Darnella McNeil had an “attitude” when she felt a calling to start Legacy III in 1996.
Now, the 52-year old said, she has a “vision” that the nonprofit she founded to help homeless women with addiction problems should branch out and start an inpatient alcohol treatment facility for women in Akron.
“The board and I will start having serious discussions next year,” McNeil said.
If the idea of a 90-day treatment facility is eventually approved by the ADM Board of Summit County and the Ohio Department of Alcohol & Drug Addiction Services, McNeil said, she would like to put the nonprofit’s offerings all under one roof.
The agency now operates a transitional facility for up to 10 women in an 1899 home near downtown Akron.
The women all must be sober 60 days and homeless to qualify for the program and the average stay is six months. But McNeil said some can stay up to nine months.
Residents in the transitional housing must go to a 12-step meeting every night.
From the transitional facility, the women enter a permanent housing program in which they live in an apartment subsidized by Legacy III through federal funds for 26 months. This program is known as the Brubaker program after the late former board member and attorney Bruce H. Brubaker.
Once the 26 months are up, the women are expected to pay their own rent.
Flossie Greer, 62, a graduate of the transitional program, is living in an apartment as part of the Brubaker program.
“I don’t know what I would have done without this program,” said Greer, who now works part time at the Broken Chains Ministry cafe at the Akron Metro Robert Pfaff Transit Center in downtown Akron.
Greer, who started drinking at 25 and was involved in drugs as well, said that when she was accepted into the program, she was at the point where she “had had enough” and wanted to change her life.
The program has saved her life, she said.
The agency operates on a $620,000 budget and about 92 percent of its money comes from federal, state and city grants.
Since its founding, 344 women have gone through the transitional housing program and 78 women have participated in the Brubaker permanent housing program.
Last year, 30 women were part of the transitional housing component; 96 percent maintained their sobriety and 63 percent increased their income during their stay.
McNeil, who has been in recovery for 20 years and participates in a 12-step program, said she began drinking and using drugs after her mother, Joyce Jackson, died.
After two tries at rehab more than a decade later, she became sober and has been active in recovery organizations and has been a sponsor for many women.
She decided to form Legacy III after getting an “attitude” when she felt there was a lack of sober housing for homeless women.
“I ... thought this doesn’t make sense,” she said,
She named her organization Legacy III because of the three Legacies described by Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson: recovery, unity and service.
In the mid-1990s, she said, someone asked her what she would do with the money if she was given $200.
“I said I would get a house to help women in recovery,” she said.
Along with the other programs, Legacy III operates a housing program called Humble Beginnings for women over 55 with mental health or physical disabilities.
“Legacy III has operated a sound and effective program over the years, as evidenced by their outcomes,” said Gerald A. Craig, executive director of the County of Summit Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.
Harmon Velie, a board member of Legacy III and chairman of the board of Dr. Bob’s Home, the nonprofit that oversees the home of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Dr. Robert Smith on Ardmore Avenue in Akron, praised the work being done at Legacy III and said there is a need for a female rehab treatment center.
“It’s a harder hill to climb due to social demands and stigma” for women dealing with substance issues, he said. “A male is more accepted to be in that position versus a female.”
McNeil, who is paid about $70,000 a year, said that while her organization’s numbers of people treated are small, “I don’t believe there is a program in Summit County that can boast the outcomes” of Legacy III.
Jennifer Giebas, 38, a New Jersey native and a three-month resident of the transitional facility, said that before arriving she had been in rehab programs 16 previous times.
“I begged” to get into the Legacy III program, she said.
As of last month, she had been sober for 11 months.
“I never thought I would be clean,” she said.
For more about Legacy III, go to www.legacythree.org or call 330-375-0071.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.