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Drug court clients give gifts to kids

Hykeem Ellis dives into his pile with a smile.

Hykeem Ellis dives into his pile with a smile.

Drug users aren’t known for their giving spirits, but on Friday, that changed as Escambia County Drug Court participants made Christmas brighter for two area families.

And as Tammy Pugh of Flomaton watched her two grandchildren tear through the wrapping paper, that’s exactly what she said.

“His dad is in prison and both their mothers are in and out – and it’s all because of drugs,” Pugh. “I see what these people have done here and I have a vision of my boys doing this one day, changing their lifestyle.”

Treatment-based drug court is an alternative to incarceration for defendants who enter the judicial system because of addiction.  Through a team approach combined with an intensive, judicially monitored treatment program, drug court offers defendants the opportunity to restore themselves as productive, non-criminal members of society. In Escambia County, there are two different programs – family drug court and adult drug court. Meetings are held during the day and at night.

Drug Court Coordinator Denise Carlee helps Byron Pugh with his gifts.

Drug Court Coordinator Denise Carlee helps Byron Pugh with his gifts.

The two groups recently discussed a community project, and when they found out about the family situation of Pugh and Tarmey Ellis of East Brewton. Ellis, a single mom with three children, struggles to put food on the table.

“And Christmas, well, I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been for this,” Ellis said. “When I walked in and saw those piles, I said, ‘Lord, thank you. Thank you.’”

This is the ninth year for drug courts in Escambia County. Each day, participants work to beat their addiction while reclaiming their lives, said Denise Carlee, county criminal DC coordinator.

“Oftentimes, drug court clients are so selfish,” Carlee said. “Everything, it’s all about them when they start the program. I am so inspired by this group of people. By helping these families, it shows their progress. Christmas is about Christ. Christ is about love, and that is what happened here (Friday.)

“We all know that addicts take from the community, but this was their chance to give back,” she said. “I’m so proud of each of them. It’s like they get it now – what they did as addicts and how it impacts others.”

Sena Pugh of Flomaton (no relation to the family helped Friday) said she saw the project as a sort of “redemption.” For the last year, she has worked through the program.

“To give back after we’ve taken so much from our own families, it feels good,” she said. “And that feels great.”