A pair of hands with the simple words, “We keep what we have by giving it away. Our fingerprints never fade from the lives we touch,” covers one wall of the Club House at 2102 11th St., the former Cirqe d’ Art building in Portsmouth.
The people who frequent the house, operated by the Scioto County Counseling Center, are are recovering from addiction, and those who are peer mentors take their work very serious.
The first time Bill Boggs showed up at the Club House he was in treatment, and he had heard there was some volunteer work to do. Boggs has seen the worst of it.
“With the Oxycontin epidemic, them getting so expensive, a lot of people on the street will resort to heroin now,” Boggs said. “A lot of people are dying quicker now.”
Boggs said because so many people who come to the facility can’t get treatment, it brings him back on a regular basis to help keep those people off the street.
As you scan the facility there is a “Rock Band” video game system surrounded by sofas and chairs, a pool table and a bumper pool table, a ping pong table, a coffee bar, and a lot of other things for families of recovering addicts to do in an atmosphere that is free of drugs and alcohol, and always someone to listen and help.
Peggy Gemperline, vice president of Program Development for the Counseling Center, came up with the idea for the Club House when she realized there were people without insurance who could not get help for their addiction.
“We had people dying who were on our waiting list and who begged for treatment,” Gemperline said. “And we could not find them funding for treatment. We also had people who had completed treatment, and after treatment didn’t have a place to go during the day or in the evenings. They didn’t have a lot of sober, clean activities to fill their day, or a place to take their family. So this idea was something that grew out of a grant that I wrote a year or so back that didn’t get funded, but we took pieces of that that we could handle ourselves.”
Gemperline said the Center leased the building and in July brought people in to clean, paint and stock it for use by families wanting to enjoy a clean, sober atmosphere.
Gemperline said what concerns her most is that there is no funding at all for the Club House. There are no grants.
“All of the painting you see on the walls has been done by people in recovery, who spent hours and hours and hours volunteering here, seeking out donations of furniture,” Gemperline said. “The (coffee) bar over there was built by my brother in memory of his son who died a year ago in June from an Oxycontin overdose. He was 22 years old and would not have been able to get treatment — would not have qualified for treatment — because he didn’t have insurance.”
Gemperline said there is a definite need for donations to keep the facility in operation, and she said anyone wishing to make donations could do so by contacting the Scioto County Counseling Center.
As you sit and talk with the peer mentors, there is a thread that runs through their reasons for involvement. They refer to the people they share their lives with as family. It is a place where non-judgmental people share the depths of addiction and the heights of recovery.
“I’ve seen it personally. It saved my life. It saved the lives of all the peer mentors here. We’re saving people every day,” Boggs said. “Every time I see someone walk through the door, I know they’re not out there using, and it can be that one day that they don’t come in that they die. It is a life-or-death situation. This is literally somebody’s life saved every time they are with us.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232, or email@example.com.
“I’ve been a drug user for 33 years,” Phil Vassar Jr. said. “In 2008, I got clean for about six months, slipped, went back out there, and always had N.A. (Narcotics Anonymous) and the Counseling Center in the back of my mind, and I just wasn’t able to go back through those doors, whether it be for embarrassment or whatever. But just recently, about two months ago I got in a little bit of trouble, and it motivated me to get back to these rooms. This has been a blessing for me.”
Melissa Fisher had been an addict for 10 to 12 years and didn’t realize she had a problem; then she got into some trouble. Now, with help, she has turned her life around.
“It has brought me to realize that there are some things you can do outside of drugs,” Fisher said. “We have a good time down here. We’re a family. I didn’t realize you could have fun without drugs. I love this place. It saved me.”
Scott Kitchen is a tall imposing figure who seems to epitomize what a peer mentor ought to be.
“I was one of the original ones who came down here and helped paint and get this place started,” Kitchen said. “I have been clean for a little over two years. This place is wonderful. It has helped so many lives, by staying clean. It just gives people a place to come and hang out, to meet and just to have fun.”
Lori Partlow, who has been clean for seven months, has a definite reason for frequenting the Club house.
“To be around sober people. To get out of myself,” she said. “I come in here to get involved with sober people, to hang out with sober people. It makes you realize that you can do things without using drugs.”