May 2022 featured the grand opening of Recovery Engaged Communities (REC)’s physical space with an event featuring food, drink, live music, games, and art. As an organization devoted to promoting recovery from substance use, the celebratory event highlights REC’s goals to continue as they’ve begun—with a focus on building connections and community.
Faith4Hope is looking to tackle big community problems with an ambitious plan—a 37,000 square foot community center geared toward offering area teens a safe place to be after school and on weekends.
When a small group of people working with addiction and recovery gathered together three years ago to discuss the barriers existing for individuals struggling to sustain long-term recovery, they knew only that they saw a huge, unmet need in the community. Conversations led to efforts to begin bridging the gap that exists between clinical and non-clinical recovery support services. They had termed their project, the Recovery Community Alliance unaware, until a couple of years later, that what they were working toward had an existing structure—that of a recovery community organization (RCO). The group had disbanded for a time during the pandemic, but a few members decided to revive the project this past year under the name Recovery Engaged Communities (REC).
With The Lotus Center as their fiscal sponsor (REC is not yet a separate 5013c organization) Recovery Engaged Communities was conceived and implemented. REC began offering peer recovery support services to individuals on the journey to recovery from substance use disorders.
“Our peer recovery support specialists mentor, listen and help provide linkages to resources. They really help empower the individual to find whatever wellness means to them, and support them along the way. Be that cheerleading squad. Many of our staff and founding members are people in long-term recovery. That’s not just a cool piece of information, but a crucial piece of what it means to be an RCO—being a true community effort led and governed primarily by people in long-term recovery,” says Jaurdyn Gilliss, Director of REC, who is in longterm recovery from alcohol use disorder herself.
“There is no one set way a person has to recover,” continues Jaurdyn. “What we want to do with our peer supports and our space is provide an opportunity for the community to come together and cheer each other on the path to recovery, regardless of which path a person chooses.”
After a nine-month application process, REC received accreditation from the Association of Recovery Community Organizations earlier this year, making it the second RCO currently operating in the western part of Minnesota (the other operating out of Bemidji).
REC was named one of the Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation’s April grantees, with the $1000 gift going toward the recent grand opening celebration.
“The event was not only to introduce us to the community,” says Jaurdyn. “But to show what we hope to provide to the community moving forward. We want to create events that bring people together to show that recovery and those who identify with it are awesome, and that we’re stronger together and when we’re having fun.”
REC is leasing a space from the First Presbyterian Church of Moorhead where, in addition to events and programming, it offers a recreational room for people to gather and have fun with like-minded people and several offices geared toward providing additional services.
“One of the needs we are trying to address is the fragmentation of care that exists in recovery support services. For example, if someone comes to a facility to speak with their counselor but also needs assistance with housing sometimes, they have to be directed to a completely different organization. For someone with limited means of transportation, that can be not only difficult but devastating,” Jaurdyn states. “That lack of collaboration is a longstanding national issue. We’re trying to address that by creating a recovery ecosystem where people can get all the care they need in one spot.”
As a start toward creating that environment, REC is creating memorandums of understanding with other organizations. As one of the main supporters behind REC’s creation, The Lotus Center provides operating assistance and advice, volunteers, and some harm reduction programming. In addition, there is a licensed addiction counselor, a housing case manager, and an overdose response coordination program on-site.
“It’s a challenge learning how to operate together as separate entities, but we are figuring it out as we go,” laughs Jaurdyn. “We’ll have normal operating hours where we are all here, and what we are hoping to do with our rec room is provide a space where people in different modalities of recovery can come together to support each other. As we grow, we’d like to have some of the support groups in the area operate here during both the day and evenings. Eventually, we’d love to grow to have programming going on daily: meditation, yoga, art classes, occasional larger community events. We’d love to create one unified voice of recovery in the FM area with a coalition of people who can educate and advocate on behalf of their recovery community.”
“What it really boils down to is that we are all in this field because we want to save lives. When we’re disconnected it is easier to stigmatize a group or a type of person, it’s easier to isolate ourselves too. We really need to bring people together. We need to support each other. We need make it the norm to admit when we’re struggling, and to help each other through those struggles so that we don’t continue to lose people.”
The Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation awards a $1,000 gift each month for awesome ideas of all sorts. Grant recipients do not need to be associated with a non-profit. Applications can be made at awesomefoundation.org/en/chapters/ cassclay.