When you combine Stephanie Forrester, Gary Harding, Jason Dorofy, Kassandra Burns, Patrick Burns, Amanda DeFisher, Joshua Sheridan, John Gotowka, Anna Thomas, Tammy Jenke, Crystal Muster, and Jill Forrester you get a fierce force of compassion and love, believers in the value of all people. In December of 2020 they decided to combine their passion and love to help people who are homeless, struggling with addiction, and mental health issues by forming Recovery All Ways (RAW), a non-profit that believes in people and the possibility of recovery all ways. I had the honor to interview Gary Harding, Chief Executive Officer, of Recovery All Ways.
“A single act of love makes a soul return to life.” St. Maximilian Kolbe
Gary shared when this group came together they knew they wanted to do something to support people struggling with addiction, who were homeless and had mental health issues. Stephanie was leading the way to take action. She along with the other members were using the experiences they had from volunteering with a different non-profit and knew the type of non-profit community they wanted to create. RAW was formed on January 23, 2021 with the mission “to support anyone and everyone affected by substance use disorder, mental illness, and homelessness.” They wanted to meet people where they were at with love, radical compassion, along with meeting the basic needs of people. People and businesses quickly came forward to support this non-profit that became an official non-profit 501C3 in August 2021. The owner of the space they use donated it for free for one year and now charges a super low rent. There have been golf tournament fundraisers, delicious food donated by Food by DeLeo for Saturday for cleanup and outreach, in kind donations, and help everywhere they turn. RAW has hit many hurdles. When they get over the hurdle things turned out more beautiful than they imagined.
“If someone is facing a difficult time, one of the kindest things you can do for him or her is to say ‘I’m going to love you through this.’” Molly Friedenfeld
This mighty non-profit takes care of people with no shame and no judgment. Every Saturday, rain, snow, sleet, or grapple, a group of dedicated volunteers come together to the home base to offer support. Some volunteers head out on foot into areas of known high drug use in the community with backpacks filled with bagged lunches, hygiene products, Narcan and information on RAW. This group will do needle clean up, reach out to people they see living on the streets offering food and other supplies along with checking unsecured abandoned houses to see if any people are inside and to see how people are doing. The other volunteers stay at home base greeting people as they show up, fixing plates of food, offering supplies and clothing, conversation, comfort, and community. RAW members and volunteers live for Saturdays. All members of RAW have experienced the trauma of addiction in some way shape or form either personally or in their close relationships. They get what people are working through. They get the shame and judgment people experience when struggling with addiction. What RAW does is offer love and kindness to all.
“The nature of humanity, it’s essence, is to feel another’s pain as your own, and to act and take that pain away. There is nobility in compassion, a beauty in empathy, a grace in forgiveness.” John Connolly
The other services RAW offers are harm reduction, Narcan training, community education and awareness along with peer support. RAW is a certified NYS Opioid overdose prevention program. There is no one path to recovery from addiction. There are many ways in which a person can recover. RAW honors that. The phone number for RAW is a message that contains information on community resources and services. Recently RAW was approved to become a contracted provider with REACH Medical in Ithaca New York for Suboxone. RAW will do the intake for people to be prescribed Suboxone. If approved they can go to the pharmacy to pick up a week’s prescription of Suboxone, returning weekly to RAW to check in and get a new prescription. RAW is also in the process of getting qualified people approved to administer street drugs such as antibiotics for low level health issues.
“Recovery All Ways is nothing but love and radical compassion.” Gary Harding
RAW will help individuals get connected to services for addiction, mental health, and housing and will provide transportation to people seeking treatment. As they pay it forward by giving back RAW continues to expand the services they provide without shame, judgment, or disdain. Actions like having a hotline staffed by volunteers, providing items like phones or computers to help those who have so little. Gary shared the story of a RAW member who overheard the conversation of two women who attended a holiday dinner where RAW members and volunteers showered them with love and care. These women expressed they have never felt so special, so valued. That is the power of love. That is the power of RAW.
It is with honor and admiration we shine the Kindness Champion spotlight on Recovery All Ways. Where a group of committed and passionate people are being the change they wish to see in the world with complete love and radical compassion. We thank you for being you and bringing your awesome to the world.
To read more about the incredible Recovery All Ways here is their information:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RecoveryAllWays @RecoveryAllWays
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/recovery_all_ways/?hl=en @recovery_all_ways