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Category Archives: PRO-ACT

The Transformative Power and Impact of Volunteering at PRO-ACT: Marie’s Story

MarieVolunteering saves and transforms lives. Those of us in recovery who actively decide to give back are more than survivors: we are champions of our own recovery and we are given extraordinary opportunities to champion the cause of those battling addiction.

Volunteers in recovery understand that their service is essential to sustaining their own recovery and in providing support, hope, and education to communities in the throes of a drug crisis and opiate epidemic.

 “Every day is a new beginning to make a difference in someone’s life,” observes longtime Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center/PRO-ACT volunteer Marie Widmeier. She began her volunteering journey back in 2012 when she experienced that moment of clarity, “I knew what I needed to do-to get back to a way of living that my mother showed me.”

True to her word, Marie invests her boundless energy and dedication in every one of her volunteer experiences. For the past three years she has chaired the ornament committee for The Council’s Tree of Hope ceremony held every December. Taking on this leadership role has helped heal Marie as she recovers from losing her parents and beloved sponsor to tragic circumstances. Marie reflects on how much the people at PRO-ACT mean to her: “for me, it’s a lasting recovering family.”

Once shrouded in guilt and despair, Marie, whose first name means “star of the sea” has flourished because of her direct involvement in Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center’s programs. She facilitates a weekly recovery discussion group every Wednesday afternoon, and organizes fundraising events such as Karaoke and a pancake breakfast held at Applebee’s. Marie understands that her altruism also inspires our recovery community. She is bold about sharing how much PRO-ACT has done for her: “there is deeper meaning in life when we serve the needs of others.” Whether Marie is chairing a meeting at her favorite clubhouse or delivering a speech at her community college, Marie’s devotion is evident. Marie lives by example.

Gaining confidence and leadership skills through her active and vigorous volunteering, Marie is ready to graduate with an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration and Management. As a single mom of a 19 year-old son, Marie encouraged her son to graduate early and pursue a college degree. Currently Marie and her son take classes at Bucks County Community College. They are clearly a dynamic duo whose drive and motivation sets the standard for others.

Marie has seized the day with her multiple involvement in committees at her college. She is the Recording Secretary for Kappa Beta Delta, a business honor society. Marie also serves as the Lower Bucks Campus Coordinator for Students Advocating Student Success. A fierce and proud student, Marie obviously loves to learn; she thrives in an educational environment where she will definitely graduate with top honors.

Marie’s philosophy in life is simple, “the advice I would give to a new volunteer is to wake up and commit to one thing that will make a difference.”

There are many of us who have had the honor of witnessing the transformation in Marie. Marie expresses her gratitude in these words:” I have learned to stay out of myself that was sad and depressed; instead, I am learning to connect with the joy inside of me-those little pieces call me on a daily basis.”

Karen M. Burke
Volunteer Coordinator
Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center/PRO-ACT

Martin Luther King Day of Service and PRO-ACT

MLK dayWe are excited to announce PRO-ACT and The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania’s Fourth Annual participation in the city-wide “MLK Day of Service” being held at the Philadelphia Recovery Community Center (PRCC), 1701 W. Lehigh Ave. Philadelphia PA 19132, on Monday, January 19th 2015 from 9 am-1 pm. Come and join over 150 volunteers impacting our community as we clean up the neighborhood and celebrate the memory of Dr. King. MLK Day of service was created to promote year-round volunteerism and civic engagement.

PRO-ACT’s Amends in Action committee has organized this event since 2011, partnering with numerous community agencies including: Ready, Willing & Able, MLK365, Net, MinSec, DBH, Global Citizen, and Philadelphia Streets Dept. This committee is always ready to lend a helping hand in the community to help reduce the sigma of addiction and put a positive face and voice on recovery. Participation in the MLK Day of Service is one of the many ways PRO-ACT volunteers positively impact the community in which the disease of addiction has impacted so greatly.

