Derick Thompson created a blessing box in front of St. Francis Episcopal Church as part of his participation in the Seventh District Adult Drug Court program. [Photo courtesy of Derick Thompson]

There is a new addition outside of the St. Francis Episcopal Church at 250 Kane Creek Blvd: a structure like a cabinet on a post, with several shelves inside visible through the glass front of the door. It is a blessing box, similar to the one installed in front of the Moab Valley Multicultural Center (156 N. 100 West) last year by Laresha Denton (as covered in the Moab Sun News article “Take what you need, leave what you can,” Aug. 1, 2019 edition).

In fact, the creator of the newer blessing box, Derick Thompson, said he was inspired by Denton’s blessing box to create his own. Both boxes contain goods like canned food, water and hygiene items, and everyone is encouraged to take what they need and leave useful items for others.

Thompson constructed his blessing box as a step toward graduating from the Seventh District Adult Drug Court, an accomplishment he is now poised to achieve – Thompson is scheduled to graduate drug court when court reopens from closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That date has not been set.

Thompson said that when he first came into the drug court program in 2017 at the age of 25, he was homeless and often struggled to get basic necessities.

“I was in the position where, if there was a [blessing] box out, I would have been so grateful,” he said. “[This project] is a ‘give back’ kind of thing.”

Thompson could have chosen to graduate last month, but his graduation would have had to take place through webcams. Thompson said he’d rather wait until the graduation ceremony can happen with his friends and family present in the courtroom.

“I think it would be cool for them to be there,” he said. “I’ve come a long way.”

Thompson said he had a substance use disorder when he was charged with crimes that led to six months in jail. He was then given a choice: enter the drug court program, or be incarcerated for two-and-a-half years.

“I chose my freedom, knowing nothing about drug court,” he said.

However, Thompson found himself in the rigorous drug court program – which included frequent check-ins with the drug court tracker, mandatory drug tests, as well as requirements to find work and attend support groups – without a place to live or even to do laundry.

Alienated from family, barred from associating with friends who might themselves be using substances, he slept for months in a local public park, lying inside a slide so he wouldn’t get wet when the sprinklers came on.

Thompson struggled to stay in compliance with the program, and he almost gave up – but a conversation with his grandmother inspired him to keep trying, he said. She advised him to give the drug court program his all for one month and see what happened.

As part of his treatment program, Thompson participated in Alcoholics Anonymous, which gives members small commemorative chips for completing 30 days of sobriety.

“When I got my first 30-day chip from AA, I was like, ‘I did that’,” Thompson said. “I worked for those 30 days.”

And, he got to show his grandmother the chip.

“She was proud of me – I couldn’t remember the last time she was proud of me. I wondered, if I got another 30 days, what could happen?”

What happened was that Thompson was sober for another month, and landed a landscaping job – and held it. He began to form higher goals, like reuniting with his young daughter.

“It would be too much to have a relapse and have everything I’d worked for be done,” he said. “I can’t let my daughter down again. I’ve already done that once. I grew up without parents and I know how that is. So that was a big motivation for me.”

His achievements continued to rack up. He bought a car, found a good place to live, and has now held the same job for almost two years. Relationships with his family have been rebuilt, something Thompson said he used to think could never happen. He quit smoking cigarettes and joined the Gym on 5th – a high-intensity, Crossfit-style workout center –and said regular workouts are his “best coping skill.” He added that the co-owners, Casey Montandon and Emily Klarer, have offered great support to him.

“Derick, he’s always put in the work. To see his transformation in the last year and a half, it’s inspiring…we are really proud of him,” said Montandon, who added that he and Klarer look forward to attending Thompson’s drug court graduation.

Thompson said that, while he is excited about graduation from drug court, he is also a little nervous about having less structure and accountability. However, he noted, he will still have the Gym on 5th and Four Corners Community Behavioral Health, a local substance use and mental health clinic, to turn to for support.

Seventh District drug court judge Mary Manley praised Thompson’s accomplishments.

“Derick has transformed all aspects of his life,” she said. “He has overcome significant obstacles and not only is he a valuable member of our program, he is making a positive contribution to our community.”

Thompson said his plans for the future include possibly going back to school and definitely spending more time with his daughter.

“I want to make a new start,” Thompson said.

Local man creates blessing box as part of recovery program completion

“I’ve come a long way.”

– Derick Thompson