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Second chances: The ability to dream again

Lakes area residents are sharing their stories of second chances and overcoming addiction during April, which is know around the country as Second Chance Month.

Headshots of Joe Derosier, Dawn Powell-Bowman and Jesse Jones
Joe Derosier, left, Dawn Powell-Bowman and Jesse Jones shared their stories about overcoming addiction with the Dispatch this month in honor of Second Chance Month.
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BRAINERD — The lakes area community gave Brian Andrews a second chance, and he wants everyone to be able to say the same.

Andrews is the executive director of Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project in Brainerd, a nonprofit that works with first-time juvenile offenders to repair harm their crimes have done in the community and keep their records clean.

Andrews helps give kids a second chance through his work, and it’s a phenomenon he knows all too well. He and his wife, Mandy Miller, pulled themselves up from the lowest of lows after struggling with drug addiction for years, losing custody of their children, being homeless and jobless and never thinking they’d get to where they are today.

“The greatest second chance I’ve ever gotten was being forgiven by Jesus Christ my savior That’s number one,” Andrews said.

But there’s also the landlord who gave the couple a second chance at housing after 30 others said ‘no.’ And there’s the second chance to parent their kids, a second chance at a career and a second chance to show the world that second chances are possible.

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“I’m not a unique story,” he said. “There’s so many people being faced with that, and without a second chance, without society letting us — people like myself — come back in and be productive members of society without all these barriers, we’re stuck in the decisions that we had made up to that point.”

But if Andrews can get clean and have a second chance at life, he believes that with hope and the right path to follow, anyone else can, too.

April is Second Chance Month, a designation made both nationally and locally, with a focus on reaffirming the importance of helping those with criminal backgrounds re-enter society and have a second chance at a better life after paying their debts.

After telling his own story last year , Andrews connected the Dispatch this year with others in the community who are reaping the benefits of second chances and want to help others do the same.

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Mandy Miller and Brian Andrews share a laugh May 6, 2021, when talking about their road to recovery after battling drug addiction. The couple married in December 2016 and celebrated seven years of sobriety May 21.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Each Friday this month, the Dispatch e-edition features one of those stories. Jesse Jones , Dawn Powell-Bowman and Joe Derosier shared their heart-wrenching yet hopeful stories of overcoming addiction and getting their lives back on track. Check out brainerddispatch.com or see the Friday e-editions to read their stories.

This Friday’s e-edition will feature Zanna Gray, office manager at Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project, while Candy Kylochko’s story will round out the month April 29.

Andrews and those featured shared resources in the community available to those who are struggling with addiction, including Crow Wing County Social Services, Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, Lakes Area Alano Association and UpFront Alano Society. The lakes area recovery community is vast and strong for those who are in its midst.

And for anyone who thinks they’re at rock bottom or are struggling to take the first step, Andrews has an important message: “I’d just say that, here’s the deal — for starters, you have worth, and you have value, that you’re important, that you matter to this community, whether you’ve heard it or not, and that I want you to dream the biggest dream you can and know that as you take one foot in front of the other that you can achieve that dream with your second chance.

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“… I want people to be able to dream again — in Crow Wing County, in Minnesota, in our country. And when you have this baggage and you’re dragging around this background behind you, it’s like you’re so busy trying to survive that you can’t even dream. And our second chances for my family have given us the ability to dream again.

“... We get to impact lives today based on some of the hardest experiences of our life. We get to use those to help other people, and I know there’s a lot of people with a lot of experiences that can do the same thing.”

Second chance stories
Jesse Jones tells his story of second chances and hope when all seems lost.
Nisswa resident Dawn Powell-Bowman shares her story of addiction, recovery and hope.
Baxter's Joe Derosier works at Mattson Lumber and volunteers at Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project after getting a second chance at life.
Brian Andrews and Mandy Miller are on the road to recovery after struggling with drug addiction for many years. They want to share their story to show others second chances are possible.
On each Friday so far in April, the Dispatch told the stories of area residents who overcame obstacles of crime and addiction to better their lives and reach personal redemption. Their stories are moving and inspirational, and we hope everyone has or will take the time to read them.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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