By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — As a recovering addict, there were few places Michael Emilio could go in the evening where he wasn’t surrounded by temptation. Bars and concert venues produced strong whiffs of alcohol and drugs — the very substances he was seeking to avoid.
“One of the things they teach you in rehab is you have to change people, places and things,” Emilio said.
Those changes soon will be easier for Emilio and other recovering substance abusers to make thanks to a new gathering place for recovering addicts called the Turningpoint Center of Addison County, which will be established in the Marble Works shopping complex this fall.
The center will rent space formerly occupied by Vermont Magazine in what the Marble Works Partnership refers to as the “stone building” that faces Printer’s Alley.
Once up and running, the Turningpoint Center will offer a wide range of services for recovering addicts and their families, including:
• A place to congregate, commiserate and offer mutual support. Plans call for the center to offer television, computers, music, refreshments and games.
• Information about the various recovery programs available to people trying to bounce back from addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling and other problems. The center may also offer meeting space for 12-step groups (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) and other recovery oriented groups.
• Education workshops, classes and training to support those who are in recovery.
Local residents Linda Bouffard and Mary Paquette — whose families have been touched by substance abuse — are taking a lead in organizing the center. It is being created thanks to a $47,000 grant through the Drug Education, Treatment, Enforcement and Rehabilitation (DETER) program, spearheaded by Gov. James Douglas.
Bouffard said the $47,000 will cover the center’s first-year expenses, including rent and a part-time administrator.
“This space is perfect for us right now,” Paquette said, as she and Bouffard met last Friday with other organizers at Turningpoint Center’s future home. “It’s a good start, the price is right and the location is perfect.”
Perfect, because the center will be near downtown Middlebury and therefore accessible to clients who rely on public transportation.
Volunteers have already begun painting the space and sizing it up for some cozy furniture they hope to receive at a reasonable price, or through donations.
“We want it to be a place that’s welcoming, warm and home-like,” Bouffard said.
Middlebury will host the ninth Turningpoint Center in Vermont. The others are currently located in Burlington, St. Johnsbury, Barre, Rutland, White River Junction, Springfield, Bennington and Brattleboro.
The six recovery centers that were up and running in the state last year received 93,000 visits from people in recovery, or those seeking to begin recovery.
Douglas has touted the centers as an important way to keep vulnerable citizens drug-free.
“Recovery centers provide a place where people receive peer support and participate in social activities in their community in a drug and alcohol free environment,” Douglas said on Wednesday, through a press release announcing the Turningpoint Center grant. “They build and protect the investment in treatment by providing a place that helps sustain recovery and provides connections to other local services.”
Organizers of the center have already approached Middlebury College with the thought of having students perform internships or community service projects at Turningpoint. They also hope people of all generations will become involved with the center.
“It’s an ageless disease,” said Emilio, who hopes to be involved at the Turningpoint Center after it opens.
Turningpoint will be run as a nonprofit, with a board of directors. Organizers hope to open the center in late October. And when it does, it will be dedicated to the memory of Bernie Martin, a former Cornwall resident who successfully fought alcoholism and inspired others to do the same.
Ron Martin, Bernie’s son, said Turningpoint Center will be a fitting tribute to his father, as well as an important resource for families.
“This, to me, is a family disease,” Martin said, while surveying the center’s future home. “This can be a place where the whole family can come, a safe place where they can feel wanted.”
Anyone able to donate furnishings, office equipment or “game room” amenities to the Turningpoint Center of Addison County should call Paquette at 388-4537, or Bouffard at 388-2089.