Struggling to fight their addictions, members of the Forest Grove Recovery Club want to save their building, as well
“My name is Marianne O’Neill-Tutor. I have been clean since Oct. 1, 2006.”
“My name is Victor Hada … I was able to get clean from all substances on Dec. 26, 1989. This is the date I entered treatment in Forest Grove … this place saved my life.”
At 2722 19th Pl. in Forest Grove, there sits an algae-covered house.
Inside, near a gash in the ceiling paint, a damaged chandelier dangles awkwardly — two of its four lights burned out.
Several other light fixtures, switch panels and outlets have no covers. Missing chunks of drywall expose wooden beams. Water drips into the kitchen and pools on countertops when it rains. Single-paned windows have been sealed shut to improve insulation, but their framing is gone, so it hardly helps.
This is the home of the Forest Grove Recovery Club (FGRC), a nonprofit that provides a safe place for recovering addicts to meet and talk about their lives, their addictions and their hopes for the future.
For 13 years, the building has served as a safe haven for everyone from homeless people to doctors and lawyers who all have one thing in common: the determination to rebuild their ruined lives and to help others trying to do the same thing.
Now the building itself needs some help.
On March 21, FGRC officials applied to the city’s Community Enhancement Program for a $9,580 grant — the amount needed to fix the building’s leaky roof, which is more than 20 years old. And the leaky roof is just one of many needed repairs.
But club member Victoria Sanders hopes the home will get help because of what it means to her and the other members: “My family is proud of me again because of this place and what it has done in my life. I met my husband there. I was proposed to there. I went into labor there. I graduated college because I stepped into that place and changed my life there … I learned how to be a mom, a daughter, a wife, a friend, a sponsor and a productive member of society there.”
A safe place
Established in the 1980s, the FGRC started out in a space on Main Street next to what is now Pizza Schmizza, then moved to Ballad Town Billiards on Pacific Avenue, and finally, in 2003, got a Washington County block grant to purchase its 19th Place home from the aunt of club member Luis Gray.
The house is tucked back behind Les Schwab on a short, dead-end road few non-members travel unless they’re buying a tire.
Some Recovery Club members like that privacy, said FGRC board chairman Ray Tutor.
But the fact that it’s not a high-profile, beloved community institution might also hurt the group’s fundraising efforts since many people don’t know it exists.
Currently, the house hosts two English-language and five Spanish-language Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups. Other than two Al-Anon groups (alcoholics and their families) hosted weekly by St. Bede’s Episcopal Church on Elm Street, that’s it for alcoholics in Forest Grove, although there are other weekly AA meetings in western Washington County. There are two in Banks, one in Gales Creek, one in North Plains — and in Cornelius, two just for men at Real Life Christian Church. Further east, Hillsboro offers 18. (Go to westsidecentraloffice.com for details on meetings.)
Nearby Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings are scarcer. There’s one in Cornelius, two in downtown Hillsboro and eight at the FGRC, according to the Narcotics Anonymous website and Tutor.
The FGRC tries to collect donations from the 200-plus people who attend meetings here each week, but “a lot of them don’t even have a dollar to put in the plate,” Tutor said. “They’re just trying to find a warm place out of the wind to get a cup of coffee.”
With monthly costs of $260 for electricity, $57 for garbage, $76 for pest control and $110 for insurance — plus $125 per year for an accountant — there’s not a lot left over for repairs.
So Tutor recently reached out to West Tuality Habitat for Humanity (WTHH), which serves western Washington County.
“We are inclined to help,” said WTHH interim executive director Virginia Ohler. Generally, Habitat builds houses for low-income families. But nationwide, Habitat has also helped repair community centers that house nonprofits and don’t get government funding.
WTHH once considered helping the Forest Grove Senior and Community Center until they learned it received government funding.
After speaking with Tutor, Ohler arranged for a Habitat construction manager to walk through the home and determine its needs. From what she’s heard, many of the building’s needs would fit WTHH’s mission and abilities, such as painting and hanging drywall. But there’s a challenge.
Most of WTHH’s volunteers are 60- and 70-year-old retired men. “It’s what the volunteers are physically capable of doing that’s the question,” Ohler said.
Stay within the herd
Saturday evening, March 26, 18 people attended an AA meeting in a large room at the back of the house. They shared stories of recovery, discussed challenges they continue to face and offered words of encouragement to stay sober and clean.
Several FGRC members sent written statements to the News-Times for this story.
Over the past 26 years, Victor Hada has watched many addicts “attend meetings, their lives in disarray, and gradually put a life together with jobs, families rejoined, and attendant blessings,” he wrote. “I can’t even imagine what I would have done if not for this club.”
Actively sober members attend the meetings and social get-togethers, Tutor said. “They stay within the herd.”
“I had hit rock bottom,” wrote Marcie Treat. “My addiction was out of control. I had three children who were placed in state care and I had criminal charges that were pending.”
In 1998, while serving time in the Washington County Community Corrections work release program and awaiting trial on other criminal charges, Treat learned about the FGRC: “I started to see that life was going to be OK, that there is a different way than crime and drugs, and that there are people who truly care.”
After her release from prison in 2000, “One of the first places I went was the FGRC,” Treat wrote. “I was learning to be a responsible person who didn’t hurt her community, but instead gave back.”
She helped open the house every day and prepared coffee and food for the meetings.
“By doing this, I learned to be responsible, dependable, and was able to connect with others who were learning a new way to live without alcohol or drugs,” Treat wrote.
Sanders experienced a similar turnaround.
“I was born to parents that were addicts and lived in foster care most of my life,” she wrote. “I was going down the same path as my parents did with my own children.”
But eight years ago, Sanders attended her first meeting at the little house on 19th Place and has been working to stay clean and sober ever since.
“The club helped me to change my life, break the cycle for my kids, and taught me how to live life in a way I never thought was possible.”
Tutor wants his group to continue that work. “If we can make the community aware of the building’s issues and what we’re doing here, perhaps the community might help,” he said. “Sometimes you have to bite your pride and ask.”
Interested donors can contact Tutor Monday through Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. at 503-267-7165 for more information. Or send cash, checks or money orders to the Forest Grove Recovery Club at P.O. Box 62, Cornelius, OR 97113.