After receiving a business degree from Texas College, Debra D. Christian served as a lab technician for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company for 34 years. In 2007, she was inspired to develop the Christian Restoration Community (CRC) Residential Care Program in the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship, where she has since served as director. She was inspired by her father, who was a combat soldier in Korea at the age of 18 when the military was still segregated. He carried the American flag when President Harry S. Truman decided Black men could fight with the Buffalo Soldiers and later passed away from being exposed to Agent Orange during his time in Korea. Although her older brother also joined the military, Ms. Christian was discouraged from doing so because she needed to take care of her father. She learned early on that many veterans needed extensive care services after returning from deployment, which led her to develop her current program.
CRC provides access to adult education courses and veteran housing arrangements on a vast swath of land in Tyler, Texas. They boast more than 1,000 acres, on which the programs continue to develop. This land has been within Ms. Christian’s family since World War I and it has become their legacy. They are building tiny homes and three-bedroom houses on the USDA-approved land, and they have further plans down the road. Ms. Christian’s great-great-grandfather, Butch Christian, was the one who first bought the land. When her father, a veteran of Korea and Vietnam, came along, the family did not stay tied to the land; they instead traveled the world as a military family until her father retired from the military in 2007.
Upon moving back to Tyler, they found that an oil company had taken over part of the property with upwards of 1,500 wells. Seeing that a veteran’s property had not been looked after while he was serving his country gave birth to CRC’s mission – to look out for other veterans’ interests, especially here in the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor now allows them to take in young veterans on this land, and gives the opportunity to teach them STEM courses and provide employment opportunities. They are using 14 acres currently, and Ms. Christian is working out of her retirement money and there is a church on the property that was ruined by a natural disaster.
Ms. Christian began her program with her brother, who is a reverend. They began offering their services to homeless veterans with the objective of giving them shelter and food so that they could receive government benefits, such as food stamps and other available resources. Today, the program is about to reach capacity and will soon enter phase two. They will be working with young women who will live domiciliary style and be paid to work on property that Ms. Christian’s family has owned since the 1800s.
For her efforts throughout her career, Ms. Christian was previously named Volunteer of the Year, Therapist of the Year and Woman of the Year by the reactivated Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary. Her mother is the main reason she went on with school and has accomplished what she has, and she was smart with a sharp mind. In the next year, Ms. Christian plans to complete her book, “From Slavery to Bravery, 1850 to 1920,” to be published by Daryell Palmer on Amazon. In the coming years, she would like to write another book, titled “From the Cotton Patch to the Oil Patch.” She would also like to continue expanding her work with the Christian Restoration Community Residential Care Program as a nonprofit, veteran-friendly and veteran-owned business. In a year, the program will launch with 10 top female candidates who are in need of counseling services.