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Rehab home destroyed in massive fire
10 men displaced
W Damascus fire
The Damascus Rehabilitation Center for Men suffered a massive fire over the weekend, destroying most of the back of the building, as shown above. - photo by Photo courtesy Cindy Howard

A local rehabilitation program suffered a major loss Friday when fire destroyed one of its homes for recovering addicts. Ten men were displaced and lost everything they own, said Vern Howard, co-owner of Bulloch Recovery Resources.

Damascus Rehab lost its North College Street house around 9:30 p.m. Friday when flames swept through the structure, said Statesboro fire Chief Tim Grams.

Fortunately, no one was home at the time.

"They were all in a meeting," Cindy Howard wrote in a social media post after the fire. She is Vern Howard's wife and also a partner in the business.

The 10 men who had been living in the home are temporarily housed with others, "stacked up" in other Damascus Rehab recovery homes, Vern Howard said. While the blaze's destruction is still fresh, they are discussing plans to possibly rebuild and to find temporary lodging.

The community stepped forth immediately with donations of clothing and toiletries, but there is no room to store other donations until a new home is found, he said.

"We do need monetary donations and bicycles," Howard said.

Money is needed to replace work supplies and specific needs that may not be filled by donated things, especially because there is nowhere to store them, he said. Bicycles are needed for transportation, as many recovering addicts do not have valid driver's licenses or the ability to purchase a vehicle.

"With money, I can go out and replace the tools, work boots, helmets" and other specific items, he said. Funds also will be needed to supplement insurance money in order to replace appliances.

"Later on, we will need donations of furniture and household items," Howard said.

Losing a home and everything you own is a blow to anyone, but to the 10 recovering men who are fighting a daily battle against addiction, the fire was an especially devastating event.

"They are feeling displaced and helpless," he said. "They are getting counseling for these emotions. I told them I had a job to do - to protect them and their belongings. I failed, and I am sorry."

Damascus Rehab currently houses 28 men in various stages of recovery.

"Some have been here a few weeks, and some have been here six months," he said.

The spiritually based program is designed to help males struggling with addiction overcome the clutches of drugs and alcohol. It utilizes positive reinforcement and gives the men a hand up in resuming substance-free lives. They are able to work while in the program and further ease back into society as successful citizens.

The Damascus Rehab program has been in the Statesboro area for over eight years, and a number of participants have successfully graduated from the program and are living sober lives, Howard said.

Grams said the fire's cause is undetermined but is suspected to be electrical, stemming from an outlet into which a deep freezer was plugged.

Calling the blaze a "catastrophic loss," he said the back half of the house was destroyed, and the remainder of the structure and its contents were severely damaged by heat and smoke.

Very little, if anything, was saved.

"One man did get to go get an urn with his dog's ashes," Howard said.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to handle the needs for the men of Damascus. To donate, visit

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.



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