Thursday, March 13, 2014

500th Post and the Wichita Fellowship Club

Today is a big day in Lisa”blog”land. Today is my 500th blog on From Beginning to End and Back Again. WOW! To celebrate this day I wanted to make my blog extra special, so here it goes…….

I know I have talked about my late husband Tim, many times. He was an amazing man who in his last years, changed a lot of people’s lives for the better. What many don’t know about Tim is that he was a recovering alcoholic. I can say this without hurting anonymity because he has passed and because he was very open about his alcoholism and his Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) affiliation. In fact….July 10, 1991 was his sobriety birth-date and it was almost more important to him than his real birth-date. Tim became sober by the grace of God and with the help of AA. From that point on he did all in his power to help others in the way that he had been helped. Sometimes this meant him getting a phone call in the middle of the night and him going to keep someone from taking that first/ last drink. Other times it meant people sleeping on our couch so that they had a place to dry out.

Sobriety is an amazing gift, but the battle to quit drinking is never an easy one. Usually it means that the alcoholic has lost family, friends, jobs and sometimes even their home because they thought they were stronger than the alcohol and that they were in control.  When they realize they are not, that the alcohol is, that is when the real work starts. That is when they have to hand everything over to their Higher Power and start taking the 12 steps down the long road to recovery. It can be a treacherous path filled with setbacks and start overs time and time again. Often because of their alcoholic behaviors and attitudes, they have alienated everyone in their lives and now their support system is a bunch of drunks in various stages of sobriety fighting the same daily battles that they themselves are.

As if doing this weren't hard enough on its own, doing it homeless, which many alcoholics find themselves….makes it just that much more difficult. I saw this time and again when I was welcomed into “open” AA meetings with Tim. I saw the day to day struggle these individuals battled and I saw how much harder that struggle was when they had no place to go at night and no body outside those meetings to support them. Thus our always available couch and Tim’s late night runs.

Being married to an alcoholic taught me many things and gave me a view of a world that I never even knew existed. You learn quickly that every recovering alcoholic is just one drink away from being a practicing alcoholic and they are fully aware that the next drink maybe their last completely sober moment. It is because of all of this that I have a special place in my heart for recovery and those who fight daily to make sobriety a part of their life.

So last week I talked about an opportunity that had been presented to me that I was very excited about. That opportunity is to work with a place called the Wichita Fellowship Club. As many meetings as I have been to over the years….this was one place I never even knew existed. I was asked by a friend who I have worked with in the past to help put on a fundraiser for WFC. I liked the idea of doing a fundraiser as it was a way for me to give back, but I had no idea really what we were fundraising for or how close I would feel to this project.

The WFC is located off of Broadway and 18th in Wichita. It is a huge sprawling turn of the 20th Century old home. Walking in you could literally feel the history absorb you. This home was the brainchild of Jim James. James a WWII vet and recovering alcoholic himself who had lost everything to his own addiction knew the other side of addiction and he wanted others to find that too. He also knew, just like Tim did, that it often takes a drunk to help a drunk. James began having AA meetings and inviting both men and women who were looking for a way out of the darkness that is alcoholism. Eventually WFC was formed and James had at one time, four houses in the same area which were all half way houses helping those who were fighting alcoholism to get on their feet and stay sober. Today, only the one house remains which houses up to 45 people. Originally it was just for men but in more recent times women also have found a place at WFC. Along with WFC there is also the Jim James Memorial 101 Club which is out by Valley Center. This was James dream to have a place that was alcohol free where an alcoholic and their family could go and have fun. It provides camping space, swimming pools, horseshoe pits, soft ball tournaments and many other outside activities along with a building where dinners and dances are held. WFC also runs a Bingo game there which helps to support the club.

Currently the home houses 40 people and with the addition of women, there are also children that end up residing there from time to time. The WFC only employs one full time employee to oversee everything that goes on and take care of the needs of all that reside in there. There is also a part time bookkeeper as well as a couple of part time cooks. All others who work there and help out are strictly volunteers. It was also pointed out that WFC is not AA, although it does provide a space for AA meetings. What WFC is, is a service organization for recovery and an independent 501-c-3. It is basically in the same line as a hospital ward for recovery. Unfortunately, WFC seems to be one of the best kept secrets in Wichita outside of those who are well acquainted with alcoholism and recovery.

The need at WFC is great and I am both happy and proud to say that I will be helping with the fundraiser to help support this home. However the date of the fundraiser is looking to be 2015 and that does not help WFC right now. While there I could see obvious financial need such as the structure of the building itself and I can only assume that heating such a house in the winter is not cheap. There is also a need for bedding, linens, toiletries and clothes and shoes of all sizes. A few children’s and baby things seem to be becoming a necessity too. Most of these people come to WFC with little more than the clothes on their back and WFC tries to give them everything they need to help them from food, to a warm bed and clothes so that they can work and become an integral part of society again.

One need stipulated which really touched me, was the need for a shed that can be locked. This would house bicycles as this is the main form of transportation for the members. Sadly, those that have bikes get them stolen on a regular basis which limits their ability to get and hold a job. Imagine stealing from those who have nothing!

Okay….here is the ask. If you have extra clothes…all sizes and all kinds (gently used and decent enough to wear to a job or job interview), shoes of all sizes, a few kids clothes/shoes, diaper bags, diapers, wipes, toiletries (shaving cream, razors, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc), sheets (single bed size), towels and wash cloths….they are needed at WFC. If you would be interested in donating, then either call the WFC at 316-265-9348 or contact me and I will get your stuff to them. If you have a shed you are looking to get rid of or you would like a volunteer job of building one….again contact us. Finally, cash donations are always welcome too and the money will go towards maintenance and up keep of the house along with taking care of the needs of those who live there.

This will not be my last time talking about WFC and I know that if Tim were still here he would be a huge supporter. So please, if you are looking for a way to volunteer, donate or simply pay it forward, consider the WFC and donate to the future of others. 


Wendy S. said...

Thank you for posting this, Lisa - it is awesome. I know about the 101 Club, but have never heard of the WFC residence! And I have been active in AA and have almost 8 years sobriety so I don't know where my head is lol. I am grateful for the words you said about those in recovery and those still suffering.

J from OKC said...

I have to say that you still manage to surprise me with your blogs. I had no idea that you were this closely touched by alcoholism. I lost my dad to this disease physically 3 years ago and emotionally several decades ago. My dad just never had another sober in him. Your husband was lucky that he did.
Thank you so much for sharing this and still caring about this battle that people like my dad and your husband face daily.
This WFC doesn't know it yet but they are damn lucky to have you in their corner.