McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

February 15, 2014

A story of success

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

HELENA, Okla. — A faith-based halfway house for women prison inmates celebrated its first success story Saturday.

Melmarie Coulter, who describes herself as a “pretty notorious meth dealer in Enid,” has turned her life around and rebuilt her future with the help of Gettin’ Home halfway house, operated by Gettin’ Place Ministries since late 2012.

About 35 friends, relatives and supporters came to Gettin’ Home Saturday to celebrate with Coulter, a mother of two daughters who now live in Drummond and Enid, and grandmother of three.

Coulter was sentenced in 2002 to 25 years in prison. She was released after 11 years and then had to complete the final six months of an earlier jail sentence.

While still incarcerated, Coulter began looking for a faith-based program to help her reintegrate in society. She’d begun the process of turning her life around while in prison.

“I decided I wanted to find a place I could go to reintegrate myself back into society and continue getting closer to the Lord,” Coulter said.

A friend had found success at an Enid-based halfway house for women, but that one is not wheelchair-accessible. Coulter’s search led her to Gettin’ Home, and she entered the halfway house a few months after it opened.

Coulter also credits the Oklahoma trooper who persistently pursued her as she went about Enid, doing and selling drugs, before she was convicted and sentenced.

Trooper Anthony Harper even followed her in his family car when he saw her out and about in Enid, Coulter recalled. Going to prison gave her time to think about what she’d done with her life, and what she wanted to do with the remainder of her life.

“Really, he saved my life,” Coulter said.

Harper, reached by telephone Saturday, was delighted to learn that Coulter had gotten away from meth and turned her life around.

“I am truly happy for her,” Harper said.

He admits that back in his early days as a trooper, he was out to “save the world” and thus was determined to stop Coulter.

“Now, I know I can only save one person at a time,” Harper said. “It’s very rewarding to know they are in a better place now and have turned around their lives.”

“For Melmarie, it’s become a lifetime program because she’s staying with us,” said Fran Bruce, chaplain and administrator of Gettin’ Home.

Coulter will remain in the “house mother” position and supervise the laundry service operated as a fundraiser for the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Bruce said that Gettin’ Home could house as many as 18 women if filled to capacity. The dormitory-style building was once a nursing home.

The board of directors is made up of a diverse group of ministers, counselors and educators. Additionally, applicants for the program are reviewed by a committee that includes board members and community residents.

Bruce has been involved in jail and prison ministry for over 20 years. She said she likes to get projects launched and then hand them over to someone else and start the next project.

Gettin’ Home has high expectations of the women who come there, Bruce said.

“We have zero tolerance here for drugs or alcohol,” Bruce said. “You’ve got to behave or you don’t get to stay.”

Gettin’ Home has several projects that people or groups can adopt. The organization also accepts cash, goods and food as donations. For more information on the needs of the program, call (580) 852-3356.