Each year, participation in this event grows tremendously. In 2011, 85 volunteers from various organizations and the community collected 80 bags of garbage within a 10 block radius from Broad and Lehigh Ave. to 22nd and Lehigh Ave. In 2014, 126 volunteers collected 208 bags. This year we are hoping to make an even greater impact with more volunteers and more garbage bags filled! 

In addition to cleaning up the neighborhood, participants enjoy light breakfast refreshments, hot beverages, and a warm lunch. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr had a vision of people of diverse backgrounds interacting on a personal level by encouraging them to share and discuss issues that affect their communities in order to increase racial and cultural understanding and unity. Additional activities such as watching the inauguration ceremony of President Barak Obama, black history trivia games, and reflection of the legacy of Dr. King and the civil rights movement have been included to ensure an enjoyable volunteer experience and to promote unity.

So bring your children, neighbors, co-workers and join PRO-ACT on Monday, January 19th, 2015 and be a part of this nationwide experience. For more information on how you and your organization can get involved contact She-Ria Bethea at 215-223-7700 or John Carlson at 215-923-1661.

MLK Day of Services shows the strength and power of the people to build up a community together and fulfills Dr. King’s vision for a better America.

She-Ria Bethea
Assistant Volunteer Coordinator

Volunteering and Leadership Development


Volunteering provides the forum to work outside your comfort zone, yielding an opportunity to work with new challenges, people, public policies, and behavioral change. Volunteering sets into action new priorities for people who need direction. Volunteering also offers opportunities for people in recovery, family members, and friends in the community to be the authentic voice for change. Learning new skills, responsibilities, and community service all contribute to Leadership development.

PRO-ACT Ambassadors for Recovery is built on strong leadership principles through the help of skilled volunteers.  Developing leadership skills in our volunteers is one of the main goals. PRO-ACT achieves leadership development through many vehicles.  Let’s talk about five strong platforms, which include the recovery plan, Group Leader and Facilitator, 15 minute interview, Recovery Mentoring, and the Philadelphia Peer Leadership Academy (PPLA).

The critical path of a new volunteer starts with a 15-minute interview involving the Volunteer Coordinator. This meeting establishes goals and a training path that you, as a new volunteer, can follow and achieve. In the interview we take note of what your strengths and interests are and learn what you like to do. We match your skills and interests to the roles that fit you best. A portion of the meeting is spent on developing a shared vision and mission, which offers hope for the organization and its volunteers. Going forward the volunteer develops their own mission directed in the leadership development path.

The recovery plan helps you achieve your personal vision and mission through establishing goals focusing on your strengths, skills, and actions. The purpose is to strengthen the recovery path of each volunteer, providing self-discipline to achieve their goals. The next path concerning leadership development is Group Leadership and Facilitation. This certified training allows you to get facilitation skills and a foundation to become a group leader. This certificate creates a solid foundation in leadership skills that help prepare you for the future.

The process of leadership development starts with assessing skills, strengths, interests and opportunities for improvement. The Recovery Mentoring Training starts with the assessment process and cataloging these assessment findings mixed with background and interests that aid in Peer recovery support services. Recovery Mentoring is a new approach in assisting an individual in his or her pursuit of a recovery lifestyle. Recovery Mentors function on a peer- to- peer basis with the mentor reviewing the meaning of the pathways to recovery and their importance.  Applying Mentoring skills in the field help to shape and mold the volunteer into a practiced leader.

 One of PRO-ACT’s actions relating to the mission is Zip-Code Advocacy. Once an organization has identified a project such as Zip-Code Advocacy, engaging volunteers to lead these programs is a crucial part in developing leadership skills while positively changing the community through on the job training. Developed leadership skills create authenticity of voice through building true character promoting change in the community. PRO-ACT develops leaders to offer opportunities to make their voices heard while providing community service. The Philadelphia Peer Leadership Academy training structure encompasses these leadership tools. PPLA is designed to develop leadership skills that propel the individual, while supporting the foundation of leaders developing leaders providing services for the interest of the community.

