Avon Lake church members and organizations come together for improved recovery and mental health network

By NICOLE HENNESSY

WESTSHORE – Warm light bathes cornfields surrounding an old farm house in Oberlin in golden light as the day comes to an end.

A group of women quietly piles into a van for evening Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, a rule at Margeau House, a Road to Hope recovery home, and one of only two houses for women in Lorain County.

In a rare quiet moment, with most of the 15 current residents gone for a few hours, Aubrey Calvert, Road to Hope’s women’s program director, sits in one of the many random chairs and couches scattered around a large, spotlessly clean living room, dark wood floors making the room appear even larger than it is.

Avon Lake United Church of Christ (UCC) members Pete Barth, who runs mission programs, and Denise Mathews, who also works as chief nurse of psychiatry and mental health at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, joined Calvert and Jim Coyne of Assist Communities for a chat on how UCC can help residents of Margeau house (as well as a men’s home).

Part of Coyne’s original mission was to link those in need to the proper recovery and life-building resources. Coyne, and other stakeholders, also work to link those resources with one another.

And though UCC is what brought Barth and Mathews to Margeau House, it became clear that the development of networks and working with professionals like Mathews is a big step in moving forward in the fight against opioid addiction.

Calvert stressed the need for better networking, explaining how frustrating it is that she constantly informs medical organizations about the house, yet hears stories of emergency nurses who don’t send patients, or doctors continuing to prescribe drugs to those in recovery.

With limited funding for recovery programs, much of the work to improve access and networks is being done on a grassroots level, starting with questions like Pete Barth’s, “How can we help?”

Things like providing toiletries and other donations are always appreciated and needed, as most of the women have no money when they arrive. After a period, they are required to work and pay rent, but jobs for women in Oberlin can be hard to come by. Many work at nearby stores as cashiers.

Calvert says she went through a house herself when she got sober, and though she recommends women stay at least a year, she says that doesn’t happen often.

Struggling to make enough money or a limited access to transportation are a few reasons she sees women leave.

“That’s something we can do,” Barth jumped in, making a note that providing rides to social services or other appointments would be an easy way for people to get involved.

Far from asking exclusively for handouts, Calvert says it’s also important to invite these women into communities. In fact, she has them serve meals at a local church once a week, both to get them used to interacting with others and to help them appreciate the opportunity they have to reclaim their lives.

Welcoming them into the community, Calvert said, is about treating them like humans, not like the disease they have.

“Give people that genuine second chance,” she encourages others, adding that she’d like to see everyone educate themselves on addiction, so the ideas that it’s a choice or that communities should stop treating overdoses can take a backseat to a focus on community-building and recovery.

Pointing to small gardens surrounding the property, Calvert also said it would be useful to have community members volunteer to come in and teach life skills. Or, just do some gardening or  even make repairs the house desperately needs.

UCC is currently collecting personal care items for bags the church will be assembling and handing out, but “that’s kind of a one-shot deal,” he said, taking a serious look at how professionals at every level and everyone in the community can be motivated to make a difference.

Coyne, who sat back listening without interjecting too much, smiled as he heard these plans being made.

“We took one big step tonight, and we’ll take another soon,” he said.

 

 

 

 


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