The River surpasses 1,000 addicts placed in recovery

The River surpasses 1,000 addicts placed in recovery


Through hard work and faith in the Lord, The River recently placed its 1,000th person into addiction recovery, a milestone they don’t take lightly.

The River, located at 10141 Herman Alford Memorial Highway, is a faith-based drug and alcohol recovery organization founded by Barry and Joy Walker in 2017.

“The addiction problem in our community is so prevalent now,” Barry Walker said. 

“My job is to make everybody in this community feel better. It makes me feel good that a thousand people have trusted us. 

“It took a ton of money to do most of it, and we couldn’t have done it in any other community.”

Walker stressed that recovering addicts need accountability, structure, a safe place, and a community and said since this milestone, they have placed another five people into treatment.

“One of the things that addicts typically struggle most with is coping,” said Sable Ellingburg. “We used drugs to cope for so long. Having a place where we can all come to figure out healthy ways to cope and have a support group where we have each other’s backs is the most important thing.”

Ellingburg and her husband, Eric, help facilitate men’s and women’s group classes at The River on Sundays. About 20 to 25 recovering addicts are in each class and share and relate to each other's everyday struggles.

“Our core mission is to get up every day and make this community a better place to live,” Barry Walker said. “We believe we can do that by sharing the love of God through recovery.”

Walker and his staff believe that true recovery from addiction requires the Lord to be at the center of the process. Faith in Christ is integral to everything they do at The River.

Joy Walker added, “There are good secular programs, and you can go to recovery centers all day long, but to make a sustainable life change, you’ve got to have Jesus Christ at the center of it. There’s no other way.”

Despite being a faith-based recovery center, The River does not turn away anyone.

They offer various programs, such as “Sobriety 1207” on Sunday nights, where they encourage each other through worship with local ministers sharing the Bible. 

On Monday nights, they have “Art & Soul” for adults, where Bobbie Hodgins helps teach recovery through art. Following that, they have “Connect” at 6 p.m., where people from Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery groups share their testimonies about overcoming addiction.

The River hosts four Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at noon. On Tuesday nights, they offer a “Chainbreakers” group, which focuses on healing from addictions and compulsions from childhood.

Thursday nights feature “Life Recovery,” where Kristen Tubby teaches the 12-step program with interactive discussions using the Life Recovery Bible. They also have a Life Recovery youth group from the Youth Court to learn a better way of living.

The River offers resume assistance, announces community service opportunities, provides drug and alcohol counseling, and collaborates closely with the county Drug Court, the state Department of Corrections, and Child Protective Services as well.

“We’ve put 348 people to work, who are all felons, since we started here in October 2017,” Barry Walker said.

The inspiration to start The River Recovery came from Barry Walker’s personal experience with drug addiction. After entering 10 treatment facilities over 41 years, he finally joined a supportive community, and a doctor asked if he had ever considered helping others.

“About two years later, I was called into the ministry,” he said. “I was praying and asked God, ‘What do you want me to do?’ I was on my knees in my den and heard God say, ‘Help the people just like yourself.’”

Barry and Joy Walker then started operations with the help of two retired schoolteachers, Cheryl Mars and Debra Stribling. 

“Within about two or three months, they started coming,” Walker said. “It was just incredible. It was nothing I did. It was all God.”

The organization grew so much over the years that they relocated in March 2022 from downtown to their current location. They now have nine volunteers, up from their initial four.

All volunteer teachers and leaders at The River are individuals who have either come out of addiction or have family who have experienced addiction.

Barry Walker said many participants come from the county jail, and Sheriff Eric Clark and jail administrator Brad Stuart provide significant support.

Ellingburg, who is almost six years sober, said her goals are first to get people sober and then keep them sober long-term through their work at The River.

“I want to show people that there is abundant life through God after addiction,” she said. “My life is more abundant right now than it’s ever been.”

The staff at The River said they are excited to start a transition house near their current facility once they secure the necessary funding. Most of their funds come from writing letters and donations from local businesses and churches. 

“We’ve had various fundraisers, and we believe that God will provide,” Joy Walker said.

Their biggest advice to those struggling with addiction is not to do it alone, and they encourage everyone to attend meetings and seek help through faith, the Walkers said.

The River has a wish list where donors can contribute. Most of all, they need money to continue their mission of treating others, they said.

The River accepts cash, checks, money orders, PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, and more. Links can be found at or on their Facebook page.

For more information on how to get help for addiction, contact Walker at (601) 917-1212 or email

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