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A Neighborhood Blessing

story by James Buck

Purple doors brought them all together.

When Sherry Golightly retired, she didn't want to spend her days playing golf. She wanted to help people. When an old church in the Littleville neighborhood of Paducah went up for auction, she drove by and saw that the doors were purple, her favorite color.

"If I believed in signs, this would be a sign," she says.

She bought the old church and created the John Wesley Neighborhood Center. She began holding Bible study nights and walking around the neighborhood asking people what they wanted, what they needed.

Slowly the neighbors began to come and open their hearts to what Sherry was offering. One group she welcomed was the Paducah chapter of Bikers for Christ, a motorcycle ministry.  For one man in particular, what came next changed his life.

Tim Walls, 57, who lives across the street from the center, had struggled for many years with drinking and the alienation it brought. In July he stayed sober one night and made it to a Bikers for Christ meeting.

"The first time I walked into that building I had a feeling come over me," he says.  "I think it was true unconditional love."

On August 8, Tim had his last drink.

Tim's family took note of the change in him. "All of a sudden I've got kinsfolk wanting to be around me," he says.

In early October, Tim's father passed away. "He held my hand and said 'I love  you,'" Tim says.  "That would have never happened if I hadn't been sober."

Tim's niece now brings his 3-year-old great-nephew over to spend days with him. "This is one of the many blessings that I've received," Tim says.

Bikers for Christ continues to meet and neighbors congregate in the space that Sherry created. There are Bible studies, music nights and meals to share among friends old and new.

"People are so interesting and talented," Sherry says. She envisions services like job training and financial planning. "I'm playing by ear to see how I can help," she says.

Tim testifies to the help she's already given. "I thank God Sherry bought this place," he says. "It changed my life."

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Sherry Golightly says a blessing at a family gathering at her home in Paducah. Sherry created the Neighborhood Center in the Littleville area of Paducah.

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Tim gets a hug from Sherry after giving his testimony about his newfound sobriety and saying for the first time, "I'm an alcoholic." The resources at the Center that Sherry created helped Tim find his faith and quit drinking, he says.

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Tim holds his certificate of baptism from the Paducah chapter of Bikers for Christ.

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Bikers for Christ hold their weekly Bible study at the Neighborhood Center. Tim, left, credits the group and the faith and support he found there for helping him become sober.

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Tim reads the Bible with his brother and sister members of Bikers for Christ.

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Elder Billy "Disciple" Keeling, second from left, leads members of Bikers for Christ in a prayer at the neighborhood center.

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Tim, center, listens to Brother D, right, preach at the neighborhood center. Brother D and members of Bikers for Christ join for a music night every other Friday. The group is eclectic and open to all. Brother D emphasizes that everyone should love and not judge each other based on how they look or their past. "I don't interpret, define, or defend any of the Bible," says Brother D. "Nowhere in the Bible does it say 'Ask Don.' Ask God."

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Tim tells the story of his father who passed away in early October. Tim’s new faith and sobriety allowed them to connect, he says. "I told him, 'Daddy, I'm sober for you,' and he held my hand and said, 'I love you.’"

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From left, Brother D, LaDonna "Wolf" McClanahan and Tim say goodnight after a Bible study. Tim and LaDonna live a few houses down from each other but the Neighborhood Center and Bikers for Christ brought them together.

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Tim gets a hug from Sarai "Jitterbug" Kennedy as Bikers for Christ wrap up their Thursday Bible study. Tim says one of the things that amazed him he first time he went to a Bikers for Christ meeting was that people hugged him and said "I love you, brother. God loves you." That feeling of unconditional love helped him tremendously. "I guarantee I could call any one of them and they'd be here to help in 15 minutes," he says.

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Sherry takes care of her 18-month-old grandson, Graeme Houser, at her home in Paducah. When she's free, she spends time in Littleville at her neighborhood center. She has offered knitting and crocheting classes and organized neighborhood get-togethers. "I just love people," she says.

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Tim spends a moment with his great-nephew James, 3. Tim says when he was drinking, "James' mama never would come around, never would let me keep him." He says having his great-nephew at his house is "one of the many blessings" he's received through finding sobriety with Bikers for Christ and the neighborhood center founded by Sherry Golightly. "I'm a different person than I was three months ago," he says.