Volunteer Quote on Leadership:

“I am honored to know how to transition the Leadership Principles to the role of zip-code advocacy to the community and increase my strength in that role. I now understand what leadership is and how to present myself as one. I am now a new leader for the world thanks to PRO-ACT!” – PPLA graduate and PRO-ACT Volunteer

To get involved, contact one of our Volunteer Coordinators:
Central Bucks:  Email or call Rick at 215-345-6644
Southern Bucks:  Email or call Karen at 215-788-3738 x100
Philadelphia: Email or call She-Ria at 215-233-7700 or Email John or call 215-923-1661 
Chester, Delaware and Montco: Email or call John at 215-923-1661
PRO-ACT Recovery Walks! Committees: Email  or call John at 215-923-1661

John K Carlson
Volunteer Coordinator
Philadelphia Recovery Training Center

A Note of Thanks

The following is a letter from a service recipient to the staff and volunteers at The Council’s Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center. Thank_you_small


August, 8 2014
The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania
Bristol PA Office

Dear Sir/Madam,

Just a note of thanks.  I started using the services here (Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center) over a year ago.  When I got sober again I quite literally only had the clothes on my back, little to no prospects and very little hope I could ever get back on my feet.  Through AA, some friends that were sober and the staff and services here, I find myself in a position that I really doubted I could get back to.  While by no means am I where I was before things got bad with my addiction, if you would have told me I’d be as far along as I am I would have taken the deal and thought I was stealing from you. 

The services offered at The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania and the staff and volunteers were a godsend.  Their dedication to helping people recover and always positive approach was more help than I typically admit to.  Karen, Miguel and Annika in particular were hugely helpful and always encouraging along with the volunteers at the Bristol location.  I was so taken by the satff and volunteers dedication that I even volunteered and found the experience very rewarding and hopefully I’ve helped someone in some small way to get back on their feet or get another day clean and sober.

Again, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for the staff and volunteers here.  I’m starting a position that will not allow me to spend much time here to volunteer but, again, that is kind of the point of what you do here.  Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.  I don’t doubt for a moment that the only reason I have been given the opportunity that I have is because of the staff, volunteers and the services offered here.

Best regards,
Anonymous service recipient

Bev Haberle Wants the Hope of Recovery to “Spread Like Wildfire.”

292358_253486728127055_1051017011_nI am a person in long-term recovery who hasn’t drank alcohol or used other drugs for more than 43 years.  My recovery has allowed me to be a mother, a wife, Executive Director of The Council, Project Director of PRO-ACT and many more accomplishments.  

I only just started speaking publicly about my own recovery about 15 years ago, when I began to help mobilize the recovery community.  I didn’t think people needed to see long term recovery role models.  I now understand that we are the evidence that long term recovery is a reality.  We are the proof that investing in recovery “pays off.” 

I strongly believe that speaking out is not right for everyone.  We respect that for many, recovery is a private matter that should stay private.  To “come out” is a big decision, and we fully support an individual’s choice in this regard.  

Still, there may be a misperception among some people who have been in recovery for several decades that because they no longer face stigma from their addiction, it’s not as critical to speak out publicly.  The reality is that as more people earlier in their recovery have come out, we also see people talking more and more about their 20, 30, 40 years in recovery.  Before they might have been afraid they were breaking traditions, or maybe they didn’t see their silence as an issue.  But now they see that speaking about their recovery has some very important benefits.     

Also, silence is a problem.  It can breed stigma, shame and the tendency for society to treat people and families suffering from addiction differently than other chronic illnesses.  My hope is that as more of us speak out, the mounting evidence that recovery is a reality will allow addiction treatment and recovery to one day be on par with the treatment regiments for other chronic diseases. 

For example, I am a breast cancer survivor.  The initial support I received after my diagnosis of cancer was much different than the initial support I received after my addiction diagnosis.  In 1971, during my hospital admission for alcohol poisoning, my doctor called for a family meeting and presented two options:  a year-long stay in a psychiatric asylum or brain surgery to alleviate my compulsion to drink alcohol (a prefrontal lobotomy).  Fortunately, my minister and a female member of a recovery support meeting at my church quietly interceded.  After hearing the woman’s recovery story, I learned of a third option.  I experienced “peer-to-peer support” at its best, even though my connection to this support was veiled in secrecy.  

