CR Inside National Team - In Depth

Danny Duchene

CR Inside National Director

Danny and Susan Duchene

I am a Celebrate Recovery Inside "Happy Customer". I began Celebrate Recovery in 2003 while incarcerated at the Jamestown, CA prison. I was the pastor of an In-Custody Purpose Driven church and we were looking for the next small group curriculum for our growing church. In 2003 Celebrate Recovery was just beginning to make its way into jails and prisons beginning with the Las Cruces prison in New Mexico under the leadership of Associate Warden Jan Thomas. Encouraged by the success of that ministry, Pastor John Baker came to our prison and trained our church leaders in the true DNA of Celebrate Recovery. With the help of the prison administration, Hector Lozano, and our local church volunteers, we were able to grow a fully inmate peer-driven model of CR Inside in which the In-Custody participants functioned in each area of the TEAM as well as group leaders. I was able to start Celebrate Recovery in two other prisons. They are functioning well to this day.

I was incarcerated from the age of 18 to the age of 50. Shortly after my arrest, on November 7, 1982, I came to Christ, and by His Grace I was able to serve Him inside for 32 years. I entered prison as a High School drop-out, an alcoholic/drug addict, and in violation of every commandment of God. While Inside I completed my Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, and Biblical studies certification from Patten University. More importantly, it was in this fiery furnace that I learned to love God and love people, and to do ministry even in the most contrary circumstances. Before my release and a significant part of why I am free, I completed 5 CR step-studies including thorough inventories and sharing with my sponsor. After my release I immediately began attending Church and Celebrate Recovery which greatly aided my transition and restoration to society.

I am now married to my wonderful wife Susan. I am the Pastor for CR Inside at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California and honored to serve as the CR Inside National Director. I am working on my Master’s degree with a focus on counseling. It may seem strange to some people, but it is easy for me to go back inside to share my testimony and serve inmates. I am very grateful to give back what so many prison volunteers invested into me for 32 years. As you can imagine I Love the Beach! And one of my favorite pass-times is simply filling up the tank and driving – anywhere!

John Brennan

CR Inside Team Lead North Central Region

IL CR Inside State Rep

John and Linda Brennan

John was born October 8, 1952 in Los Angeles, Ca. and lived in California most of his life. He met his wife Linda in 1996 and they were joined in marriage Sept 16, 2000.

John and Linda both work full time. John is the Director of Recovery at Heartland Community Church in Rockford, IL and Linda works at keeping John out of trouble. They have 6 adult children (Kim 41, Jenny 40, Amy 38, Chris 33, Kevin 31, John III – "Butch" 30, and 7 grandchildren (Danielle 23, Tyler 20, Jacob 19, Kaylee 17, Parker 13, Lucas 11, and Sarah 7). They enjoy sports (Go Angels, Rams, Lakers and Kings), adventuring and getting lost on days off, traveling to other states (so far – WI, MN, IA, SD, ND, TN, IN, and MI) and sharing their CR testimonies, and serving in various ministries (Linda – CR, Women’s Ministry, Growth Groups, Youth Ministry and First Impressions; John – CR, Jails, Prisons, Street and Homeless ministries, Men’s Ministry, Growth Groups, Rescue Missions, and Youth Ministry). They travel locally and internationally for CR and are addicted to sharing God’s grace and hope while helping others find and follow Jesus.

John attended his first CR meeting in January 1996. He started researching recovery groups in 1998 and settled on CR in the same year. After 18 months of preparing, CR was launched at Emmanuel Reformed Church in Paramount, CA on March 17, 2000 where John served as the Ministry Leader. He was selected as a CR State Rep for SoCal in 2007 and accepted the position of Regional Director for the West Region in August 2010. John helped establish and train 30+ CR ministries in churches throughout the Southern California area, and the Western Region grew steadily during his tenure. Linda serves in all aspects of the ministry along-side John. She served as a Step Study Leader, Open Share Group Leader and lead in the Training and Encourager Coach roles in California for 13 years, prior to relocating to Illinois and serves in the role as the "E" Coach at Heartland since 2013. Linda is also the Northern Illinois State Rep for Celebrate Recovery.

John started working in prison and jail ministries in 2005 in California. John established the curriculum schedules for this ministry to protect the clients as well as the facilitators of the ministry as part of the "re-entry" process. John also established the CR Inside ministry in December of 2013 in the Winnebago County Jail (Wednesday for Women and Friday for Men). He is currently assisting with the Rockford Reachout Jail Ministry to support the planning for men and women who will be exiting incarceration into an "aftercare plan" in the Northern Illinois area. John is also working with Transform Rockford – Reentry to help provide a pathway for the high level offenders reentering the Rockford, IL area after incarceration.

