SANDUSKY — When Joey Supina founded Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center (S.A.R.R.C.) in downtown Sandusky with his wife, Mary Supina, in 1996, he didn’t imagine it would impact thousands of lives across Erie and Ottawa counties.
With the completion of the building’s remodeling project earlier this year, the center is reaching more people and aiding more local organizations than ever before.
“People don’t realize that we do as much in Ottawa County as we do here,” said Assistant Director Christopher Ruff.
In the mid-1990s, Joey Supina was asked to take over an artist’s co-op in downtown Sandusky. As a talented artist who recreates his recovery experiences with paint and canvas, he didn’t want to see the co-op close.
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Under his direction, the organization was transformed into a recovery center where people who struggle with substance use and/or mental health challenges could come for support, encouragement and friendship in a respectful environment. With this new focus, S.A.R.R.C. was formed.
“We started having (recovery) meetings here, and it caught on,” Supina said. “I set out to get us (in recovery) known in a positive way. That was my agenda.”
His agenda succeeded beautifully. On Sept. 11, over 400 people showed up for the eighth annual Recovery Walk and the center’s ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating its Aug. 2 reopening. Some of those 400 are in recovery, and some were there to support someone they love. Each one represented the dignity and hope of choosing a life of recovery.
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The power of peer support, a foundation principle
S.A.R.R.C. functions on the principle of the power of peer support, so all of its employees and volunteers are either “in recovery or their significant other is,” Supina said. Anyone seeking help at the center can know they will be greeted by someone who understands their struggles and their fears.
“I’ve never climbed Mt. Everest, but if I did, I’d want someone with me who’d been up there before,” Supina said. “We know what it’s like to suffer loss. We know addiction. We know what it’s like to be challenged.”
Peer support isn’t just a byword at S.A.R.R.C.; it is a foundational principle, so the center is open every day of the year, including holidays.
“We have big holiday parties here on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving and even Superbowl Sunday,” said Administrative Assistant Amy Jacobs. “This is where Joey and Mary spend their Christmas.”
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Remodeling created bigger and better space
The building remodeling project created bigger and better space for special occasion functions as well as for the many weekly recovery and wellness meetings held at the center each week.
The center now has three large meeting rooms and a smaller conference room; additional office space; a bigger kitchen; and an art gallery displaying Supina’s work. An elevator and five handicap accessible bathrooms were added to better serve the public.
“The building is now 100-percent handicap accessible,” Ruff said.
S.A.R.R.C. hosts over two dozen recovery and wellness meetings each week, and Ruff said there is time and space for more. S.A.R.R.C. is truly a community center that invites organizations to use its space. Various local and state groups have met at the center, including Townsend School, which comes three times a week.
“The court reached out to me, and they’re going to have an 18-week training program here. We’ve done a lot this month, and we still have time slots open,” Ruff said. “We’re just getting going with the possibilities of how many people we can reach with this space.”
Chris Herren to share story of addiction and recovery
In an effort to bring recovery awareness to even more people, S.A.R.R.C. has invited NBA legend Chris Herren to share his story of addiction and recovery at the Prevention Starts with All event at the Ten Fifty Eight Event Center in Sandusky at 7 p.m. Thursday. The event is free and open to the public.
S.A.R.R.C. is located at 138 E. Market St., Sandusky. For more information, visit sanduskyartisansrecovery.com or call 419- 621-9377. Fundraising for the remodeling project continues. Donations can be made on S.A.R.R.C.’s website or Facebook page.
Contact correspondent Sheri Trusty at email@example.com.