Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) were on hand for a June 9 ceremony at East Garfield Park’s Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center, 2942 W. Lake St. After just two years in existence, the center needs to expand to accommodate its growing services and clientele.
“We got our licensing and keys to this place in June 2015,” said Dan Hostetler, the center’s executive director. “Our first client came in on September 15, 2015.”
Hostetler said the center didn’t get another client until January 2016. Since then, however, the number of clients has taken off. He said Above and Beyond now services 2,000 people a year.
Hostetler said that the expansion indicates that the recovery center could thrive despite the state’s ongoing budget crisis. That’s mostly due to the center’s founder, Chicago venture capitalist Bryan Cressey, who has been funding the center entirely out of his own pocket.
According to a 2016 Chicago Sun-Times profile, his extended family has been affected by alcoholism. But it was when he volunteered at Cathedral Shelter, a West Side non-profit that provides food, clothing and addiction recovery treatment to the poor and the homeless, that he got a look at just how badly addiction can ravage lives. Cressey originally gave money to other non-profits before deciding to start one himself.
Cressey set out to create a facility that provides addiction recovery treatment that fits clients’ specific needs. It offers group therapy, individual counseling, art therapy, treatment for trauma, help with finding housing and a job-training program.
Hostetler explained that patients need a stable, supportive environment in order to fully recover. And recovery means more than being no longer dependent on drugs — it means being independent financially, he said.
In order to handle the growth in clientele, the center rented space in the building next door and eventually wound up buying it outright, turning it into what it dubbed a Healing Annex, which gives the organization enough space to create a much larger meeting room to host Alcoholics Anonymous gatherings and other recovery-related programs.
The expanded second floor will accommodate more office space for additional counselors, Hostetler said.
Burnett said that, with the ongoing state budget crisis, Above and Beyond is more important than ever.
“This place has been her for two years without any government funding, serving the people,” he said. “This organization has been a relief for a lot of programs who lost their funding and needed a place for their folks to go. Folks [have been] telling me how this place helped them get back on track, saved their lives.”
Rodney Page, a former Above and Beyond client, said that at first he didn’t like the center for a simple reason — he was legally required to go. But, after a few days, he started to warm up to what it had to offer.
“They encourage you every step of the way,” he said. “[They said] ‘you can’t be perfect, but you can do better. Practice makes better.’ And every day, I practiced.”
Since then, Page was able to get an apartment and a job, and to regain custody of his children.
“I never thought I would be back so quick, for the expansion,” said Mayor Emanuel. “What I love about Above and Beyond – they don’t look at you from where you came, but where you’re going. When we have a substance abuse, mental health [issues] this got to be treated from a holistic perspective. This is a human condition we can help with.”
Cressey said that, in two years, Above and Beyond already has graduated 180 clients, and that the expansion will allow them to graduate more.
“By more than doubling our space, we will be able to treat more than double the amount of people,” he said. “Thank you all for helping building Above and Beyond into a major force we hope it will become.”