MEDINA — Rob Brandt is accustomed to talking about losing his son, Robby, to a heroin overdose in 2011.
But when he came to a podium Monday in the former Medina Steak & Seafood restaurant, he paused — more than once — to collect his emotions.
There were an estimated 250 people in the crowd for the opening of a recovery center named Robby’s and although Brandt has spoken to large audiences before, this was different.
“It brings back a lot of feelings,” Brandt said after the welcoming speech and introduction of key people who made the center a reality. “You think, ‘What if we had this before?’ ”
He meant what if the center had been created and his son might have been the beneficiary of its support programs.
“We knew the truth,” Brandt said, thinking about his wife, Carla, and twins, Nolan and Jaclyn, who stood nearby their father at the podium. “We knew we were going to do something. Five years ago, this grew wings.”
The center was created through a $300,000 state grant obtained by Medina County Chief Probation Officer Veronica Perry.
She said the county “has a financial investment in the project and will be a project manager.”
But the day-to-day operation will be under Brandt, a nine-member board and two center coordinators. Brandt is president of the nonprofit Robby’s Voice, which has its own seven-member board (“I don’t like tie votes,” Brandt said) and holds drug abuse awareness programs.
Remembering how his son talked about an idea to help people with addictions, Brandt said Monday’s ribbon-
cutting and ceremonies had turned talk into reality.
He found himself standing in a building where:
- meetings will be held for Alcoholics Anonymous; Narcotics Anonymous; Al-Anon, and Alateen;
- a restaurant will be opened, possibly as soon as November;
- culinary training will be offered.
“Robby set us on this cause,” Brandt told the audience. “He wanted to talk in schools about the disease, about making choices, about getting support. He wanted to help those in recovery. It was his dream, his vision. Now it’s our honor to bring it to the next step.”
The $300,000 grant is expected to fund the center for two years. After that, the goal is for it to be self-sustaining.
“I’m not a big fan of living on grants,” Brandt said. “We’ll put together a plan with a robust outlook.”
A stipulation in the grant is that 51 percent of its directors must be in some form of treatment.
The two co-recovery center coordinators will be Dave Caperton and Stefanie Robinson, both from Medina. Caperton will be paid $36,000 for a five-day workweek and Robinson $14,400 for two days.
The center will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. The phone for the Robby’s Voice program is (330) 952-2611.
Caperton said he welcomes phone calls at (330) 242-5365.
Decision to volunteer
The decision on where to locate the center met with controversy earlier this year when the grant was received.
Medina City Council and county commissioners heard requests from homeowners and residents asking that another site be chosen.
But on Monday, some area neighbors — including members of the Bankers Row Historic Neighborhood Association — attended the opening along with elected leaders, county officials, drug treatment program officials and chiefs of law enforcement agencies.
Jess Hazeltine was one of the neighbors who had spoken out at public meetings.
But she has now found herself working as a volunteer at the site and donated a sign done in calligraphy for the opening.
“They have 21 four-hour shifts a week available (for volunteers), and I plan to take one a week,” she said.
“My family chose kindness (to welcome the center),” she said of her thoughts as it opened. “I want to set an example and what kind of person and mother would I be otherwise?”
Beth Biggins-Ramer, another nearby resident who had preferred a different location, said she was impressed with the cleanliness of the facility.
“We welcome them. We’re neighbors,” she said.
Brandt said he understood there were concerns about the location.
One way to keep the neighborhood informed about the center and its activities will be a monthly meeting that will include Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell, Medina Ward 1 Councilman Brian Hilberg, Brandt, and two members of the community.
Looking around the building as people took tours and admired the d￩cor, Brandt said, “Robby liked stories about places that were thought of as haunted. It’s neat here. It’s old. It was built in 1868. It’s historic.
“Now it has new life.”
Brandt said people who come through the center will learn about a recovery philosophy.
“We’re writing a story. It’s a privilege to think about the outcome. It’s an opportunity to make a start. It’s an opportunity to write an ending.”
Contact Managing Editor Lawrence Pantages at (330) 721-4065 or email@example.com.