Recovery Café is building momentum


December 11, 2019 | View PDF

Courtesy photo

Recovery Café Longmont members and volunteers enjoy daily group meals and their time together.

This year marked the introduction of Recovery Café Longmont, a not-for-profit community organization reaching out to those who want support overcoming addictions, mental health issues, and loneliness. It was quiet at first, Executive Director Lisa Searchinger said, but now six months in, word is spreading.

"We learned that a slow start is very much in keeping with other Cafés that have opened across the country," Searchinger said. "But, now we have enrolled 71 members." About half of those members come to a weekly Recovery Circle, attend a variety of classes, and participate in daily community meals.

There have already been significant consequences as a result. Members have secured full-time employment, reunited with families, and found permanent housing, all the while continuing on the journey of recovery and healing.

It's a rare person who is not impacted either directly or through association with mental health or addiction challenges. Searchinger said it will take time for the community to hear about Recovery Café and learn how it works. It's not a treatment program, but rather a community of people offering "refuge and healing" for the long run.

The organization's core beliefs are that everyone is worthy of love and that being accountable to oneself and each other will lead to stability. A basic requirement is to commit to attending one Recovery Circle a week.

"Those who have been able to engage in our services have shown some remarkable progress," Searchinger said. "We now have members saying, 'I'm 30 days substance free' and 'I haven't used in two months,' and the affirmation they're getting [from other members], you can just see it on their faces - people care about me, I matter."

What Recovery Café offers isn't duplicated elsewhere in the area. Partnering agencies (such as social workers and other non-profit organizations) and existing members are steering members to the organization. It's a reciprocal process whereby Recovery Café also provides connections to stabilizing resources.

There are now three established Recovery Circles groups – one for women, one for men, and a blended circle. New circles will be created for members who are unable to attend on particular days.

Searchinger said, "The magic of the model in that small peer support group is powerful."

Life's trials and tribulations are prevalent in every community. Thus far, every Longmont Recovery Café member who has completed a survey indicated they have a disability of some sort, 39 members reported having an addiction to drugs; fourteen said they are dependent on drugs and alcohol; mental illness was indicated as a problem for 44 of the present members. Co-occurring conditions were often reported, with an overlap of addiction and mental health challenges. About half of the present members are employed and 75% of the Café's members report being homeless at some point in their lives.

Active members often spend a couple of hours or more at the Café' each day. "It's our members' space and we want them to really take ownership and let us know how we can support them," Searchinger said.

Classes offered through the Café include yoga classes, contemplative crochet, craft classes, and storytelling. It's not uncommon for a spontaneous group game to break out.

The staff is lean with just two full-time and two half-time employees. While membership numbers are increasing, there's also a growing need for more volunteers. There are presently 25 Ambassadors of Hospitality, the volunteers who engage members and facilitate Recovery Circles. Café Cooks provide one of the most important aspects of the program – nurturing sustenance. Volunteer instructors of every kind are encouraged to teach classes – fitness and mindfulness are two recently requested topics.

On an average day, there are three ambassadors at the Café. Searchinger said, "We have the capacity to offer volunteer slots every month for up to 90 volunteers. Our most engaged volunteers love serving and typically volunteer around 4 times a month. "

In October, an arsonist was arrested for breaking a Café window and starting an early morning fire. Fortunately, there were no injuries and the damage was primarily as a result of the sprinkler system doing its job. Thanks to round-the-clock work by CARE Restoration of Longmont, the facility was closed for only two days. Searchinger said the incident solidified the Café community because processing the event led to meaningful discussions about compassion and forgiveness for those struggling with emotional pain.


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