The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

November 6, 2011

SHELTER AT THE STORM HAVEN

Twenty years ago, Doug Stanley had a dream. He wanted to provide addicts the opportunity to recover in a caring, family-like atmosphere dedicated to a 12-step program of recovery.

The name Storm Haven even came to him in a dream, said director Sharon Muncy.

Stanley said he saw the home as a “haven from the storms of life.”

Today, Stanley’s dream, Storm Haven Inc., is providing simple, but real and much-needed help for recovering addicts.

On average, the organization serves 17 men and five women, said Muncy, but the journey has not always been easy, and it had humble beginnings.

The first facility, in Raleigh Hill, did not have heat and residents had to move out during the winter months.

Slowly, through donations and the labor of the board of directors and Storm Haven’s occupants, the men’s residence on Burmeister Avenue in Raleigh became a group home where the men share chores, seek employment or educational opportunities, share at least one hot meal each day, and get back on their feet, said Muncy.

Through an anonymous donation, Storm Haven received the Serenity House located adjacent to the men’s residence. This facility provides additional living space and common areas for Alcohol Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

They can house up to 28 male residents at one time, said Muncy.

“Doug helped me get sober and I wanted to help him with his dream,” recalled Muncy. “Being a woman, I had to reach out to other women.”

The organization was able to acquire the women’s residence on Croft Street and it opened in April 2010 and can serve up to 10 women.

Susan Wallace, a member of Storm Haven’s board of directors, remembers the work it took to get the Women’s Residence ready for occupancy. The board of directors worked tirelessly to take up carpet, paint, clean up trash and repair broken windows.

The program reflects the founder’s philosophy of giving back. The group’s motto, he said, is “you keep what you have by giving it away” — and volunteering by helping the organization and other residents is a part of the recovery process.

“I know what it is like to sit in prison and not be able to get out because you don’t have a home. Most addicts discover they can’t exist on their own in society. They can’t get a job without a place to stay, transportation to and from work, or a phone number. Many times the only thing for them is to go back and sell drugs and be put back in prison,” Stanley said.

Many of those who help run Storm Haven have been through the recovery process themselves and give back as a way to keep up their sobriety.

Veronica, a recovered addict and house manager for the women’s residence, explained, “We don’t need a hand out; we need a hand up.”

David is one of the group’s success stories. He now lives out on his own, but helps the group when he can and leads a weekly AA meeting at the men’s residence and serves as a sponsor.

“I drank for over 40 years,” shared David. “When I got out of prison in 2000, I did not drink for a year, but I got back into it and it progressed until there was no slowing down and things just continually got worse.”

David got involved in AA and then moved into Storm Haven for about a year. While there it was mandatory for him to continue to attend meetings and he has stayed sober since.

“He reaches back and helps the next guy, just like he was helped,” said Muncy.

She explained the length of residents’ stays at Storm Haven and how much help they need varies.

One male resident, jokingly referred to as Storm Haven’s senior citizen, has lived in the men’s residence for 15 years.

Muncy said many addicts do not have family to turn to when they get clean and sober or have health problems that prevent them from living alone.

Wallace said Storm Haven becomes their home and their family.

“As long as they stay clean or sober and follow the rules, they can stay as long as they like,” said Muncy. “We do ask them to pay rent, but we never turn anyone away for lack of income. We do expect them to pay their own way; they start looking for a job the day they arrive,” she said.

“If the women aren’t working a job, they are expected to go to a meeting every day and be working on their recovery,” said Veronica.

And just as the organization depends on all its residents helping out, the residents depend on help from the community.

There have been times when Storm Haven was in need, but things have always worked out, said Muncy.

“Things always come through for us. It has been like we are a blessed program. Anytime we needed something (like when a refrigerator went out or the gas bill was high) something or someone intervened,” Wallace echoed.

In particular, Storm Haven expressed gratitude to the Beckley Area Foundation, United Way, Faith Community Church, Family Worship Center and many local business and individuals.

Muncy explained the group has also started a fund through Beckley Area Foundation in hopes the facility can be self-sufficient and continue to provide assistance to recovering addicts for years to come.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com

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