A special event for a special place

Cathy Brownfield

The day of the groundbreaking was a wet one, but a tent covered the gathering. Reporters and photographers were going about their business of collecting information and photographs to forever mark the historic event. There were dignitaries from the local level all the way to Columbus and points in between who participated in the first physical step for this pilot project of Family Recovery Center, including the woman that the facility was named for, Luceille Fleming. We are talking about the big yellow house that love built behind Lisbon McDonald’s. It was a big day.

            Later, as construction drew to its conclusion, the community at large stepped forward to help furnish the 10 apartments, large community room, a multi-purpose room with kitchenette, laundry room and child day care. Service clubs, churches, just regular people, donated to the needs families would have as women and their children began to move into the house, 2002.

            Fleming House writes a history, a life-changing history, that tells of what can be accomplished with a hand up, not a hand out. And while not every story written there is a success story, there have been many success stories as women with problems of addiction have made commitments they have kept, promises made to themselves that they are in recovery for life. They do not want to go back because they’ve found a better way of life, a healthier, more content life, that has been worth fighting for and is worth holding onto. They have recovered or discovered hopes and dreams and goals … challenges they can win instead of obstacles that hold them back.

            A special luncheon was held at Fleming House in 2010. The honoree, Mrs. Fleming, had retired seven years earlier from the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS) which she had headed up since its beginning in 1989 at the request of former Ohio governor Richard Celeste. She brought with her a large selection of books for the children at Fleming House. The women who lived there at the time were excited to take Mrs. Fleming on a tour of the house.

            “These are homes,” she said, pleased with the facility that bears her name. She explained that when she first came to the job, the most appalling thing she discovered was that there were only 20 programs for women in Ohio. When she retired there were 93 programs to assist Ohio women in recovery.

            The women had put together an album of their stories that they presented to Mrs. Fleming. They read some of the entries. But Mrs. Fleming interrupted them with apologies. “I have to say something. You all are thanking me, but I didn’t do anything. You should be thanking Eloise Traina. She did this.”

            Mrs. Traina explained, “ODADAS gave us a grant of $10,000 and told us to see what we could do with it. What can you do with $10,000? We turned it into $1.3 million.”

            Mrs. Fleming, a recovering alcoholic, said, “The first year of sobriety is very difficult. After dinner I would say to my daughter, Susie, ‘Let’s go to the mall.’ Susie probably had other things she would rather have done.” But she was fighting for sobriety. (Susie, her mother’s companion at this event, said she was glad to be there for her mother.)

            “I was always excited about the meetings,” Mrs. Fleming said. Her husband was not so enthusiastic. She didn’t force him to attend with her. “But there was something good about the meetings with others who were recovering, too.”

            The stigma of addiction still exists to some degree today, but Luceille Fleming serves as a reminder that good support systems and hard work come back to the community.

            A resident approached Mrs. Fleming that day. “Mrs. Fleming, thank you. My mother was trying to get here. She wanted to thank you for giving back her daughter.”

            “That’s what it’s all about,” Mrs. Fleming answered.

            There is an opportunity for the public to see just what Fleming House means, not just to the women who reside there, but to the community in which everyone is invested. The Fleming House Alumna and Community Open House begins at 6 p.m. Aug. 5 at Fleming House, 7300 Rose Drive, Lisbon.

            “Come join us in the Celebration of Life and Second Chances,” they invite. Refreshments are free at the fundraiser but there will be a Chinese auction of baskets, a yard sale, a DJ, as well as tours of the house.

Family Recovery Center offers mental health services as well as addiction services. The goal is for the health and well-being of all. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or email, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the website at familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.