Club Serenity in Charleroi is there for area drug and alcohol addicts who need help, serving one to three clients at any given time by providing peer support and linking them up to recovery programs through Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services and other organizations.
“We hate to see people die,” Club Serenity Vice President Lee Roberts said.
But who is there for recovery clubs like Club Serenity?
“We barely keep the doors open,” Club Serenity President Joey Pagano said several months ago. “We hang on by a thread.”
Until August, Club Serenity was operating in the red, struggling to come up with the approximately $1,100 it takes to keep the club operating at 512 Fallowfield Ave., where the club moved last year.
But recent months have found Club Serenity and another recovery club, Tradition One in Uniontown, gaining momentum.
“We’re trying to get to a point where we can sustain at least a year of bills covered,” Club Serenity Vice President Lee Roberts said. “We’re getting close to that.”
“We get what we need and the doors stay open,” Tradition One board Chairman Marcy Young said.
Tradition One got what it needed in May by opening new doors, relocating from 23 N. Beeson Blvd. to 67 Connellsville Street, the site of the former Bender’s Pit Stop restaurant.
In an irony that Young appreciates, what used to be the bar portion of Bender’s is now the main meeting space at Tradition One, where members of the club as well as 12-step programs come to embrace sobriety for more than a dozen meetings per week.
Tradition One’s new location gives the club substantially more space than its North Beeson Boulevard digs, and the building’s renovation was overseen by owner Brant Copple, whose girlfriend Elizabeth Paulo is a club board member.
“A lot of people from Pittsburgh, Altoona, New Castle ... they come from all over the area and end up in Uniontown to get clean and sober because our recovery community is so strong,” Paulo said.
Tradition One has an established $6 monthly membership fee option but decreased its annual fee for $30 for all of 2017, a move that Young said “brought in a lot of people.” The club’s new location has Young and Paulo looking to expand the club’s outreach, hoping to start catering more to families of addicts by hosting Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings as well as events for the general public.
Those looking to support Club Serenity may reach out to email@example.com, which is the club’s PayPal address. Those looking to support Tradition One may contact Young at 724-470-4411 or Paulo at 724-320-8084.
Young is currently looking for grant funding for the club.
“If we get accepted, it’s a godsend,” Young said of the process.
Pagano knows the feeling.
Club Serenity has four board members who he said do a vast majority of the work keeping the club going, and he’s had to take on grant-writing duties.
“I don’t even know all the stuff I fill out,” Pagano said. “It’s just the luck of the draw.”
A $2,500 grant from the Magellan Cares Foundation that Pagano said state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Carroll Township, helped facilitate is a bit of good luck in that draw. Pagano said the club also got an approximately $1,000 boost from its Rally for Recovery, which was held in October at the Charleroi Market House and featured speakers, information booths, free Narcan training, raffles and refreshments with the goal of raising awareness about services for recovering addicts and fighting the stigma of recovery.
“We had a $900 spaghetti dinner in September,” Roberts said.
Still, the $40 per month that Club Serenity charges 12-step programs for using their meeting space doesn’t cover the roughly $475 that Roberts said the club pays in monthly rent, and financial stability continues to be a challenge for the club, which he added is looking to rent meeting space to self-help programs.
“It’s tough,” Roberts said, admitting that expenses sometimes come out of board members’ pockets. “We’ve run into quite a few money problems.”
The stakes couldn’t be higher.
Roberts, 43, has spent roughly four years as a Club Serenity board member and recalls being addicted to heroin, crack, cocaine, pills, alcohol and marijuana prior to getting clean 18 years ago.
“Club Serenity will pull you in the right direction if you need immediate help,” Roberts said.
Some expenses aren’t captured with dollar signs, like the amount of time club members spend taking people to rehab.
“Tons of our time,” Pagano said, adding that members would be able to serve on a “larger scale” if they weren’t focused on just “keeping the lights on” through “fundraising 24/7.”
Still, Club Serenity and Tradition One continue to do what they need to do to establish a culture of recovery for those looking to get and or stay sober.
“We’re there for peer support, friend-to-friend,” Roberts said. “We’ll talk to you. We’ll help you.”