From Taking to Giving
“The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety,” says Minneapolis College student Jeff “Jay Pee” Powell, “It’s human connection.” Powell, who began his journey at Minneapolis College in the Fall of 2019, is pursuing an Addiction Counseling Degree and is on a mission to build community amongst those in recovery.
For Powell, this work is personal. Growing up in the streets of Chicago’s West Side, he saw too many people, including himself, fall victim to addiction and to the streets. “I tried to go to school in ’96, but the streets took me back in before I could finish. I was addicted to the lifestyle at a young age,” he says.
Fast forward to 2018, Powell, who had recently begun his recovery journey, decided he wanted to give school another shot. “It wasn’t easy. In 2018 I had a defaulted loan from the past. I had to get my loan out of default and in that process, I became a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist and was able to continue College in 2019.”
Powell’s commitment to being a better person and fostering a community where everyone is supported is what drives him on his journey. He is on a path to complete his Associates Degree at Minneapolis College in the fall of 2021. He is currently on the Dean's list, a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a member of the Collegiate Recovery Program and is also one of the Events Coordinators for the Addiction Counseling Club.
Beyond that, Powell already has his eyes set on pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in both Addiction Counseling and Human Services, and possibly a Master’s Degree after that. “I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without God, the support of my mentors, my Life Center family, my recovery community and also my classmates,” says Powell. “They show me so much love and support. They embrace me. We push each other and we support each other.”
His efforts to uplift, empower, and support those around him extend far beyond the classroom. Powell is involved with the Ministry at ICCM Life Center, a ministry with the goal of healing and being of service to the Minneapolis community to help level the playing field.
“We serve and help people experiencing homelessness and addiction you know, pass out food, resources, love and support, and other essentials to be of service to people in a bad spot in their life,” say Powell, “praying for people and offering our assistance along with warm clothes, and Narcan. We meet the people where they’re at because we know that experiencing homelessness and addiction go hand-in-hand.”
Minnesota Hope Dealerz
The connections he’s made on his own recovery journey, through his sober network, the greater Minneapolis community, Minneapolis College and through his involvement with the church have helped influence Powell’s latest endeavor. He is the Founder and CEO of the recovery community organization Minnesota Hope Dealerz.
The idea for Minnesota Hope Dealerz, which began in October of 2019, was born while he was sitting in his car after class one day. Powell was determined to turn what was meant to connect those at different stages of their recovery journey into a full blown recovery movement, that's now a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization, in order to increase the number of people they could reach and the impact they could have in the community.
“We really built this from the ground up,” says Powell. “It’s our goal to bring together the access of addiction professionals along with support and encouragement to those who are struggling and seeking recovery and already in recovery. We want to be a catalyst between multiple pathways, so people can get the help and support they need and that they also deserve.”
Powell approaches his work with a boots-on-the-ground mentality. To make real change, he sees it necessary to be out in the community to meet people where they are. “We’re an organization that accepts people for who they are, where they are.
Whether you’ve been in recovery for 6 days or 60 years, we’ve got you,” says Powell. “I went from being a drug dealer, a person experiencing homelessness and addiction, sleeping on trains, shelters, etc., to going to treatment, going to college and starting my own nonprofit to help and extend a hand to help people navigate out of the hole that I once was in. I want to continue doing my part to help rebuild communities and to be an example of HOPE.”
Minnesota Hope Dealerz also host sober parties and events. They celebrated their one-year anniversary in October of 2020 with a social-distanced Hope Dealathon, a sober celebration that connected community members with various recovery resources and information sessions.
Powell has big plans for group’s future, and at the center of that is to continue to give back, uplift and set an example. “I went from being a taker to a giver. I don’t live for myself anymore. I dedicated my life to helping people feel less broken. I just want to continue being an example to people. That if you have a little HOPE, anything is possible when you have God in your life.”