Two years ago, I wrote a column about drug- and alcohol-addicted women in Charlotte. The lack of beds for these women, I wrote, was reminiscent of the protagonist Rose in the movie Titanic, yelling at her mother that there werent nearly enough lifeboats for everyone who needed them.
Against all odds, and after eight years of struggle, there are now 10 times the number of lifeboats for addicted women and their children in Charlotte. The community will celebrate that today with the dedication of the new Doves Nest, a testimony to the undying optimism of one man and the caring of a whole community.
Overcoming addiction takes a tremendous amount of desire, character, perseverance and faith. Interestingly, raising $11.2 million for an unsexy purpose in the depths of the worst recession in 75 years requires those exact same traits.
Tony Marciano, the executive director of Charlotte Rescue Mission, had them all. He first started talking about expanding the cramped Doves Nest in 2004. Twelve women slept, dined, prayed and rehabilitated in a 3,500-square-foot house in Dilworth. They shared space with Doves Nest workers, who were turning other addicted women away every day. The waiting list was three months long, an eternity for people who needed urgent help.
Marciano tried to launch a capital campaign, only to be told that his organization wasnt ready. He then spent a year regrouping. When the campaign finally ramped up, the bottom fell out of the stock market and the economy. One community leader told Marciano to give up.
He didnt. Large gifts from the Levine Foundation, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, an anonymous individual and scores of others started trickling in. Today, Doves Nest has raised $10 million of its $11.2 million goal.
The new building on West Boulevard is a different world from the Doves Nest of the past 20 years. It is 45,500 square feet, and has 120 beds for 90 women and up to 30 children. It has medical and dental space to be staffed by volunteer doctors and dentists. It has group therapy rooms, a prayer room, a full-sized kitchen and dining room, a computer training room and a large playroom for the children.
It also has a room for arts and crafts. Its not about the crafts, Marciano says, as much as it is teaching the residents to finish what they started. Addicts are not afraid of failure, Marciano says. Theyre afraid of success.
Thirteen women live there now. Marciano and program director Linda Currie expect to be at capacity within 18 to 24 months.
Seventy-five percent of the women who go through the four-month program are still clean a year later, a far better rate than the national average.
They are women like Sheri Lucas. Lucas had so much anger and bitterness, not to mention an uncontrolled substance-abuse problem, when she checked into the Doves Nest in May 2010. Over four months she got clean, then found a job at a cupcake company. When it folded, she found herself unemployed again, but no longer in despair. She went to Community Culinary School of Charlotte and in July, Doves Nest hired her to run its kitchen.
Its been an amazing journey, Lucas says, and it keeps getting better.
The new Doves Nest means it will keep getting better for hundreds, rather than dozens, of women a year. When Marciano addresses supporters at the dedication today, he said, he will tell them what you did makes no sense.
Hes right. But he also knows it makes all the sense in the world.