This experience contrasts sharply with my battle against cancer.  As a person with breast cancer, I was immediately inundated with support from the healthcare system.  I recall stepping onto my oncologist’s floor and seeing a sign that read, “How can we help you with your recovery?”  I was then offered “make-up and wig” advice, yoga, family counseling  and nutrition consultations.  When I asked my doctor how much these services cost, he replied, “Nothing.  It’s all part of your treatment.  We want you to have the best chance of recovery that you can possibly have.” 

I want exactly the same thing for individuals and families who are suffering from the terrible disease of addiction: the best chance at recovery they can possibly have.  For this to occur, addiction treatment and recovery supports services are critical, and need to be connected through the whole recovery process.  We should not be fighting insurance companies for one more day of treatment, recovery check-ups or other recovery support services.  We should be free from the social stigma that characterizes us as weak or morally flawed.  Our disease should not take from us our dignity.    

This is an exciting time for recovery.  We are learning how to be more effective in dealing with this illness and how to really help people access and sustain long-term recovery.  We’re also having a huge impact on their families and their children and other people that see them. And more people are speaking out in support of recovery and against barriers.

So please support recovery in whatever way you feel is right for you.  Finding out more about PRO-ACT’s activities is a great place to start, as there are many, many ways that PRO-ACT members can and do support recovery.  Click here to read more about PRO-ACT. 

I believe that with your help, the hope for recovery is going to spread like wildfire. 

Beverly J. Haberle, M.H.S., L.P.C., C.A.C.
Executive Director, The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc.
Project Director, PRO-ACT

Watch the video of Beverly Haberle talking about recovery, from the makers of “The Anonymous People”

My Journey Back to Newark NJ: Only To Find Out Philadelphia Was And Is My New Home

I have family in Newark NJ, where I was raised. I came to Philadelphia seven years ago when I first entered recovery. I lived in a recovery house and eventually rented a room in a home. I lived there until November of 2013 when I decided to go back to Newark and “help” my nieces and nephews, be the uncle I should be, not the uncle I was in my active addiction. I thought I could share my experiences with them.

I found myself doing the same things I did when I was actively using;  isolating myself and not taking care of myself, only this time, I was doing it in recovery. I felt like I had no “me” time. I felt trapped and I didn’t realize it until I got a call saying an efficiency apartment was available in Philadelphia in the same building a friend that has been there for me through my recovery process lived. I was so excited. I couldn’t pack my bags fast enough. I came back in the beginning of May to stay with a friend and just moved into my apartment this past June 6th.

Being a volunteer for The Philadelphia Recovery Community Center has taught me how to deal with my problems, talk about my problems, not hold everything inside and I learned how to ask for and accept help. That it is not a weakness to ask for help but strength to ask for help and to know when you need help.

I do miss my family but I have to let them grow, and I have to think what is best for me and my recovery process. So, I am grateful today for all of my friends through my 12-step mutual support group and most especially the PRCC staff and volunteers.  I am grateful to be a volunteer at the PRCC because it gives me an opportunity to give back to my adopted community. I have learned to really meet people where they are at, to listen to others when they are struggling with a situation.  I have even learned how to facilitate groups and discovered some recovery discussion groups I like to run.

Life couldn’t be better; just for today!

Greg High
PRCC/PRO-ACT Volunteer

A New Normal, and a New Me

Throughout my childhood, I was faced with many traumatic challenges with family and friends including murder, addiction, mental health challenges, gambling, domestic violence and various forms of abuse. I lost hope and assumed that this lifestyle was the norm. I felt alone and isolated.

Then I saw an internet advertisement for “Recovery Coaches at PRO-ACT” in Philadelphia.  I thought that maybe with some training and support, I could use my life experiences as a warning to help others. So I signed-up to learn about recovery coaching. 

