Recovery Café Comes To Longmont

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Recovery Cafe (Photo by Suzanne McBride)

Recovery Café Longmont, a start-up non-profit serving people recovering from addiction or mental health issues, opened May 29th in the basement of Central Longmont Presbyterian Church at 402 Kimbark St. in Longmont.

Lisa Searchinger, executive director, says that the Recovery Café evolved to fill a gap in services available to persons struggling with addiction or mental health issues, particularly in the vulnerable post-treatment time frame. “There are very few resources for individuals in recovery in between Denver and Ft. Collins,” she said.

Although there will be a daily meal, The Recovery Café is not a restaurant, a drop-in center, or treatment. Instead, it will support members as they learn to manage their physical and mental health and maintain sobriety. There will be classes, recovery circle groups, a communal meal, and eventually, a latte hour. Spanning over 2000 square feet in the church basement, the space encompasses a kitchen, a lounge area, offices and meeting rooms.

Requirements for membership are that an individual be sober for the past 24 hours, attend a recovery circle (a weekly check-in with a group of people and a trained facilitator) and give back in some way, such as teaching a class or doing chores. Membership is free.

Longmont’s Recovery Café, the first in Colorado, is part of the Recovery Café Network, which began in Seattle in 2004. Pioneered by Killian Noe, the model was so successful that communities across the country have joined in, with Longmont’s being the 15th in the nation.

“[It] works because it’s part of a new recovery model that focuses on peer support and accountability,” Searchinger says. “It’s person-centered and recognizes that everyone has gifts to share. Everyone is worthy of being loved. There’s evidence-based data that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety,” she continued, “but connection, that being connected to a community, being a member of something, has healing power.”

Central Longmont Presbyterian Church is donating its space, and although they initiated the concept, Searchinger stresses that Recovery Café is not a ministry of the church. “We’re a separate 501(c)3. We are an independent entity.” The Café’s nonprofit application was delayed due to the government shutdown in January, but Searchinger expects confirmation any day.

In addition to free rent from the church, the Recovery Café received a $50,000 grant from the Recovery Café Network to improve the building and accelerate opening. Right now, the Café has two full-time staff and a part-time front desk person, plus 60 to 75 volunteers.

“Fundraising is a challenge for a start-up nonprofit,” Searchinger said, adding that Recovery Café cannot apply for foundation grants until 501(c)3 status is granted. “But there are a few foundations that have invited us to apply for funding. We have some grant opportunities, but the bulk of our revenue comes from individuals.”

“We started down here [in the church basement] because we looked around town and rents were so high,” Searchinger said. “We couldn’t justify it not knowing how many people we were going to be serving. Two to three years should give us a good sense for the scope of need in the community.”

Searchinger anticipates around 200 clients in the first year, but acknowledges that it could easily be two to three times that number. “We really don’t know until we open our doors,” she said.

Searchinger has high expectations for opening day. “I think we’ll either have a handful of folks, or we’ll be swamped. Considering the level of anticipation on the part of our referral partners, I think we’ll be really swamped. We’ll have a grand opening sometime at the end of June, and we’ll have a few open houses so the community can come in and see what we’re all about.”

“After working in homelessness for so many years,” Searchinger said, referring to her recent position as executive director of HOPE, “I’m honored to be able to be a part of a model that’s offering a solution. What Recovery Cafe offers is filling an unmet need or a service gap in the community. Addiction is no longer considered a choice. It’s a disease and should be treated and respected as any other disease. There’s a cure. Addiction is curable.”

The Recovery Café Longmont will be open initially Wednesday through Friday from 12:00 until 4:00. Searchinger expects to grow to meet demand, eventually being open five days a week.

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