Recovered addict redeems dilapidated structure to create Oxford House modeled center
VANCOUVER — James Kasper has a fire in his heart. Once, it burned for addiction, now, it burns for ending it.
After running down a road of drug and alcohol abuse, Kasper found himself incarcerated by the law he didn’t respect. One night, in his cell, he cried out to God.
“I said, ‘Please God, lift the obsession from drugs and alcohol out of my life, and let me employ people,” said Kasper. “And that’s exactly what he’s done. He instills something in me that is a fire that says, ‘What can we do to clean up our town? What can we do to give back?’”
Kasper founded and operates Kasper Sandblasting in Clark County and beyond. Many of those he works with were just like him; gripped by addiction, and now walking in freedom.
When the old Denny’s Restaurant in Orchards closed down, he turned it into his company office and Iron Horse Recovery; an Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous center.
Now, he’s hard at work once more. Kapser and his team are currently working to restore the infamous Value Motel in Hazel Dell to create Kasper Recovery Housing.
“This is the kind of place that you were either using drugs, buying drugs, selling drugs, or coming off of drugs, and I did all that,” Kasper said. “So I wanted to turn the places that are the worst in our town into places of hope and light and love. That’s not usually a word that comes out of guys like me, but you either are or you aren’t. You’re either in the program or you’re not. You’re either doing service work or you’re not.”
When you ask Kasper about how he got to a place where a man with 11 DUI convictions could become a creator of places of total restoration, he begins going through the names.
Countless names. Names of the men and women over the years who have sown into him. Judges, cops, business owners, builders, pastors, counselors, brothers, sisters, family members, and most of all God, he said.
As he and his crews work tirelessly to restore the walls, doors and windows as well as make many additions to the motel, Kasper said he is preparing to welcome men, women and children; families, into the recovery center.
The facility will operate identical to an Oxford House, minus the name, Kasper said. It was at an Oxford House where Kasper himself began his road to recovery.
“There’s lots of money in this town, but I didn’t see anybody ever doing it to the buildings that needed it the most,” Kasper said. “There’s more people that need a place to live that are clean and sober than there are beds. So my mission is to make that change. Lots of people want to help, but some talk about it, some be about it. And so I’m being about it.”
Kasper’s team will install new metal staircases as well as replace much of the abused amenities. They will also be adding a playground and community washer and dryer space. When the recovery center opens, it could house dozens of families.
“We’ve met with a lot of different coordinators of all the different community resources that are available in Clark County, and they all want to be a part of it,” said Melissa Franklin, who assists Kasper on the project. “We’ve got a team of soldiers out here working daily to bring it to life. So it hasn’t really been too much of a struggle other than managing all the incoming support that we’re getting.”
Franklin’s son and husband both work with Kapser on the project as well. Their hope is to give other families struggling with ongoing addiction the life they now have, Franklin said.
That process is already well underway. Kate Keesler met Kasper and his family a few months ago through Iron Horse, and has since begun her road to recovery by serving with the project.
“It’s been amazing,” Keesler said. “When I first got clean and sober, I had no clue where I was gonna go. And it’s scary and those types of things are things that can take people back out. So when Kasper explained his vision, and to be a part of having something this big for the community and for people who truly want to change their lives, to have a safe place, a comfortable place, to land their head at night, that’s huge.”
“I think that if you’re trained to, to give back freely without anything in return, that’s powerful,” Kasper said. “God, God and more God. Service work, service work, service work. That’s how I was trained. If somebody wants to ask me what’s in my head, it’s all God inspired.”