John started his recovery journey on October 9, 1989 after a long career of Chemical Dependency and Sexual Addiction which resulted in 2 divorces. He celebrated 27 years of freedom on October 9, 2016 and continues to be a catalyst for those who desire to live with hope. Linda celebrated 16 years of freedom in Codependency on March 17, 2016 and is an example for others of how to live while trusting God to be in control.

James D'Amato

CR Inside Team Lead SW Region

CA CR Inside State Rep

James and Debbie D'Amato

I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ celebrating recovery from alcohol and drugs for 38 years. I was born and raised in Connecticut and currently reside in Bakersfield California. I am married to my lovely wife Debbie of 41 years, and we have three married sons and seven beautiful grandkids. Debbie and I found Celebrate Recovery while attending a Purpose Drive Church conference at Saddleback in 1999 where CR was just a workshop. It was there where we caught the CR vision and have never looked back.

For the past 9 years Debbie and I serve as CR Ministry Leaders at Valley Baptist Church located in Bakersfield. I also served as a CR Outside State Rep for seven years and recently took the position of the Southern California CR Inside State Rep in January. During my early days as a CR State Rep I had the privilege to work with Hector Lozano in starting CR Inside in our area even before it was CR Inside. Hector and the CR State Rep team taught me a lot about implementing CR that continues to help me in my efforts now with CR Inside.

I love going into prisons, starting new CR Inside programs and working and training inmates to lead their own facility's CR Inside programs. It is also an exciting time to see how God is opening many doors in California for this ministry. I am very excited to begin this new adventure of CR Inside SW Team Lead and working with new CR Inside State Reps in my assigned territory to grow and expand the ministry in the Southwest Region. Another area of focus will be to develop a strategy to implement the CR Inside program with Native Nations and their respective reservations prisons and jails.

Celebrate Recovery has changed my life and I am grateful to God for allowing me to pass this blessed ministry to those inside and getting to work alongside some of the greatest leaders in ministry.

Nancy Dowd

CR Inside Team Lead NE Region

NY CR Inside State Rep

Nancy Dowd

Nancy Dowd is the CR Inside State Rep for New York, and the CR Inside Team Lead NE Region. She attended her first Summit in 2005, to learn how to start CR in her church, but when she heard the introduction of Celebrate Recovery Inside (it's first official year), she was drawn to the ministry. As a Probation Officer in Westchester County, she knew the struggles her probationers and defendants experienced, and saw the value of CR Inside immediately, as well as the necessity of supporting their re-entry process.

She returned to New York, started CR in her church and introduced CR Inside to the Commissioner of Correction and his staff at the Westchester County Department of Correction. A year later, she retired from Probation to run CR Inside full time.

Currently, Nancy is the ministry leader of Gracepoint Gospel Fellowship CR in New City, the second church in which she started CR, and attends Ridgeway Alliance Church CR in White Plains. She resides in Nyack, NY, with her two sons and daughter-in-law.

Denver Sasser

CR Inside Team Lead SE Region

AL CR Inside State Rep

Denver Sasser

I am a grateful believer and follower of Jesus Christ who came to recovery 27 years ago under the lash of alcohol. For many years I attended a traditional recovery program where I was able to put aside my alcohol abuse and gain some sanity in my life. As my spiritual awareness grew I began to realize there was something missing in my recovery and I started searching for the missing pieces. I went through several studies with my long-time sponsor which proved beneficial but were still not what I was seeking. Then, in the midst of a crushing family crisis, I realized that the missing part was my relationship with Christ. I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to Him and began to pray for knowledge of His will for me.

I was introduced to Celebrate Recovery in early 2011 and began working with others to establish a CR group at my home church in Enterprise, Alabama. I attended my first Summit in August of that same year. That experience was life-changing for me and I knew then what my recovery was missing. I learned what I needed to do to get back on track. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged- that I was at home. Today I serve as a CR Ministry Leader at that same church.

Two years later I helped start another CR ministry in a nearby city. I walked with them through the startup period and then for the first year leading a men's step study. Through this I began to truly realize that, in order for me to "keep it" I had to "give it away". This realization led me to answer the call to take the message inside.

