HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- One man's dark past led him to be a light to others in Huntington.
"I'm just an ex-addict, ex-felon that started here homeless, on parole, strung out on dope, with nothing but the clothes on my back," Justin Ponton said.
Ponton is now five years sober. He founded Newness of Life in Huntington three years ago. Newness of Life is a sober living facility and substance abuse treatment center.
The programs roots are humble. "I had no money. I learned how to steal utilities, and I filled the place up with people out of prison," Ponton said.
Now, Ponton has 10 units and 60 beds and, of course, he pays the utility bill. However, he does not take a salary from Newness of Life. Ponton also works for Boca Recovery Center, a national recovery program.
"Newness of Life is the only program where we do not receive or seek any type of grants. We don't go to churches and as for donations and pass the basket," Ponton said. "My people go to work. My people actually generate tax money."
Every single person in Ponton's program is employed or actively seeking employment. Ponton said Newness of Life also helps people develop a better quality of life on the path to recovery.
Ponton's hard work and love for people in recovery are the reasons he is WSAZ's Hometown Hero.
Ponton's friend, Tim Thompson said, "He's living proof that you can get out and make something of yourself."
Nichole Lively and Ponton got clean together. "You might be Hometown Hero now, but you've been mine and multiple other people's heroes for a while," Lively said.
Ponton is not the only one in his circle of friends working to help people through addiction. Ponton's wife Jami Bamberger worked for Recovery Point in Charleston. Now, she helps Ponton run Newness of Life.
Nick Sansom, T.K. King and Tim Thompson also recently released a song about the opioid epidemic in Huntington.
"It's hurt everybody. I mean, we all have family members or friends that have been through drug addiction, drug abuse, even alcoholism," Thompson said.
"We all have our things we struggle with and addictions. There are some addictions we can't do by ourselves," Sansom said.
"It was cool to bring things together and produce some really cool music but with a message behind it," King said.
You can listen to Take A Ride by Undercutt on Apple Music and Spotify.
For detox, treatment or sober living, contact Justin Ponton with Newness of Life and Boca Recovery Center at 304-972-6601.