Lost Lives Found

Ever since she hit bottom, Heather Klinker has devoted herself to helping others avoid the fall

Meanwhile Klinker has moved her operation to a roomy, two-story warehouse space at 2401 N. Miami Ave., the clothing store upstairs, furniture downstairs, and an adjacent yard where she provides free Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless.

Klinker has wired her organization into the system. Women from the nearby Village Addiction Treatment Programs make monthly visits to pick up clothes and books. Many of them are struggling to regain custody of their children and must make sure they have everything necessary to raise a child. Other women fulfill community-service sentences by volunteering at the Grubstake compound.

Addicts, mothers who lost their kids because of their own negligence, are often victims of their own making. Klinker didn't pick a warm and fuzzy constituency, which no doubt makes her struggle all the more difficult. But these are people "who have no voice," as she puts it, and that is exactly what motivated her to drop everything midlife -- to make herself useful to them. She's not religious, she doesn't preach, she doesn't even judge. She just makes herself available to help.

Here we are at the dawn of a new year, with the old one ending rather gloomily regarding the public trust: Miami Commissioner Arthur Teele charged with taking bribes and rigging contracts on work meant to improve some of the city's poorest neighborhoods; the head of the county's premier homeless service agency, Camillus House, arrested for stealing donations; the Public Health Trust mired in accounting scandals involving public funds meant to pay for poor people's health care. Outrage inevitably morphs into cynicism.

But Klinker points out that while the people in charge may be villains, it doesn't mean the people are. "Are you kidding? Miami is great. I couldn't have lasted this long without community support," she says. "It's not me. You need people willing to support us, who think this is important, for this place to survive."

She's right.

To make tax-deductible contributions of money, goods, or time, contact Grubstake Resources for Recovery, 2401 N. Miami Ave., Miami, FL 33137; 305-573-2976, e-mail grubstaketoday@aol.com.

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