For the past three years I have been blessed to lead a CR Inside team inside Holmes Correctional Institute near Bonifay, Florida. Once again my life has been changed in a profound way. Inside and Outside I have experienced that peace "that passes all understanding." I have been blessed to have new volunteers go inside with us to gain experience to take CR Inside to other prisons.

Thank you for the honor of letting me serve as your CR Inside Team Lead SE Region.

Kent Whitaker

CR Inside Team Lead NW Region

OR CR Inside State Rep

Kent Whitaker

My name is Kent, I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ & celebrating recovery over drug & alcohol addiction. I’m married to my lovely wife Jennie & have a career in the real estate industry. I was born in Chicago, moved & grew up in North Dakota graduating high school there. I moved to Portland, Oregon, where I still live, when I was 18 & attempted a college education for many years. Finally, due to my drug & alcohol fueled lifestyle, I forgot about finishing my degree & began working with my father doing carpentry work, then cabinetry. In March of 1983 I was intervened by my family & spent a month in a treatment center, I surrendered to Christ’s Lordship & have been able to stay clean & sober, one day at a time since April 16th, 1983.

I’m a firm believer in recovery using an ongoing recovery program, I worked the AA program for years then in 2005, after I’d become a single dad to my 3 children in 2002, I began attending a new church where they had CR & I "jumped in the deep end"'. I had never been involved in any ministry in a lifetime of being a Christian & "going to church", but with CR I became a leader on the TEAM & have become a faithful servant of Christ’s calling into the CR Inside ministry where I now serve.

Celebrate Recovery is the best Christian "how-to" program in history, I think we are involved in a revival with how profoundly a persons life is transformed when they become part of our "'forever family"! CR groups inside of a prison or jail are exactly like those out in the community, the only difference is the building they meet in. My goal is to get CR groups started in all of Oregon’s prisons & jails, & to create an effective bridge to the community CR for our participants. Our job isn't finished until we introduce the transitioning former inmate to the accountability & fellowship found in a community CR group. I’m dedicated to improving the CR Inside ministry on a national level by working together as a team with the CR state-reps, community CR leaders & all our CRI leadership team. Recovery through Jesus Christ is life worth living & I’ve never had a better time, today is the "someday" I was always searching for!

Marian Collins

South-Central Regional Editor

Marian Collins

I was born in Virginia in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I married at 19 and had two beautiful girls. After 13 years though my marriage was over and I moved to Texas where I reared my girls while working full time and attending college. In '02 I married my best friend on the front steps of the state capitol building in midnight. I retired in '07 after 35 years of working as a lab tech but, came out of retirement in 2011...and thus the greatest journey of all began.

I was approached the fall of '04 by a friend who informed me that Celebrate Recovery was going to be starting at our church and asked if I would like to be involved...uh yes! Jan. '05 was our start up date. I've led five step studies, served as a small group leader, an encourager & training coach and served as the female ministry leader. In '07 I was one of four who was blessed to go to Jaco, Costa Rica to introduce Celebrate Recovery. For years I had wanted to take CR Inside the prison walls however circumstances beyond my control kept this at bay. But God cannot be stopped. I was approached spring of '11 by the Warden and Chaplain from a local facility about bringing CR Inside. I was privileged spring of '12 by becoming the East Texas CR Inside State Rep. Since then I have introduced CR to other prisons throughout East Texas. At the unit I call home, there are in any given year, 9,000 inmates rotating through these wired gates. What a CR 101 this is! The women's CR large group runs on Monday evenings, the men's on Wednesday evenings. Over the last two years approximately 800 inmates have gone through LHC's.

Our unit was one of five prisons to get Home Run Inside before its release date in April; we had our first BBQ team as the Warden ordered up 5,000 hot dogs plus drinks for the 1,750 inmates/110 employees who saw this incredible movie. In August HomeRun was shown again to 1,450 inmates and again in November to 60 inmates during a mini CR Inside training. Any given week during large group, 15-30 Texas CR addresses are handed out allowing the inmates to make those CR connections prior to their release. As I witness the spiritual growth among the inmates, I hear of how their families on the outside are beginning to attend a local CR group. Circulating throughout the 40 dorms (56 inmate per) are Mac & Mary's book(s) of "Never Let Go" and John Baker's &"Your First Step to Celebrate Recovery". Thanks to the Warden, every dorm has a laminated 14"x18" CR 12 Step poster on their bulletin board. Next for the dorms...CR's "Daily Devotional". I love walking down the halls or even past the yard and hear someone yell... "WE ARE" and then hear the echo of "CR"! I am so thankful to be on this God journey. Presenting the CR program is an honor, working Inside is a blessing. God is good I'm looking forward to the adventures of making the CR Inside newsletter the best ever ~ let's do this!

