Captain Jerome Casey: Lighthouse for Homeless, Addicts
By: Major Frank Duracher
The parole officer had Jerome (Jerry) Casey in handcuffs following a violation of his sentencing conditions. Guilty again of being “drunk and disorderly,” the normal procedure would be to merely return him to prison to serve out his sentence he had incurred for earlier, more serious crimes.
But the parole officer had one more chance in mind for Jerry. He drove Jerry to the Atlanta Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC), and as soon as Jerry walked into the front door, Major Lynda Delaney greeted him and agreed with the constable that this could be his last chance. Enrolling in the ARC program was the only way Jerry would avoid incarceration. Given the option, he chose the ARC.
He is glad he did!
Jerry is from Long Island, New York, and his demeanor and even his accent could remind you of the actor, Joe Pesci. He even looks a bit like him.
Today, the 62 year-old born-again Christian is nothing like the man he was for all of his adult life until some five years ago when faced with that astounding choice there in the foyer of the Atlanta ARC.
“Once I decided that I was going to enroll into the (ARC) program, Major Lynda led me to the Lord right then and there,” Jerry says. He became a staunch believer, and soon found in Major Lynda a formidable mentor. She would not let him get away with anything!
“Long before that, I was a full-fledged alcoholic and a full-fledged drug addict,” he says. “And I tried countless rehab programs, spent a lot of money on counselors—I tried everything from AA to NA to CA, and nothing worked for me. They are all wonderful programs, but they just weren’t for me.”
Jerry admits that as soon as he would leave one of those rehab programs, he went straight out and smoked crack—putting him right back at square one.
It is fair to say that Jerry thought his addictions were part of his DNA—after all, his father and brother both died from cirrhosis of the liver, and his mom and five siblings, except for his older sister, all battled alcoholism.
“I knew there is a God and that there is a Heaven—I just did not know how to get there. I fooled myself into thinking that despite my ‘predispositions’ to my addictions, that God would let me into Heaven,” Jerry explains. “I even convinced myself that if I were to die because of an overdose, then that is not really suicide. I know now that kind of thinking was nuts!”
Jerry went from alcohol to cocaine and eventually to crack. In fact, crack became the only thing that mattered to him.
“I figured that I wasn’t hurting anyone but myself,” he says, “but I was wrong.”
His sister flew up to New York from Atlanta in order to find him. What she found was a 93-pound shell of the brother she once knew. She began to cry.
“I knew at that moment that my addictions were indeed hurting others.”
He agreed to return to Atlanta with his sister and to try recovery programs and counselors there. But nothing changed—in fact, he admits, things got worse.
“To finance my habit, I began stealing. Pretty soon I was being arrested on the average of once a month for various felonies!”
Each arrest for theft was compounded by the fact that he would be carrying a small amount of crack and a few items of drug paraphernalia. He also kept appearing before the same judge.
“This judge kept giving me ‘second chances’ or would assign me to this rehab program or that counselor for treatment. But I was an animal. The judge finally said to me, ‘I’m done with you, Mr. Casey!’ and sentenced me to four years in prison,” Jerry says.
He served 17 months before release on probation, but that meant regular check-ins with his parole officer. And that meant regular drug testing—which he would always fail, leading to a few days in the county jail.
That endless cycle continued for some time until Jerry’s parole officer decided to offer him an unbelievable choice.
“(My parole officer) drove me to The Salvation Army’s Atlanta ARC and took me to the front door. Inside, working in the foyer, was Major Lynda Delaney. My P.O. took off the handcuffs and shackles and said to me, Jerry, you can either enter this program, or I can put these back on you and send you back to prison—this is your last chance!”
Given his options, Jerry decided to stay.
“I met Christ that day through Mrs. Delaney. That was May 24, 2010, and I have been ‘clean’ ever since!”
The changes in Jerry, from that moment on, are nothing short of astounding.
“The only answer is the Lord Jesus Christ!” Jerry says, glowing.
“I always knew deep inside that no power on earth could have delivered me from these awful addictions and urges,” he says. “Of that, I was right; because the power that delivered me is not of this world! It is of God!”
Under Major Lynda’s mentoring, Jerry grew in his faith and eventually was enrolled as a Salvation Army soldier in the Atlanta Peachcrest Corps.
“But Mrs. Delaney had one more thing in store for me. With her retirement approaching, she ‘introduced’ me to Majors Gary and Beth Sturdivant (then, youth leaders for the Georgia Division).”
Jerry is convinced that the “introduction” was no accident. Sending him to work at Camp Grandview for a few days turned into a few weeks, and the Sturdivants proved to be as loving and firm as Major Lynda had been to him all that time.
When the Sturdivants were transferred to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Area Command, they soon offered Jerry a chance to work there—first as maintenance worker, and then as a SAMS (Salvation Army Mission Specialist).
While in Biloxi, his niche quickly became his work among the homeless and addicted. The comparison of the Biloxi Lighthouse to his ministry was obvious.
Lt. Colonel Steve Morris (then ALM divisional commander) promoted Jerry to the rank of sergeant and offered him a corps administrator post in Monroe, Louisiana. In 2017 he was promoted to auxiliary-captain. Today he holds the rank of full captain, being commissioned in June 2022 as a member of the Messengers Of Reconciliation session of cadets.
Captain Jerry is approaching his eighth year as corps officer in Monroe. What God has accomplished there is nothing short of astounding through his growing band of supporters and volunteers. Captain Jerry’s ministry among those who are homeless and/or suffering from addictions is a major factor in the success there. Another element is his talent as a builder and renovator—resulting in transformations from dilapidated Army properties into showcase facilities.
“All that has happened to me in my first 53 years has prepared me for this time, right now,” Jerry asserts.
“I am able to talk to them, and tell them, ‘I’ve been where you are!’”
The only explanation, he tells them from his own experience, is Jesus.
“Since I met Jesus, I’m a new creature in Christ,” he testifies. “There’s no other explanation!”
There are no lighthouses in Monroe, Louisiana—at least none that are built of bricks and mortar.