I completed the training and became a volunteer for PRO-ACT.  I learned that recovery is possible, and that I was not alone in how I feel. I met other individuals, staff members and volunteers who empathized with me and provided me with resources and guidance.  I learned how to utilize my experiences to empower others.  I practiced my skills by assisting PRO-ACT in their service projects such as MLK Day of Service, Annual Holiday Dinner, Annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet and the Recovery Walks! Planning Committee.

Through the help of PRO-ACT, I now work for the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania as a Recovery Coach.  I assist those with severe mental health challenges to identify and develop recovery-oriented goals and use their supports to increase their success in community integration and inclusion. I am also a training instructor and facilitator, as well as a website designer for several recovery organizations.  I am the founder and owner of a website and graphic design company. 

I am also resilient and very thankful for all those who helped me along the way.  I never dreamed that an advertisement for Recovery Coaches would lead to all this, but I am glad it did.      

Stacie Leap, CPS, FPS

Hello, I’m an Addict named Cindy

I always felt as though I never fit in or was truly loved.   I ran away at the age of 14 and continued running until the age of 48, always trying to escape myself. My life became a long, lonely road of self-destruction. I have seen and survived many years of self-inflicted drug and alcohol abuse, all of which brought about abusive relationships, lies, theft, prostitution, a brutal rape, jail cells and psychiatric wards.  My childhood dream of becoming a nurse disappeared. 

On January 14, 2014, I ended up in yet another psychiatric facility. Broken, desperate, and suicidal, I still felt blessed for a moment of clarity:  acceptance set in that I was the problem.  I was graced with the willingness to change. 

I became receptive to treatment for addiction and open to suggestions to live differently.  I entered a treatment facility and stayed there for nearly a month. The process of working on me had officially begun.

Through that process, I was introduced to the recovery community in Bucks County.  It was suggested that I get involved. Soon after, I registered as a participant with the Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center and PRO-ACT. 

The Recovery Community Center and PRO-ACT welcomed me into a safe and supportive environment.  In February of 2014 they took a chance on me, and I became a volunteer.  My passion for helping others once again returned.  I volunteer nearly every day now.  You can find me facilitating a Stress Management group or providing administrative support.  The Center has become a life line for me. 

 At 4 ½ months clean and sober,  I no longer feel isolated or like a social idiot. I have a grateful heart today and believe in myself once again. I am able to look forward to each new day because I start with the intention of how I may be of assistance to the next individual in recovery. 

I want to thank the Recovery Center staff, PRO-ACT volunteers and the wonderful service participants for helping me along the way.  I never imagined that I would be recognized for my efforts. For the month of June, SBRCC/PRO-ACT honored me with the distinction of being their “Volunteer of the Month.” 

I have been blessed with the opportunity to live a productive and meaningful way of life today.

PRO-ACT Volunteer
June 2014 Volunteer of the Month

My Brother’s Wisdom

On May 5th, 2011, I was being chased, tackled and arrested by the police in a McDonald’s parking lot, while my 14 year old brother watched from across the street.  At that time, I didn’t know who I was.  All I knew was that my present and future consisted of getting high, making money and hurting those around me. I had no real friends, my family had given up on me, and the only thing I cared about was feeding my addiction.

As a result of my arrest, I was looking at serious jail time. The judge had offered me Drug Court to avoid a state sentence and to try to change my life for the better.  I didn’t want that. I wanted to serve my time so that I could get out and resort back to my old ways.

One day, all of that changed during a family visit.  My little brother turned around and said, “Gina, have you ever seen the movie ‘Walk the Line’?” I replied that I had. “Well, you remind me of Johnny Cash. In the movie, all of his loved ones are there trying to help him, and he doesn’t get it. You’re doing the same thing.” For the first time in my life, I was speechless.

Months later, I was being sworn into the Bucks County Drug Court Program. I got engaged with a recovery specialist, Rick P, at the Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center, as part of the Drug Court’s requirements. He helped me develop a resume, look for employment and gave me great advice on how to cope with daily struggles. In between looking for employment, I began volunteering and giving back to others what was freely given to me.

