Men’s recovery center, Athens community partnering to restore nativity display in time for Christmas

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2021 at 11:50 PM CDT
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ATHENS, Texas (KLTV) - A nativity scene is coming back to Athens this year, looking brand new. However, it’s not a new display.

The men of Lila Lane Outreach, a faith-based recovery center, have been hard at work restoring eight pieces of a nativity scene after seeing how badly weathered they were. Walter Alsup has offered up his shop and knowledge to teach the men different skills. He said they’ve been working since January.

“We’re sandblasting off the paint, then we’re repairing cracks and broken edges and defects that you’ll see the red in there,” Alsup said. “Then we’re sanding that out and we’re coming back with a special bonding primer and priming and sanding that out to get it ready for the artists.”

All these men have stories beyond what one can see from their hard work on this project. Mitch has been at Lila Lane for 18 months after battling drug addiction for the last 40 years. He’s completed the program.

“I think it’s great; it’s Jesus working in all of our lives here. It’s glorifying him, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

It’s been eight months since Christopher Arnold was incarcerated and has been with Lila Lane. He said he learned how to sandblast from Alsup.

“It’s good therapy, sound, mind. It’s very therapeutic and I enjoy doing it. I’m doing it for Jesus, I’m working for the Lord,” Arnold said.

After the men sand, repair, and prime pieces, artists and community members are ready to help paint them at Art Gallery 211. Director Virginia Reeder said Lila Lane reached out to them a couple weeks ago to help with the project.

“They are primed and it is a perfect surface for painting. It just takes the paint beautifully and it’s letting the artists have fun with it. It’s wonderful, the mixing of colors to brighten it and to bring it back to life,” she said.

Reeder also talked about how community members and students are helping paint, too.

Wanda Miles is the executive director of Lila Lane and said they have an 86 percent success rate with the men who complete their program.

“Part of what we do is community service; that’s one reason we’re taking this on. We’re uniting people in our community, so I think that’s a great thing we can do,” Miles said.

Lila Lane does not receive government grants or big corporate funding. Miles said they are a United Way organization.

“These guys work and they pay rent to stay there, just like they would have to in the community,” Miles said.

They tell us they plan to have all the pieces finished by Thanksgiving in order to get up on display for December.

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