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Robby's Voice leader cuts ties with Recovery Center of Medina County

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MEDINA — Rob Brandt, the founder of the recovery group Robby’s Voice, is cutting ties with the Recovery Center of Medina County over its decision to serve alcohol at its restaurant, which will serve as a culinary institute for recovering addicts.

Brandt, who resigned effective Friday as interim board president of the Recovery Center of Medina County, said he had separated himself from running the recovery center Jan. 1.

Brandt said there was a very vigorous debate on the board over the decision made by Medina County Common Pleas Judges Christopher J. Collier and Joyce V. Kimbler and Veronica Perry, county drug and mental health court director and chief probation officer.

Together, they founded and secured funding for what a media release said was the first recovery center in Medina County. It’s located at 538 W. Liberty St.

And, together, the judges said they made the decision to serve alcohol at that center.

“It was a unilateral decision made by the courts,” Brandt said. “They have their thought process relative to recovery. We do not agree with it. It goes against our core values.”

Collier said he sympathizes with those in opposition of serving alcohol at a recovery center.

“The decision was to serve alcohol in the culinary program we modeled after the program at Edwins,” Collier said Friday evening. “It’s a culinary program with a recovery focus.”

Collier is referring to the nonprofit Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute in Cleveland. Chef and founder Brandon Chrostowski runs a program that gives adults who were formerly incarcerated a chance to learn and work in the hospitality industry.

“I understand other people’s feelings,” Collier said. “I respect them as well.”

He said Kimbler, Perry and himself don’t sit on the board of directors for the recovery center.

“The board is its own entity,” Collier said.

Those in opposition to serving alcohol “are not seeing the full breadth of it,” Kimbler said Thursday at a media conference at the recovery center.

“We did not need to be talked into (serving alcohol),” Perry said Thursday. “Edwins is a successful model.”

Serenite Restaurant and Culinary Institute is expected to open in six to eight weeks.

Chrostowski will oversee the culinary program at the recovery center, which will provide students with culinary skills, job placement, health and wellness, recovery support and peer support in the eight-month program.

In his resignation letter to the board, Brandt said he was “grateful for the opportunity to have Robby’s vision come to fruition.

When we presented this concept to the public in September 2015, we believed it was a critical piece, and now that has all been validated.

“That said, the future direction that is being taken is not one we are able to align with, so we must stay true to our core values as a family and an organization.”

Robby’s Voice is a nonprofit organization formed to help prevent and deal with drug addiction for parents, students, schools and communities. Rob and Carla’s son, Robby, died of a heroin overdose in 2011.

Relative to his resignation, he requests:

n The return of the name Robby’s to his organization and that it not be tied to the center for future use;

n The return of the specific certificates provided to Robby’s, especially the ones provided through entities that were in attendance through their relationship with Robby’s Voice;

n The opportunity to purchase the temporary sign that used to hang on the building.

He said he wishes the best for the recovery center.

“Our focus has always been to make a difference with this epidemic,” Brandt said in the letter.

“We have experienced the battle for recovery firsthand, and will continue to work to assist those seeking a pathway to continued recovery.

“Our prayers will be with all of you as you progress on this journey.”

The Recovery Center of Medina County is looking for an off-site location to hold meetings. Brandt said he will not be associated with it.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.



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