PORTSMOUTH — The spark of an idea of three people at a Me & Ollie’s two years ago, became the flame that burned brightly Tuesday evening during the grand opening of Safe Harbor Recovery Center.
The greater Portsmouth community was well represented with dignitaries, supporters, and those in recovery as about 200 people cheered when the ribbon was cut at 865 Islington St.
The center was the vision of Sandi Coyle, executive director of Granite Pathways and director of recovery services for Fedcap. SHRC falls under Fedcap, but the center was built on donations and in-kind services from the community, along with many volunteers.
After the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting by Coyle and John Burns, director of SHRC, guests were shown a teaser of the film directed by Michael Venn, “Community is Greater than Heroin,” a project Venn began two years ago.
He filmed discussions with law and health officials, as well as those in recovery, about the impact of the heroin epidemic gripping the state, focusing on the Seacoast.
Coyle gave a timeline of events leading up to the center’s success.
“I was invited by Corey MacDonald to talk on Greg Kretschmar’s show on Rock 101,” she said. “That was two years ago and Corey was the deputy police chief.”
Coyle said up until that time she had kept her own sobriety to herself. Now in recovery for 12 years, Coyle said she discussed her own past with drug and alcohol addiction on the radio show.
SHRC opened its doors just four weeks ago and seven people have gone into treatment or been given the resources for treatment.
“The tide has turned,” said Cheryl Pacapelli, director of recovery policy and advocacy for New Futures.
Pacapelli was one of several people in recovery who spoke at the grand opening of SHRC.
Before the ribbon cutting, Justin Looser, director of behavioral health at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, was chatting with MacDonald. Both were organizers of the first Access to Recovery Day held at the hospital two years ago.
“When Sandi talked about a recovery center in Portsmouth then, it didn’t seem possible,” Looser said. “This is a real testimony that the community is moving in the right direction.”
Coyle said so many people helped make her vision possible including Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, and businesswoman Renee Plummer. Clark as well as Rep. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, and Rep. Tim Horrigan, D-Durham, were in attendance at the grand opening.
Mayor Jack Blalock and Police Commissioner Joe Plaia also stopped by to give positive congratulatory remarks.
In addition to monetary donations, an army of volunteers gave countless hours of help, including those who stopped by to do carpentry, paint or whatever else was needed to get the place in shape.
Representatives from Gov. Maggie Hassan, and U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, read letters of congratulations during the evening.
Coyle said she received a call from John Akar, co-owner of Cava restaurant in Portsmouth, earlier in the day that brought her to tears.
Akar collaborated with 20 participating restaurants to hold a fundraiser on Sept. 14 for SHRC, called Hungry for Hope Harvest, with a goal of raising $40,000 for the center. Tickets go on sale Aug. 1, and can be purchased at HungryForHopeHarvest.com. The website will go up next week. It will be held under the Harvest Moon at Harbour Place.
Coyle, who will still be a presence at SHRC, passed the torch to Burns who will be the day-to-day director of the center that offers everything from yoga classes to recovery coaching to helping people find jobs.
“This center is also about families,” Burns said. “This is a new journey for us, built entirely by the community.”