GCC summit attendees propose more recovery events, increased transportation

  • Participants in a Recovery Summit at Greenfield Community College discuss sober events in and around Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Sonya Trust of AmeriCorps jots down ideas for sober events in and around Greenfield at a Recovery Summit at Greenfield Community College STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Participants in a Recovery Summit at Greenfield Community College discuss sober events in and around Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 2/19/2020 10:02:53 PM

GREENFIELD — Members of Greenfield Community College (GCC) and the surrounding community discussed the possibility of hosting more frequent recovery events and increasing access to affordable transportation during Wednesday’s GCC Recovery Summit.

“Community conversation was the goal,” said Sonya Trust, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer who led the discussion.

The conversation and luncheon included members of the public, who are recovering from their own addictions, community allies, members of the Northern Hope Center, The RECOVER Project and the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region.

Trust said she graduated from GCC and was assigned through AmeriCorps to conduct work at the school focused on substance recovery. Discussions Wednesday centered around what the school is currently doing, and could do more of, to continue supporting addiction recovery in Franklin County.

Citizens asked about community access to, and awareness of, community recovery resources or events. According to Trust, GCC holds two recovery meetings a week for the public. “All Recovery Meetings” are held Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. Meetings for the RECOVER Project are held Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m.

Steven “Skip” Sommer, a local recovery activist who is recovering from addiction himself, said transportation is a key point of interest. While the community college hosts events and meetings, he said it can be difficult for people to afford a bus ticket or rely on public transit.

“They don’t want to walk the whole way out here,” Sommer said.

“It’s a long walk, I can attest to that,” agreed Zack Desjardins, a peer volunteer with The RECOVER Project who is recovering from addiction.

Some in attendance inquired about establishing a specific bus pass for those who wanted to attend recovery events but can’t afford a bus ticket. Sommer said some people might be more inclined to make the trip, even if GCC could offer just a one-way bus pass to get back downtown.

The school also has the Community Resource Studio for students, Trust said. Local organizations share the space to provide support services for students, which are confidential and available at no cost. GCC also works with recovery coaches to help students discuss and overcome their personal struggles with alcoholism and addiction.

One summit attendee proposed a movie night, sober cookout or block party where neighbors could get together in a family-friendly, substance-free environment. The idea received support from the room, with Trust noting that such an event might need to be coordinated with the Greenfield Parks & Recreation Department. Desjardins put forth the idea of organized group hikes with recovery members.

“We’ve got some really great trails around here,” Desjardins said.

Allowing people involved in recovery programs to sit in on GCC classes in an exploratory capacity, for free, was also mentioned. This could allow anyone searching for their “purpose” or “calling” to explore classes and get a better sense of the ever-growing career fields.

Tommy Stanziola, a volunteer recovery coach with The RECOVER project, said he wants to do more to “celebrate the recovery process” and break the stigma that prevents many from sharing their struggle or asking for help. He recognized that many students, or others, may be afraid of their peers knowing they’re in recovery.

“Recovery is bad-ass,” Stanziola said, proudly. “I used to be seen walking out of drug houses. Now if I’m caught coming out of a meeting or a church … well, I can handle that.”

“Everyone is struggling with something,” Stanziola continued. “If they tell you they’re not, they’re not telling you the truth. ... We want everyone to feel like they can do this, too.”

GCC will host more recovery-based events in the near future. On March 9, it will partner with the Garden Cinemas for “From Heroin to Hollywood.” The 6 p.m. event — co-sponsored by GCC, the YMCA and the Franklin County House of Correction — will feature author Ritchie Farrell, of Lowell, sharing his personal story of addiction and a screening of “The Fighter.” All proceeds will be donated to the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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