MEDINA — In operation just more than 30 days, Robby’s Recovery Center has exceeded expectations.
Rob Brandt, president of the nonprofit Robby’s Voice, said they have seen more than 550 people come through the center.
“We’re really well ahead of what we’ve anticipated, given the fact that we’re truly just starting to get social programming going,” Brandt said.
Today’s program from 6-7 p.m. is being held on International Overdose Awareness Day. The center, 538 W. Liberty St., will remember those who lost the battle to addiction and those still combating the disease.
The event will feature speakers, food, beverages and a moment of silence followed by a candle-lighting. All materials are being donated by Laura Parnell, owner of Cool Beans Café.
Brandt will be remembering his son, Robby, who died of a heroin overdose in 2011.
The center is asking that attendees bring paper towels, toilet paper or laundry detergent that will be donated to sobriety facilities — Cathy’s House in Medina and Bianco Accommodations in Akron.
“We want to be able to help provide them with things that are needed on daily basis for the sober houses,” Brandt said.
In Wadsworth, Elijah’s Truth Foundation and the Wadsworth Drug Free Community Coalition are hosting an event from 3-9 p.m. at Memorial Park, 274 Grandview Ave.
It will feature information tables from area recovery resources, music from Wadsworth Community Radio and food from 3-5 p.m.
Speakers, including Wadsworth Schools Superintendent Andrew Hill and Nick Bianco of Bianco Accommodations, will begin addressing the crowd at 5 p.m.
The event will conclude with an 8 p.m. candlelight vigil.
Those who bring a nonperishable food or personal care item will be entered into a drawing to win a T-shirt. Donations will benefit residents at Bianco Accommodations and Elijah’s Truth Foundation.
As of Aug. 28, there have been 161 drug overdoses and 26 suspected drug-related deaths in Medina County, according to data provided by the Medina County Drug Task Force.
Statewide, a record 4,050 people died of drug overdoses last year, driven in large part by the emergence of stronger drugs like the synthetic painkiller fentanyl. Data released Wednesday shows on average,
11 Ohioans are dying each day by overdosing on pain pills, heroin, fentanyl or other drugs. Overdose deaths rose 33 percent over the 3,050 deaths in 2015.
Programming on the rise
Robby’s Recovery Center is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily for support, resources and programming.
Brandt estimated more than 150 people come on a regular basis for various programs.
“Daytimes have been slow, as expected (because people are at work), but we’ve exceeded our expectations relative to evening patronage,” he said.
Programming varies from coffee talks, support group meetings, game nights, free Saturday dinners, movie nights, visits by service dogs, open mic night, book clubs and knitting clubs.
Brandt said the center is finalizing a donation and sponsorship to implement a music and arts program in the near future.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” Brandt said. “As we grow and grow, we continue to implement more programming … and people just come in and suggest ideas.”
Brandt said even after the center was open just two weeks, its success struck him during a Saturday night pizza party.
“It was alive,” he said. “I walked in and I knew in that moment that this is going to work. It’s going to work big-time. Thirty days in and there’s already a subculture … a sense of community.”
“What has been cool is how many family members or people in the community that just show up at events to show their support and to learn about what we’re doing,” he continued.
Brandt said the recovery community has asked the center to extend weekend hours.
“We’re not ready for that yet,” he said. “We have to continue to earn the trust and support from the community and figure out select days where we can be open a little later. It’s one step at a time.”
Brandt said they are working through the process needed to open a restaurant in the center that will offer culinary programs for patrons.
“We’re working on obtaining permits with the city and the county, and we’ve started to build out a structure of the program with a team of people,” he said.
“We’re working on a crawl-walk-run approach — how do we get started, how do we ramp that up and how to take that to a functional level.”
He said he anticipates it will be up and running in November.
The center was created through a $300,000 state grant obtained by Medina County Chief Probation Officer Veronica Perry. The grant is expected to fund the center for two years, with a goal to be self-sustaining afterward.
The center is run by six employees and 40 volunteers.
Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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