Man turns from a life of drugs and crime to a new life counseling others

Winston-Salem native William Bailey

Man turns from a life of drugs and crime to a new life counseling others
January 17
16:50 2024

Samaritan Ministries’ Project Cornerstone was an answer to prayer

The road to recovery and overcoming addiction can be a long, strenuous journey. Since 1995 Samaritan Ministries’ Project Cornerstone has worked to ensure that men in Forsyth County and surrounding communities don’t have to make that journey alone. 

Project Cornerstone is a residential long-term program for former substance abusers. Men live at Samaritan while overcoming addictions, developing job and life skills, and work toward becoming self-sufficient. Since its beginnings, the program has served over 150 men, including Winston-Salem native William Bailey, who has been drug free for nearly a decade thanks to the guidance he received while in the program. And now Bailey is paying it forward by working at Samaritan Ministries. 

Bailey was first introduced to drugs when he was only 12 years old. He said he saw it as a way to escape some of the trauma he had faced growing up. “When I first started drugs it was like a fun thing because it took me out of myself,” Bailey said. 

To support his habit Bailey turned to a life of crime. It started with small petty crimes, but as he got older the crimes became more serious, and by the time he was 18 years old, Bailey had already had several run-ins with law enforcement. Between 1995 and 2014, Bailey went to prison six different times and was in several different treatment programs until one day he decided that he was done with that life.

“In 2014 they charged me with another habitual felony and I said, God, this has got to stop,” Bailey said. “Before that I was scared of God … it was just the way I saw things in life. I tell people all the time, before that day the only time I dealt with God was when I was in prison or when I was going to rob somebody and I said, God don’t let me get killed … but in 2014 I said, God I’m tired.” 

Shortly after his release Bailey was living and working in Fayetteville when he talked to his brother, who had also been addicted to drugs. Bailey said his brother told him about a program called Project Cornerstone that helped him turn his life around. 

“After hearing about the program and seeing how it helped my brother, I went to my probation officer, told him about the program and asked if I could get paroled here,” he continued. “About four days later my probation officer said they were going to transfer my paperwork … and that Thursday I was on a bus headed back home.”

A few months after being back home and living at Samaritan Ministries, Bailey connected with Shonta Fleming, who was a case worker at the time. Fleming pushed Bailey to open up and for the first time he was able to openly talk about his battle with addiction, and that’s when he really started to notice a real change. 

“When I first got here I didn’t talk to anybody because I didn’t want to talk about my past and that prison life, but when I started talking to Shonta I started to really see a change,” Bailey said. “She had me writing a lot, I started going to the library every day, I would go to Salem Lake and read. I would read while I was eating dinner, I started listening to music … I found a new way to live.”

A few months after completing the program, Bailey was asked to come back to Project Cornerstone as a volunteer and Bailey turned it down. “I told them no, I don’t want to work around these people,” Bailey explained. But a few years later after Fleming had been named assistant director of Samaritan Ministries, Bailey had a change of heart and he’s been working at Samaritan Ministries and the men enrolled in Project Cornerstone ever since. 

“Shonta told me to pray about it and that’s what I did. And I told God whatever you want me to do I’m going to do it … a couple months later I told her I’ll take the job,” Bailey said. 

It’s been nine years since Bailey had any drugs in his system. While still working at Samaritan Ministries, he also has full custody of two of his grandsons. He is still an avid reader and he is still willing to tell his story to anyone who is willing to listen or in need of some encouragement. Bailey credits Fleming, the entire staff at Samaritan, and Project Cornerstone for helping him become the man he is today.

“I made it out. And a lot of my friends didn’t make it out … they didn’t know it was another way to live,” Bailey said. 

“I just trust God every day and I ask him to order my steps. It’s been a struggle but it’s worth it.”

For more information about Samaritan Ministries and Project Cornerstone, please visit 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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