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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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MARTINSVILLE-Henry County EDC - Click for Website
Recovery center now open
Provides safe, supportive haven for those who need help
Click to Enlarge
Robin Hairfield, center executive director, Jerry Ward and Debbie Pugh, members of the center’s board of directors, and Jim Tobin of Piedmont Community Services, stand in front of the center on Church Street.

Monday, November 27, 2006

By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff Writer

Robin Hairfield knows what it is to hit rock bottom. Seven years ago, drug and alcohol addiction dragged her there.

"I was the rebel child," said Hairfield, 42, who grew up in Axton. "I was defiant."

She is reluctant to spell out the details - "I led a lifestyle that's not able to be put in the paper," she said - but Hairfield makes one thing clear: The choices she made since graduating from Laurel Park High School in 1982 were far from healthy.

By December 1999, "I knew that if I didn't make a change in my life, I would not live to see 2000," she said.

Seven years later, Hairfield is clean and sober, just one semester away from a bachelor's degree in human services counseling from Old Dominion University and executive director of a new nonprofit group born of her experience.

We Care, which opened earlier this month at 509 E. Church St., is a consumer-run recovery center - a place where people recovering from addiction or mental illnesses, such as depression, can talk to others who have gone through the same things.

Hairfield began to think about starting a group like We Care during her first days of recovery seven years ago. Although the support she received from existing groups, her family and Piedmont Community Services (PCS) was invaluable, she said she saw a need for more.

"I got involved in other consumer-run organizations" outside the area, she said. "I just kept thinking, "˜I see a lot of our people from our community going to these services. Why can't we have something here?'"�

As her idea became more defined, Hairfield took it to PCS, which agreed to contract with the program for two years. Jim Tobin, PCS executive director, said We Care is part of an emerging trend in mental health treatment.

Historically, treatment "focused on those most in need, the least able, the most critically ill people," Tobin said. "What everyone has come to understand is, that's all well and good and needs to occur, but as people get well they need to be supported in that recovery all the way through the process."�

Glen Baker, a friend of Hairfield's and a volunteer at We Care, said he is proof that the center is needed.

Medical professionals and social workers "have book knowledge ... but they ain't never been on the streets like I have," said Baker, 43, who has battled drug and alcohol addiction for years. "There are certain issues in my life that I am just more comfortable talking to another addict in recovery about than a professional."�

In addition to programs designed to help with recovery, We Care offers a place where people can hang out and know that they won't be pressured to drink or use drugs, Baker said.

Being involved with We Care "gives you a sense of self worth," he said. "I look forward to coming here in the morning. I know I'm safe."�

Along with providing a safe haven, We Care - an acronym for Wellness Empowering Consumer And Recovery Environment - offers people a chance to feel good about themselves by helping others, Hairfield said.

"They're giving back," she said. "It's a constructive, positive place, and it helps with positive thinking patterns."�

Because some people who deal with substance abuse also are diagnosed with mental illnesses, positive thinking can be essential, Hairfield said. Often, people will find the answers to their problems just by talking about them, she added.

"We're not dogmatic," she said. "Sometimes I'm just a sounding board."�

Baker and Sandra Davis, 41, another volunteer at We Care, said the atmosphere Hairfield has created is like that of a family.

"You feel the support here," Davis said.

"If you're hungry, we'll feed you. If you need a shoulder to cry on, there's plenty of them," Baker added.

In addition to state funds received through PCS, grants from the United Way and other sources make up We Care's $55,000-$60,000 yearly budget, Hairfield said. Part of that money goes toward rent for the house on Church Street, which was built in the 1920s and restored a few years ago.

Eventually, Hairfield wants to raise enough to buy the house. She has no shortage of other goals as well, from a resource library with computers for job training to fitness equipment and a pool table that people could use to unwind. She wants to be able to host parties to celebrate months or years of sobriety, hold movie nights and offer some of her volunteers paying jobs.

But for now, Hairfield is happy to provide a positive atmosphere in which people can help one another.

"Even though we've had some hard knocks in our life and made some bad decisions, we can turn our lives around," she said. "... I want them to know somebody cares about them until they can care about themselves."�

For more information about We Care, call 634-0300 or visit 509 E. Church St. during operating hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and 2 to 10 p.m. Friday.

 

 
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