugs.

In her book, “From Crack Addict to Pastor,” Foxx wrote that she tried crack for the first time to please a boyfriend. He smoked, so she tried it. It made her sick and she said it wasn’t for her.

Foxx said she tried drugs again and did not like it. She dabbled in drugs even though her boyfriend Billy, who is now her husband, told her not to. She tried drugs anyway and was hooked.

Her addiction resulted in her electricity being turned off at home and giving custody of her son to her mother. Foxx began stealing to support her drug habit. Foxx said she has eaten out of trash cans and slept in cars and abandoned buildings.

In 1989, Foxx delivered her daughter at a hospital. A social worker told her that she could not leave because she was a crack addict. Foxx said she walked out of the hospital and left her baby behind, “because I didn’t want to get locked up.”

In 1992, she became pregnant while doing a stint in prison. She was sent to a halfway house and eventually paroled. Throughout her second pregnancy, Foxx said she smoked crack.

Foxx said she was caught stealing at a Family Dollar, arrested and pretended to be pregnant and in labor. She had stuffed items under her clothes. She took off from the hospital still wearing a hospital gown.

Foxx said she ran down the street, hospital gown flapping in the wind. She was soon captured.

In 1995, gave birth while in prison; the baby died nine days later of SIDS.

In 1998, Foxx was back in prison for the last time.

“I decided this is crazy. I decided I had enough of this,” she said.

She’s since realized her life didn’t have to be that way.

“I was hard-headed,” she said.

A marriage that “was not going anywhere” didn’t last long, Foxx said.

After living in New Jersey for years, Billy returned home to Salisbury in 2005. He’d been incarcerated and on drugs while there. The next year, Billy accepted Christ during a three-day revival at Foxx’s church.

In 2007, at the age of 40, she had her fifth child, Joshua, who is now 12.

She has built a relationship with her older children. There was a lot of anger because she wasn’t there for them when they were younger.

“I can’t get back that time,” she said.

‘Where God wanted me’

Foxx, an apostle, and her husband Billy, a bishop, lead Open Door Outreach Ministries at 201 East Henderson St. in East Spencer.

It’s a street she knows all too well. She used to get high behind the house the couple now live in. Drug use is rampant in the neighborhood, she said.

“This is where God wanted me because I would be more effective here,” Foxx said.

Bishop Ronald Hash, pastor of Love Christian Center in East Spencer, offered the two a house at a reasonable price.

Initially, the couple thought about renting the house but decided to operate their church out of the home. They’ve been in the home for nine years.

Yvonne Lane, a church member, has known Foxx since they were in preschool.

“I’ve known her addiction to drugs. It was hurtful and disappointing. I was really, really sad about that,” Lane said.

Lane said she worried about Foxx during her time of drug use and just wanted her to get herself together.

“I’ve seen maturity. As far as her strength — a lot people lean on her strength. I lean on her. She’s a great leader,” Lane said.

She said Foxx took her under her wing and helped her when she became addicted to crack.

“She was patient, firm and showed tough love. I watched her walk,” she said. “She’s very giving, her and her husband. They help people in the neighborhood.”

Foxx is a different person from when she was in her addiction, Lane said.

“She’s a great pastor. She knows the Bible like the back of her hand,” Lane said.

Lane said she is reading Foxx’s first book and can’t wait for a second one.

Together, Foxx and her husband have been giving away clothes and shoes since they began the ministry. They can sometimes be seen in front of the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA with a truckload of boots. They partner with a company that gives them gently used and new boots, most of which are the Uggs brand. Every week, they select a location or set up a pile of shoes in their backyard for people to choose from.

“There are so many people who are homeless or are in need,” said Erma Headon, who recently found some boots at a giveaway.

“We do this because it’s always a blessing to bless someone else,” Foxx said.

Before the year is over, the couple expects to give away 5,000 pairs of shoes. They also teach Bible study at the YMCA on Wednesday nights.

Leaving behind a life that is less than your potential isn’t hard, Foxx said.

Foxx said she didn’t use Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Reading the Bible gave her strength.

“Being clean is a decision. The minute you make up your mind to stop, it’s instant,” she said.

“From Crack Addict to Pastor” was published in 2005 and she hopes to reprint it soon.

“I have peace, a husband that loves me, a ministry. I had my mind made up,” Foxx said.

She met Billy when she was 15 working at Hardee’s. She didn’t like him in the beginning. But they connected and they eventually lost touch over the years before reconnecting.

“He went his way, and 13 years later, God brought him back home,” Foxx said.

Her ultimate goal is to have a transitional housing program.

“We want to help people go higher,” Billy said.

For information on future shoe giveaways, call Karen Foxx at 704-433-3006.

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