Bobby Pepper

Southeast Regional Editor

Bobby Pepper

Bobby Pepper, who serves as Southeast regional editor for the CR Inside newsletter, is community news editor for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo, MS. He has been with the Daily Journal since 1985, which includes stints as a sports writer, assistant sports editor and online editor. Pepper first attended Celebrate Recovery in March 2011 and is in recovery from porn addiction, depression, divorce and workaholism.

He is co-ministry leader of CR at NorthStar Church in Saltillo, MS, and serves as a CR state rep for North Mississippi and Southwest Tennessee. Pepper previously served as assimilation coach and continues to lead the men's step study and small groups. He has led men's step studies for CR groups in Starkville, MS, and in his hometown, Houston, MS. He also attended CR in Tupelo, MS. Pepper is a 1985 graduate of the University of Mississippi with a BA in Journalism. He is single and has two grown children, Phillip and Samantha, and a granddaughter, Madison.

David Gerhart

Northwest Regional Editor

David Gerhart

David's life has been an allegory of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32)

Blessed with family roots in Baptist and Assemblies of God churches, he turned away from faith as a young man in college.

It's by God's grace that living wrongly in 1995 resulted in a brief encounter with the Law - a "course correction" - for which he's extremely grateful. This experience prepared him for surviving similar issues in his family which have since established his claim to a "Black Belt" in AA and Al-Anon.

Having pursued many of the "usual" diversions and found them empty, David attests the Lord's patient, ever-present love and forgiveness. "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven… " Eccl. 3:1a. "God never wastes a hurt." "He will never leave you nor forsake you."

In 2002 after recommitting his life to Christ, the Gerharts commenced a long period of searching that took them through attendance at more than 25 different churches in various places. In 2009 these lead to discovering CR 12-Step programs, which have become an increasingly important vehicle for David's "Giving Back".

"Just Witness" Is the sense that lead David to volunteering "inside the gate" with CR Inside.

As a native Montanan, David is passionate about the outdoors - hunting, as Fly Fishing guide in college years, and conservation. He is a life member of the American Alpine Club, and at 50-something, David is a recovering gravity sports adrenaline addict. David enjoys a career working online in High-Tech which has lead over the years to living in Reno, NV and Seattle, WA, then back to Bozeman, MT in 2008. The Gerharts currently reside in Bandon, OR where he works from an office in the cottage adjacent to his home.

In late 2010 the Gerharts committed to living on the south coast of Oregon. They currently attend church in Coos Bay/North Bend where David is blessed to contribute to services musically and in other ways. David and his wife, Kristin, have been married 29 years; they have no children, but live by an adage "Pets happen". They have taken in many strays and rescues over the years.

As a committed believer, David genuinely enjoys a multidimensional passion for service. He is currently the CR Inside Ministry Leader for Shutter Creek Prison near North Bend, Oregon.

Tom S. Hammack


Tom S. Hammack

Tom Hammack is the Owner of Wizzert Solutions located in Tulsa, OK. Tom has been in the technology field for 20+ years, and has a passion for all things "geek". Serving as Senior Network Engineer and Senior Storage Administrator for a large financial organization in Tulsa, Oklahoma for almost 11 years, and a Unix System Administrator for a mid-size firm in Tulsa, OK has provided Tom the real-world expertise needed to solve even the most demanding of IT challenges with a focus on cost savings.

Tom was born in Riverton, WY, and moved to Claremore, OK when he was very young. He moved to Massachusetts at age 6, and lived there until moving back to Texas at 12 years old, and graduated from Seminole High School in Seminole, Texas. Tom has completed a multitude of Microsoft© training courses in Windows Server administration, Active Directory design and support, Microsoft© SQL Server, and other technologies. Tom also currently holds VMWare© V.S.P. and V.T.S.P. certifications, as well as a Network Appliance© Accredited Storage Architect Professional certification.

Tom and his wife Jo Ann are active in the Celebrate Recovery ministry, and also serve in the CR Inside Prison Ministry at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Tulsa, OK where they are members. Tom is an avid bowler, loves to ride his motorcycle, and enjoys woodworking, home improvement projects, and cooking for family and friends.