The Portland Recovery Community Center is raising money to move from its current space on Forest Avenue to a larger space that will provide more room to meet the needs of those in recovery. Courtesy / Brian Delaney

PORTLAND — The Portland Recovery Community Center had outgrown its space before COVID-19 made its appearance, but pandemic guidelines put its plans to relocate on the fast track.

“With COVID, it made it more urgent,” said Leslie Clark, director of Portland Recovery Community Center, located at 468 Forest Ave. “Rather than look out a year or two, we knew we had to do it now.”

The center has a contract pending on a new site to serve as a safe meeting place and services resource for those recovering from substance misuse and addiction.

“We think (it’s) going to meet every single one of the criteria that we have that will make it a good home for the recovery community,” Clark said.

She declined to pinpoint the building until the contract is finalized, but said it is in the city, on a bus line and, at 6,700 square feet, is more than double the size of the center at 468 Forest Ave. The size of the current center made it difficult to accommodate large groups of people, especially during the pandemic, she said.

As of Jan. 1, $125,400 had been raised towards the center’s building fundraising goal of $200,000.

Since December 2011, the Portland Recovery Community Center has offered free support groups, recovery coaching, telephone recovery support, job and housing assistance, and wellness activities such as yoga, art/dance classes and open mike sessions.

During its first few years it served about 10,000 visitors a year, Clark said, but just prior to the pandemic as many as 140 people were stopping in daily and the center was on track to have 50,000 visitors in 2020.

Staff and volunteers, most of whom are in recovery themselves, also do a lot of public education and advocacy work around recovery, Clark said, “so we can reduce the stigma of recovery and people can feel comfortable reaching out to get help.”

“The whole point is having a place to connect and to create community,” she said.

Portland resident Shannon Weld said the Portland Recovery Community Center has played an integral role in her recovery from alcohol addiction and mental health issues. Connecting with others through the center, Weld said, made her realize she shouldn’t be defined by her disease.

“I am more than my disease. I had never experienced that before,” she said.

Weld was introduced to the Portland Recovery Community Center in 2018. She quickly felt at home there.

“I can’t believe what I have accomplished,” she said. “PRCC helped me see that. They helped me celebrate that.”

Prior to the pandemic Weld volunteered at the center 20 hours a week offering peer support calls and taking part in other programming. Now she leads virtual meetings.

Both Weld and Clark said operating the center during the pandemic has been hard. In-person meetings are not safe to offer, so the center is providing telephone support and 26 different virtual meetings a week for its members instead.

“We’ve been able to stay in touch with a lot of people and do one-on-one meetings safely, but that being said, COVID’s had a big impact,” Clark said. “The worse thing for us in the recovery community is to feel isolated.”

Weld said she looks forward to a time when the center can be back open like it was before the pandemic.

“I miss it so much,” she said. “When people walk through those doors and see what the PRCC does, lives are saved.”

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