If Ed Brown is anything, he’s a man of the people—so much so that his city’s chamber of commerce recently honored him with its annual Good Neighbor Award. This award goes to a local citizen with the most nominations for community service in Eloy, Arizona.
“I was really shocked that I was nominated and got it,” Brown said, because recognition is not his goal. “I do it just for the sheer joy of seeing people’s faces when they get something or when they accomplish something.”
Brown serves as a chaplain at CoreCivic's Central Arizona Florence Correctional Complex in Florence, Arizona, a city of fewer than 16,000 people about 50 miles northwest of Tucson and 65 miles southeast of Phoenix. He's also a Methodist pastor and the face of a nonprofit organization called the H.O.P.E. Coalition. (H.O.P.E. stands for Hang On, Possibilities Exist.)
Brown formed the volunteer-driven coalition in 2018 as an outgrowth of the food pantry at his church, First United Methodist in Eloy.
Although Brown does many things to serve the Eloy community and surrounding areas, his main interests are providing recovery services for individuals struggling with addiction, food assistance for people in need (with more than 15,000 meals served in 2022) and education.
Through the H.O.P.E. Coalition, Brown established a GED program in 2019 for people in the community. In fact, a few teachers from CoreCivic’s nearby La Palma Correctional Center and Red Rock Correctional Center volunteer for this program led by Brown. Books and testing are free for participants in the program because of grant funding, and classes are now held at his church.
Nevertheless, Brown shares that his day-to-day work to help rehabilitate incarcerated individuals at CoreCivic's Central Arizona facility is especially dear to him because of his own son’s struggles with addiction. He shared that his son has been incarcerated twice for heroin-related issues.
Outside of Brown’s chaplaincy work at Central Arizona, he also leads a group at his church called Moving on Spiritual Community for Addicts, Loved Ones of Addicts and Spiritual Misfits. It uses a mix of Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training), and Celebrate Recovery techniques to “connect the secular with the sacred,” he said.
Participants are welcome to join in the religious aspects of the group, but they don’t have to if they’re not interested. The main objective is to help them through the process of recovery, which can take 16 to 18 months.
Brown gives new meaning to service to the community—and he is a good neighbor, indeed.