Housing, education at the former Greene County Career Center
- Published: January 19, 2023
A place to live; a place to recover; a place to grow — these are three ways to describe the vision for the Emerge Recovery & Trade Initiative facility, located in the former Greene County Career Center.
Once completed, the facility, which is over 200,000 sq. ft., will offer live-in recovery services, provide job training and provide a place for those recently emancipated from the foster system.
The News recently spoke with Elaine Bonner, the director of philanthropy for Emerge, who gave a brief history of the nonprofit and its mission, which started with three business owners — Chris Adams, Kip Morris and Doug Van Dyke. The three founders, who are all in recovery, are seeking to fill a gap in services for people who need a fresh start, which includes housing and job training.
“We want to provide an ecosystem for care, one with no barriers for recovery,” Bonner said.
The basis for the recovery-to-work program at the heart of Emerge is rooted in the three businesses owned by Emerge’s founders: Adams is the owner of Narrow Path Plumbing, Morris owns Five Star Group and Van Dyke owns Van Martin Roofing. Each business has a history of hiring people who are in recovery and providing job-readiness training for employees.
Emerge received its nonprofit status in June 2021, a few months after the career center building went up for auction. Upon purchasing the building, the founders formed a board, hired eight staff members and began fundraising and finding ways to utilize the space in its current condition. At 53 years old, Bonner said, the building needs a new roof and upgraded lighting. The total project, which includes all of the housing and infrastructure costs, will be at least $18 million.
While Emerge may be a fairly new nonprofit, the three founders have been second-chance employers, or employers who hire people who are recovering from addiction and may have served time in prison, for years. Mike Wise, a warehouse manager for Five Star, said the company offered him a job as he was working to maintain his recovery from an opiate addiction.
“At the end of my addiction, I was the guy who I said I never would be,” Wise said. “I didn’t think there was any hope for me. Now, I have a full-time job and am able to mentor and sponsor other people in recovery.”
With a mission of serving at-risk communities and those in recovery, Emerge is renovating three wings of the building for housing — two for men and women in recovery and one for young people who have recently been emancipated from the foster care system.
“They’re just kind of put out in the adult world at age 18 to make it on their own without a support system,” Bonner said. “Many [recently emancipated people] end up homeless and are actually more likely to develop a substance-use disorder.”
Once completed, the suite will include private rooms, a recreational space, a kitchen area and access to the other services Emerge offers. The cost for that renovation is about $5 million, Bonner said.
“We wanted to make sure each person has their own private space,” Bonner said. “And we really want it to feel like home.”
While the wing for emancipated youth does not have a set completion date, the Emerge staff is looking to open their men’s recovery unit in the spring of 2023.
“We can’t do everything at once,” Bonner said. “So we thought bringing in the men’s recovery would be a good first step.”
The men’s recovery unit will also feature space in semi-private and private rooms and include recreational space and a kitchen area. Those who enter the program will receive initial treatment and counseling, but must be willing to do some job training with one of the companies affiliated with Emerge.
“Our goal is to be able to both hire and refer people who have been a part of our program,” Bonner said.
Currently, Emerge is offering classes to those seeking HVAC certifications or a GED, but Bonner said they are in contact with instructors who could offer other certifications.
“We want to teach wrap-around services,” Bonner said, describing plans for plumbing and electric training courses. “We are looking to fill workforce needs.”
To do that, a portion of the building features several hands-on diagnostic units, where interns can practice diagnosing, replacing and repairing systems.
The building also houses a call center and workspace for employees of Narrow Path Plumbing, 5 Star Group and Van Martin Roofing. In addition, Emerge is offering event space rental for businesses and groups. As renovations continue, the group hopes to fill the space with businesses from the local community — businesses that would offer internships through Emerge.
During a tour of the facility, Bonner pointed out two spaces that are being remodeled: one will be a commercial kitchen; the other, a space for a coffee shop.
“We are so excited to be partnering with Hope Hub to create a Coffee Hub in this space,” Bonner said.
Hope Hub, an organization focused on helping women through long-term recovery, was started by Cynthia Stemple and Missy Adams in Xenia. The organization provides jobs for women who are going through recovery programs in order to provide them with financial stability as they go through the residential treatment offered at Emerge.
The commercial kitchen will be focused on providing food offerings for the nearly 100 people currently employed by Emerge and its affiliates. Bonner said a long-term goal would be to use the commercial kitchen for catering events and a possible second restaurant space.
Bonner said the Emerge board is also looking to utilize the outdoor space on the property for both treatment and hands-on training. The buildings are set on 48 acres of land that include a pond. Emerge recently received a grant for $175,000 from the Christian Life Center to build an outdoor pavilion.
“The beauty of this place is that there are fewer distractions,” Bonner said. “The natural setting will really aid in the recovery process.”
Though there is much work to be done, Emerge and its staff are very proud to be able to offer services to a group of people who are often disregarded. By offering a model with housing and workforce development, Emerge hopes to help reduce the number of people who relapse and create a space for people exiting the foster care system. Their ultimate vision, Bonner said, is to create a model that can be replicated in other communities.
“It’s a pretty simple goal,” Bonner said. “To give hope in the communities we serve.”