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Durham Rescue Mission helps reunite family

Posted August 8, 2011

— The Cole family was ripped apart by drugs and alcohol. The Durham Rescue Mission helped bring them back together.

A heroin addiction drove Walter Cole to armed robbery in the early 1970s. He was convinced and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

After getting out of jail in 1994, he fell back into a life of addiction.

“I really was out of control. I didn't want to live,” he said.

A judge sent him to John Umstead Hospital, now known as Central Regional Hospital, in Butner. There, he met fellow patient, Leola, who was also fighting addition.

“I tried to commit suicide ... from all my drugs, alcohol, drinking,” she said.

The couple married, but drugs still had a grip on them.

“I began smoking that crack. She got fed up with me,” Walter Cole said.

Walter Cole’s struggle with addiction drove away his wife and stepdaughter, Nicole Black. The two moved out, and in 2002, Walter Cole moved to the Durham Rescue Mission.

Walter Cole went through a series of programs for those suffering from addiction at the mission. He got his life back on track, but his wife was still struggling with alcoholism.

It got so bad that Leola Cole sent Nicole to live with other family members.

"I really didn't know what to do," Leola Cole said.

Walter Cole reached out to his wife and asked her to join him at the Durham Rescue Mission. She went to the mission in 2004 and benefited from its programs.

The couple reunited, and Black returned to live with them in 2005.

Seven years later, Leola Cole is the receptionist at the mission, and Walter Cole is the director of men's programs there.

"I feel like I've made up for some of the mistakes I've made. I thank the Lord for that, I really do," Walter Cole said.

Black became the first member of her family to graduate high school this year. She plans to attend college.

"I know they're really proud of me, so it makes it all worth it," Black said.

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  • BubbaDuke Aug 9, 2011

    Ernie Mills and the Durham Rescue Mission have changed lives for several decades now. I don't know of a more worthy charity than the Durham Rescue Mission. They give people who want to change their lives a chance to change. It's still up to the individual to take responsibility for themselves, but no one in Durham can say they don't have a chance to do so.

    I work with a ministry that works with Durham's homeless and poor. Many of our homeless friends receive help from the Durham Rescue Mission. No one organization can meet all the needs of a community. Durham and Raleigh is the dumping grounds for other communities who don't want the homeless in their area (Chapel Hill, Cary, etc). The mission needs help all year long, including at the store on Glenwood Avenue. There is a mountain of clothing that needs sorting so that people who need them can get them. The store is also a great resource for things around the house, and the money raised helps DRM do more for the homeless.