he Eastern Shore Recovery Foundation (ESRF), a 33-year-old nonprofit offering support to people with all manner of addictions, opened its latest and largest meeting facility Tuesday on Well Road in Daphne. Common Ground III, a 40-foot by 100-foot building with bathrooms and a kitchen, will be able to accommodate 210 people at a time.
“We have 49 meetings from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., seven days a week, with 22 different 12-step groups,” ESRF President Craig Rhodes said last week. The foundation has had two other facilities on Well Road, but outgrew both. “Our biggest room had a 74-person capacity and we were afraid the fire department was going to shut us down because we had several meetings that were over capacity. So we had a real need, especially on weekends when people from the Salvation Army are brought in. We had meetings over the weekend that had over 100 people.”
Rhodes said the depth of programs and convenient schedule offered at Common Ground draws people from as far away as Mobile and Pensacola.
The ESRF’s mission is to provide and maintain a safe meeting environment for those participating in 12-step recovery programs. These groups include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and Al-Anon, a support group for people who have an addicted family member.
“The variety of groups serving a variety of addictions speaks volumes to what Common Ground offers,” the organization said in a news release. “New groups are always welcomed and often fill needs beyond those with alcohol or narcotic addictions. Overeaters Anonymous as well as a group for veterans dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are two examples. We support groups dedicated to helping non-addicted family members cope with the issues of a loved one’s addictions. For startup groups, we offer rooms rent-free for six months to let them get their group organized and to grow attendance. Facilities are open to our members for one-on-one sessions between sponsor and sponsee, critical for the journey to recovery.”
ESRF was formed in May 1986 when a group of 10 doctors, engineers, elected officials and local businessmen each threw $100 into a hat, expressing a desire to offer a location to support individuals with any type of addiction. In a letter to potential supporters, the president wrote “ … we dreamed of a place … that those in the 12-step program could call home. A place for fun and fellowship that would be available to us on an around-the-clock basis.”
Initially there were three meetings per week attended by 300 people a month. Dues were set at $10 per month, which is where they remain today. In the case of a hardship, dues can be waived. Membership is not required for attendance at meetings.
As Baldwin County grew in population, the number of individuals needing a safe place to recover also grew. In less than three years, ESRF had expanded to 17 meetings per week with approximately 1,200 persons attending each month in what was then a rented building on McAdams Avenue.
Soon after, ESRF’s board assessed its current and future needs and determined to purchase property and construct its own facility on Well Road. The first Common Ground facility was built by volunteers and paid for with donations. Common Ground III was also dependent upon donations, but a professional builder was employed and ESRF said it faced cost overruns due to new city requirements. To date ESRF has raised $311,223 of Common Ground III’s $480,000 construction cost.
“Unfortunately, since we started the campaign over a year ago, construction costs have gone up 20 percent and new, unforeseen building and site requirements levied by the city of Daphne’s Planning Commission in July 2018 has put ESRF $168,777 short of what is needed for the project,” Rhodes announced. ESRF has established a GoFundMe page in hopes of crowdfunding the difference.
“We’re asking for your support at whatever level you feel comfortable with to make this project come true,” Rhodes said. “For me personally, my donations to ESRF are in gratitude for the support I have received at Common Ground. It is a form of ‘paying it forward,’ a term often used, packed with well intentions for all those who help others.”
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