MEDINA TWP. — On a night when widespread drinking is the norm, officials with Hope Recovery Community had other ides.
About 150 people, most in recovery, attended a sober New Year’s Eve party Monday at Cornerstone Chapel, 3939 Granger Road, Medina Township.
Stefanie Robinson, executive director of Hope Recovery Community, said the goal was to give those facing addiction a safe place and reduce the triggers of a typical New Year’s Eve party. Obviously, no alcohol or drugs were involved in the evening. What party did offer was enough food to feed an army, a euchre tournament, live entertainment from Logan Bruce and fellowship.
“It’s one of the most vulnerable times (for an addict),” Robinson said. “It’s glamorized (by society).
“We can’t drink. We make it recovery-focused. There is no fake champagne. We’re not missing out on anything. We’re just doing it a different way.”
The pastors at Cornerstone Chapel, Mark and Deb Giaimo, supported the idea for the sober celebration.
“Our church was probably going to be empty anyway,” Mark Giaimo joked.
Deb Giaimo said there is a need for sober hangouts.
“Most used to go to bars,” she said. “There is a huge need year round for sober environments.”
Her church has opened its doors to the recovery community. Cornerstone hosts a recovery dinner on Saturday nights that Robinson said averages between 75 and 150 people. It is really taking off, she said.
Lead pastor Mark Giaimo thanked those in attendance for allowing the church to host the party.
His wife said it’s been an adventure.
“We want to honor you guys on your healing journey,” Deb Giaimo said.
“We are privileged to walk along side of you. You are some of the most honest and devoted people that I know.”
Robinson, of Medina, presented a collection of letters and photos to the Giaimos for hosting the weekly dinners and Monday’s party.
“Mi casa es su casa,” Mark Giaimo said.
“They needed a place to call home,” Deb Giaimo said. “It’s been a blessing to us.”
She said some in their 500-person congregation have gotten involved in the recovery effort. Also, some in the recovery community are starting to go to church services Sundays.
“We’ve been a great match,” Deb Giaimo said.
She said Hope Recovery is starting to erase the stigma that’s long been attached to recovering addicts.
“Everyone is recovering from something,” she said. “We are all struggling in some way or form. We’re all the same, We’re all struggling together.”
A new business shows up every Saturday and provides the food. Those in recovery — or really, anyone who wants to show up — attends the dinner, eats and gets to hang out with friends. Robinson said the dinners will have fed between 4,000 and 5,000 people over a 12-month period. It’s been going on since March.
“People appreciate having a place to go where they feel safe,” she said. “Each Saturday, it keeps growing. The community has bought into it. I’m left speechless. I feel honored to be a leader in this community. Recovery is happening everywhere.”
Hope Recovery is in its infancy in Medina. Eventually, it hopes to host dinners in Lodi, Brunswick and Wadsworth to help those communities with their recovery efforts.
The Medina County Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health board purchased a house for $160,000 recently and officially will open Hope Recovery Community in the spring. At that point, Hope will ratchet up its services. A nonprofit already has been established, as well as forming a board of directors and an advisory council.
“It’s been amazing,” Robinson said.
She said 80 percent of the board of directors and 70 percent of the advisory council have been touched by recovery. There are about 10 people on each board.
“Some are in the trenches,” Robinson said. “Some have lost loved ones.
“So many people want to be involved. There are city leaders, Robby’s Voice, church leadership. They all bring a different perspective. The idea is to empower the community itself and to do it at a high standard and high level.”
Robinson has been hired by OhioGuidestone — based in Berea, but now with an office at 246 Northland Drive in Medina — as a peer support/recovery coach.
“With me a recovering addict, I can walk the walk with them,” she said.
Soon, there will be three other coaches working with her. Bruce, of Amherst, spoke of his addictions that started with alcohol and prescription pills and ended up with heroin.
He said two years ago, he was in the worst possibly place he could be in. He had sold all his belongings in South Florida and was standing outside the pawn shop with his last item — his acoustic guitar.
“I couldn’t go in,” Bruce said. “The music meant too much to me. I checked into detox the next day and I’ve been sober ever since.”
Now 28, the raspy-voiced Bruce is hoping to kick-start a music career.
His song, “Live On in Our Dreams,” is gaining in popularity.
He said he’s buried so many friends because of heroin.
“My music gives me an outlet,” Bruce said.
He said he was envious of the Hope Recovery Community.
“This is something special,” Bruce said. “I wish we had something like this about 40 minutes from here (in Amherst).”
He has reached out to some of his fans on social media and raised $10,000 to help him record his first album.