MEDINA — When Robby Brandt died of a heroin overdose in October 2011, his father, Rob, created a nonprofit to raise awareness of the dangers of substance abuse.
Six years later, the Medina-based organization is taking a direct role in helping people in recovery.
“Robby’s” will be the name of the recovery center moving soon into the former Medina Steak & Seafood restaurant, 538 W. Liberty St.
“To me, it truly was God looking down and saying, ‘Right time, right place,’ ” Brandt said Tuesday. “I know this will save lives. I know what it’s like to lose a child to this disease. If I know it will work, we have to get it done.”
The recovery center, with a culinary operation and restaurant, is being funded with a $300,000 grant secured by Medina County Chief Probation Officer Veronica Perry from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation.
“It’s our intention to make culinary part of the curriculum,” he said. “I’m excited. It’s creative. It could be a link to a couple other things.”
Brandt said he is signing paperwork Friday and the plan is to give the place a good cleaning Saturday.
“It’s our goal to be actionable by the end of June or the beginning of July, barring any unforeseen surprises,” Brandt said. “Everything passed inspection.”
County commissioners in May approved a two-year lease agreement for the building with owner Ken Collins, whose company is CKF Partners.
The rent will be $66,000 per year, plus a share of property taxes. The lease began June 1 and will continue through May 31, 2019.
County Administrator Scott Miller has said the plan included partnering with a nonprofit to operate the facility.
The county will cover funding the first two years.
“The goal would be to go into privatized funding (in two years),” Brandt said.
He called running the facility a “daunting” task.
Brandt said he wants to collaborate with Lorain County-based nonprofit The LCADA Way, led by CEO Tom Stuber.
“We’re not in any deep negotiations yet,” he said. “Once we get down the road, we’ll see what the business model looks like.”
He said Robby’s Voice has 16 to 20 members, counting the board and support staff. All of them won’t be involved in the recovery center project.
Brandt, of Medina, said he’s on the board and will make some programming decisions for the center. “Things we should and shouldn’t be doing,” he said.
“We’ll partner with other organizations to bring resources to the table. We’ve got a rich portfolio. We have to prioritize the important things. As things change, we’ll adapt to those changes.”
The county has said a full-time director will be hired. There also will be some part-time employees and volunteers.
Brandt, who works full time in medical sales, said it was important to him for Robby’s Voice to run this facility. His family works alongside him with Robby’s Voice: Carla, his wife; son, Nolan; and daughter, Jaclyn.
“My (late) son’s name is on the organization,” Brandt said. “We have to do the best we can. We’ve been blessed to do some positive things. This is what we needed to do. It’s personal.”
In April, Robby’s Voice was named a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award, one of 58 organizations honored nationwide.
Residents in the West Liberty Street area, including the Bankers Row Historic Neighborhood Association, fought to keep a recovery center out of the former restaurant. They repeatedly said they were not opposed to a recovery center, but wanted a different location. They spoke at Medina City Council and county commissioner meetings.
Brandt said Tuesday those discussions did not affect his decision to get involved in the project that had the support of Stuber and Perry along with common pleas judges Christopher J. Collier and Joyce V. Kimbler.
“I cannot concern myself with what we don’t have ability to control,” Brandt said. “I understand the concerns. I have great faith in what we’re doing. I don’t have anything to be concerned about.
“I don’t anticipate any confrontations. They are good people that have legitimate concerns. We may not agree on everything. That’s OK. Over time, we’ll be an asset to the community.”
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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