XENIA — A Greene County trade school is a step closer to implementing a one-of-a-kind system aimed at helping those recovering from substance abuse and filling a need to to improve the area’s workforce.
Greene County commissioners recently agreed to give $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to support the Emerge Recovery & Trade Initiative, located at the former Greene County Career Center at 2960 West Enon Road in Xenia.
The funding is expected to act as a catalyst in helping the nonprofit open its doors and will go toward converting the old career center into residential housing, specifically for the men’s program that will begin in the fall.
The nonprofit is developing career training programs in plumbing, roofing and HVAC systems. Additionally, clients will have access to individual and group counseling services, apprenticeship opportunities, life skill mentorship, and GED classes. Emerge will offer men’s and women’s recovery housing, and support for young men emancipated out of foster care. Emerge’s system has the potential to be a model for substance abuse recovery everywhere, commissioners said.
“All three of us are so excited about this,” said Commissioner Tom Koogler. “This could be a model for the whole country to follow. Whatever we can do to help facilitate this, we are on board. We believe in this program.”
Commissioner Dick Gould said there are other communities and state politicians looking at what Emerge is doing.
“With what is going on in the industry and the world, this came at a perfect time,” Gould said.
“This coming together was like the perfect storm,” said Commissioner Rick Perales. “The whole concept is amazing. It is going to help people become productive citizens and put them to work in an industry that needs them.”
The first phase of housing will accommodate 50 men, ranging from dorm style housing to individual units, as well as a kitchen, gathering space and other amenities. The former adult education center will be used for individual and group counseling.
Emerge’s model fills two major needs: those recovering from substance abuse will have the tools and knowledge to have a career and a stable income, and local plumbing, HVAC, and electrical businesses are able to hire skilled workers. Those workers are currently in high demand, as many electricians and other trade workers are reaching retirement age, Emerge’s director of philanthropy Elaine Bonner said.
“The model is to give residents the ability to find meaningful work once they get out of the recovery program. Our founders know the hands-on experience that’s needed. That’s how they run their businesses. They know how it works, and now they can do it on a wider scale,” she said.
Emerge also is looking to educate other local businesses about being second-chance employers. Founders Kip Morris, CEO and part owner of Five Star Heating and Cooling Group, Chris Adams, who owns Narrow Path Plumbing, and Doug Van Dyke, owner of Van Martin Roofing, bought the property in March 2021, and up to 50% of their workforce is comprised of individuals who otherwise would have a hard time getting hired.
“With people going through recovery, there’s a lot of recidivism. They’re in recovery, but they go back into their environments and no one will hire them, and then relapse happens,” Bonner said. “They’re doing something hard. Something takes over your life, you’re trying to overcome it, and there’s all these obstacles along the way. We should be celebrating people that push through the process and come out the other side. If you haven’t experienced it, you have no clue.”
Emerge is partnering with Woodhaven Residential Treatment Center to initially run the men’s recovery program, and with Reach For Tomorrow for mental health services. Based on demand they’ve already received, Bonner said, the center cannot open soon enough.
“This is going to have an amazing ripple effect to bring in positive energy and help us open our doors for Phase One, our Men’s Recovery Program,” said Bonner. “We cannot train and attract skilled workers fast enough. We are honored and humbled to receive this funding.”