During this time, I was slowly developing healthy relationships with my family members and people in the rooms of 12 step support meetings.  The rooms taught me how to be honest with others, as well as myself. I was gaining trust back with my family, and they could see that I was on the road to long term recovery.   

Once I found employment, my volunteering ceased. Rick P. could see how passionate I was about helping others.  He suggested I take the CRS (Certified Recovery Specialist) training through Pro-Act. I mentioned it to my family, and they thought it was a great idea.  They even paid for it!

From there, things just kept getting better for me. I passed my CRS exam in July of 2013. I graduated from the Drug Court Program in August of 2013. I was hired at the Council of Southeast PA and Pro-Act in November of 2013 as a CRS for the participants that are still on Drug Court!

I can honestly say that I never could have imagined my life heading in this direction.  But I am so glad it did. Today, I have friends I can rely on, and who are there for me to pick me up when I’m having a bad day. I receive texts from my little brother, now 17, saying how proud he is of me and my progress. My boyfriend of 2 years holds my hand and continues to support me through my journey. My grandparents and my mother thank God every day that they have “the old Gina” back. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I found a road to recovery and developed a support system that works for me.  So can you.

Gina P

The Key to My Success: Almost a Relic

My physician directed me to have knee-replacement surgery. What followed taught me some valuable lessons about recovery.  My experience is a reminder to us all that we must continue to speak-up as a community for ourselves and our loved ones, to demand the quality of care warranted by the chronic disease of addiction.      

In the case of my knee, the health system provided ample diagnosis, prescriptions, education and supports prior to, during and after surgery.  First, the surgeon directed me to have a check-up by my primary care physician to get pre-surgery approval.  Then I had to visit my dentist to make certain I had no dental infection that would complicate my surgery by making my knee vulnerable to infection.  My wife and I then attended a knee-replacement orientation together.  A nurse called afterwards with pre-surgery instructions on what to purchase to ease recovery obstacles, and inform me about who to call if I had questions.  A nurse and physical therapist visited my home to provide my spouse and me with directions and exercises, and to answer our questions about recovery issues that arise post-surgery.    

Nothing comparable exists for most of us in addiction recovery. Everything is left to the patient and the family to discover on their own.  Most who have an addiction disorder face an array of hapless, haphazard and sometimes contradictory recommendations that impose more rather than fewer obstacles to a continuum of care.  Often, these obstacles are the reason a person has difficulties in accessing or sustaining long term recovery.  The person with the disease is then blamed for not having enough will-power.    

Twenty-nine years ago, due to the fortuitous observation of someone in recovery, I was helped in getting an assessment for a substance use disorder.  That was my first indication that I had a problem with alcohol.  I was given choices of outpatient followed by inpatient care.  I was ultimately directed to inpatient by an informed expert.  At that time, volunteers in recovery actually assisted the inpatient professionals with patient counseling.   

Also 29 years ago, my family was offered orientation and therapy.  My spouse also went to a family program at the residential rehabilitation facility I attended.  After leaving the rehab, a designee took me on a guided tour of 12-Step Meetings and instructed me as to which ones would and would not be helpful and why.   

The health system and volunteers both wrapped their arms around my wife and I, and didn’t let go.  I owe my unbroken sobriety to excellent care before, during and after treatment.  

Such quality of care still exists today if one is having their knee replaced and has excellent insurance coverage.  However, the same quality of care if you need recovery from addiction is unlikely.  The excellent insurance coverage I had 29 years ago is today rare. 

 After years of actions by managed care that eliminated treatment and recovery options, the period of enlightenment that provided me with such excellent care 29 years ago has dimmed.  Decades of coverage cuts have had dismal effects.   

 So we have our work cut out to turn back the clock.  The Affordable Care Act creates an opportunity.  But for others to have the same key to success I did, we must work hard as a community to define and enable a continuum of recovery planning and support.

 It’s now our turn to volunteer, wrap our arms around the health system and not let go – until it recovers.     

 Allen McQuarrie
PRO-ACT, Bucks County

Bailiwick Office Campus Unit 12, 252 West Swamp Rd. Doylestown, PA 18901 | 215.345.6644


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