State and local officials joined in the celebration of Piedmont Community Services’ (PCS) 50th anniversary on May 20 at a grand opening of the Pathways to Recovery Center.
Though the center was established in Oct. 2020 and temporarily operated in Uptown Martinsville, it has now found a permanent home in the former American National University Building, at 905 Memorial Boulevard North in Martinsville.
The new space will allow for expansion, said Director of Operations Kippy Cassell. Usually, when the agency moves into a space, it is immediately full. However, the new facility has 32,000-square-feet of usable space on two floors.
Currently, only the first floor is being used, he said, adding the new space “gives us some room to grow, with lots of dreams and plans for the upstairs,” Cassell said.
State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Moneta, said the building “is reborn to change lives, to make a difference, and to be there when no one else is there in the desperation of addiction.”
Stanley quipped that whenever PCS Executive Director “Greg Preston calls me, I come running. Otherwise, he calls me again.”
But on a serious note, he said Preston and his staff “do so much with so little. The state fails … to give you the money, and we don’t supply the financial resources needed for this very important task that you undertake. And yet you make so much out of what we’re able to give you. We put so much upon your shoulders: Fix the world.”
Stanley recalled that, when he was younger, he complained to his father that he could not change the world himself. He said he was told that, if what he chose to do could change the life of one person, he would have changed their world and, in turn, the world itself.
“What you do on a daily basis changes peoples’ lives, changes their world, and in effect changes the world,” Stanley said, and commended the agency’s staff for their efforts.
Preston credited the agency’s staff who “work tirelessly to meet the needs of individuals and family” in Martinsville and the counties of Henry, Patrick, and Franklin.
“If we don’t offer the services, then we’ll build them,” Preston said. “If we can’t provide the services, if we can’t build the service, then we’ll link individuals and families” to those who can provide what they need.
“Today is a prime example of building a great service,” Preston said. “Action is the foundational key to all successes. One of the main focuses of Piedmont is, really, it’s all about helping. It’s in our mission, it’s in our heart, and it’s just what we do. We try to help. We also want to serve … promoting compassionate solutions is at the core of what we do.”
“Every time someone comes to you without hope, you restore it. Today, we celebrate and recognize your talent, your good work, and also what you’re going to do for this community in our future,” Stanley said, adding that ribbon cuttings are symbolic, like unwrapping a gift.
The gift in this case, he said, is the center, because everyone who walks through the door “comes in with desperation, with need, and they walk out of this door with hope, and you provide that hope to them. May all of you, when you walk through this door, be renewed with the spirit that brought you here in the first place. May every challenge that you face be met with the same zeal and energy and enthusiasm that I see in every one of you. May everything you do today make a difference for tomorrow.
“Today, we celebrate not only a new chapter for Piedmont Community Services, but a new chapter of life for so many out there, those that are known to you already and those you are yet to meet, because you are going to change the world with everything that you do right here,” Stanley said.
The center was created “to provide a no-barrier point of access to recovery supports,” said Sharon Buckman, director of Clinical Services.
Planning of the center began in 2019, when a group of peer recovery support specialists came together to discuss the creation of a peer recovery support program at PCS, Buckman said, and added that the vision was a simple one. “We wanted a place that was staffed by individuals with lived experience in recovery from substance use, mental illness, or both. We believe that meeting people who have walked through some of the same trials as you and who have learned to live in recovery is the best way to start to build hope. We wanted a space where anyone who walked through the door would be welcomed and treated with respect and we wanted a place where people could develop a vision for their own recovery, a roadmap for how to get there, support in their journey, and as many second chances as they needed as long as they walked through the door each time wanting something better for themselves.”
She said all of PCS’ peer recovery specialists had a hand in planning the programming at Pathways. “Who better to know what a recovery center should look like?” she said.
Even the center’s program manager, Leon Richardson, was a Community Recovery Program (CRP) graduate, she said.
Richardson said the center was created to provide “alternatives for the purpose of positive socialization, recreation, and support while promoting advocacy, self-help, and education.
“The peer center will also provide a safe and motivating environment that will assist in enhancing individual recovery. All are welcome in the recovery center,” which is a drop-in space with a calendar of upcoming activities and offered services hanging in the entryway for curious visitors, he said.
When the program was initially established, it was open three evenings per week at its Uptown location. Now, “we will be expanding programs to be offered during the day and also offering Saturday hours beginning in June,” Buckman said, and added that “the (other) programs located here have been able to do great things for people who have mental health and substance use issues.”
One such program is Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) which, Buckman said, exists to help those exhibiting significant mental health symptoms who have difficulty maintaining contact with more traditional treatment providers who operate out of offices.
She said the program includes the term “assertive” because “ACT staff don’t wait for you to find them, ACT staff come to you,” providing services in the community in which a person lives and focusing on the whole person rather than a single aspect of that person.
“Because ACT staff meet people where they are and help them access the resources that are important to them, they instill hope in these people to dream bigger,” she said.
Another service which has moved into the new building is the CRP program, which was established in 2012 in partnership with the Harvest Foundation. Buckman said the program was the vision of Jim Tobin and Bill Cook, who understood that, though everyone has the ability to recover from substance use problems, the lack of employment opportunities in the community was putting people at risk of relapse when they became discouraged in their job search.
She said CRP developed as a support for those who completed the early phases of recovery, developing the skills needed to avoid substance use, but who needed support to continue their journey to a full, sustained recovery, which included the ability to support themselves and their families.
“This is really the result of a lot of shared dreams. Many people came together, and we were willing to hear each other and understand that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Buckman said.