Nashville Predators Foundation Awards Grant to 21st Judicial District Recovery Court

On May 17, the 21st Judicial District Recovery Court, in Williamson County, received a $5,000 grant from the Nashville Predators Foundation.

“I’m just very, very grateful to the Predators Foundation and their care for the community, and so many of the things they do because we feel like when we help the people in our program, most of them are mothers and fathers, then we’re helping them set a better life for their children,” said Connie Martin, 21st Judicial District Recovery Court Director. “The assistance that we get and the dollars the Predators invest in our program, I think it is multiplied and we’re very, very grateful for it.”

The money will go toward what Martin calls “reentry baskets” for the participants coming into the recovery court program, 99 percent of whom come directly from jail.

“We lease six houses here in Franklin so that they have a place to live because there’s no way they could afford to live here,” said Martin. “They need to be here to participate in the program, so we also provide them with a laundry basket, a pillow, sheet set, comforter, towels, things like that that are taken for granted since everybody has that stuff. Just things to kind of get started with. We also sometimes have to buy them clothes.”

Recovery court is a two-year program, which requires participants to get a job and work at least 32 hours each week. A small portion of their earnings goes toward their housing costs. Participants must also attend treatment groups and are required to have sponsors.

“I have missed watching the miracle that takes place, not only in our recovery court in Franklin, but every drug court across the state of Tennessee,” said Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Tim Easter. “It’s just a miracle to watch people whom we call defendants turn into solid, recovering, healthy people. It’s such a great use of tax payer’s money for these recovery courts to be funded and that’s what the board is primarily responsible for because it’s a 501c3.”

Judge Easter, who is the former 21st Judicial District Circuit Court Judge, recently returned to the recovery court board, on which he previously served for 16 years.

“One of the frustrating pieces of recovery courts, to me, is it’s not a line item in the state budget,” said Judge Easter. “That’s a goal that I have while I still have the ability to be involved in recovery courts is someday they will become a line item in the state budget, because there’s no better use of tax dollars then the monies that are going to recovery courts. We do get various monies through the state through grants and other programs, but we have to fight for it. It’s such a better use of money than the $40,000 or $50,000 a year paying to house inmates.”

The grant, which is known as the Helper Grant, is special to both Easter and Martin because it is named after retired Nashville Predators Senior Vice President and Senior Advisor, Gerry Helper. Helper was married to Williamson County District Attorney Kim Helper, who passed away in March.

“Kim was on our original board with recovery court and was a strong supporter, so that made this particular grant special in that it was named after General Helper’s husband,” said Judge Easter.

“Kim Helper had told me last year about the process, that we could apply. She encouraged me to do it. Kim and I were friends for the last 20-22 years, so it was double special,” said Martin.

The Predators Foundation awarded grants to 172 Tennessee nonprofits, totaling more than $800,000.

For more information on the 21st Judicial District Recovery Court or their upcoming “Eat the Street” fundraiser on June 2, visit 21stdc.org.