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Community Collaboration Transforms Transitional Houses
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The WRS transitional houses makeover are a perfect example of community collaboration. Heidi Benzonelli of the Jefferson Project is the impetus behind the ADCS Housing Rehab Project that trains WRS graduates living in our transitional houses building repair and maintenance. Pulling together an impressive list of community partners and funding streams, Benzonelli got things started as the Second Chance Program. When COVID hit, everything changed. Seeing the the tremendous impacts of this work, Benzonelli found a way to continue working with transitional house residents. Participants are trained by College of the Redwoods construction trades instructor, Bob Belter and painting trainer, Brian Ingram.

Benzonelli recognizes that “everyone needs housing, food, being safe, being part of a family. We work to make things happen. Each day starts with a meeting and breakfast. Then we’re off to work.” Learning job skills, working as a team and seeing the fruits of their labor give WRS residents a great deal of pride. And the community is noticing the neighborhood improvement, often stopping by to express their appreciation. Benzonelli says 67% of the work crews have gone on to jobs in the trades. An amazing example of community leadership and collaboration!

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Creating Community With Good Food From The Kitchen

Our kitchen Is an Integral part of the therapeutic offerings at Waterfront Recovery Services. Staff take pride in providing delicious and nutritious meals for residents daily but beyond that, kitchen manager Jesse Pearson has initiated special events for all of the holidays. “We want to show residents healthy ways for celebrations, and that they can still have fun without drugs or alcohol." Jessica Pearson cooks up special treats and brings in decorations to make holidays festive: homemade mole and a piñata for Cinco de Mayo, a special brunch including chocolate dipped strawberries on Mother’s Day, barbecue, cupcakes and fireworks for Fourth of July are examples of some of the fun things that make residents feel like they're part of community.

Celebrating Our Kitchen

John McManus and our kitchen managers share the Waterfront food philosophy that emphasizes good food as part of getting healthy and being well cared for. Jesse and Jessica Pearson always work extra hard to make things healthy and delicious.

4th Anniversary Speaker Highlights

John McManus and Waterfront Medical Director, Dr. Ruby Bayan had a shared vision before they ever met. McManus as the Executive Director of Alcohol Drug Care Services, saw the challenges in the ADCS social model detox and recovery programs and felt that there would be greater success with a medical model program. This is precisely the work that Dr. Bayan, a child and addiction psychiatrist, had been doing for years.

When they did meet, the hope of establishing a facility that would raise the level of services for people with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) became a real possibility. As they navigated previously unknown waters, designing protocols and jumping through legal and governmental hoops, McManus and Dr. Bayan made a deep personal and spiritual connection. Beyond having great respect for one another professionally, they became the dearest of friends. Waterfront Recovery Services opened its doors November 1, 2017.

In early 2021, John was diagnosed with ALS. His passing in May of 2022 was not a surprise to Dr. Bayan but still she, like so many others, was reeling from the void his departure left. She wanted to find a way to honor him. While his raucous laughter would no longer fill the halls of Waterfront, she thought music might be the way. John was an amazing musician with the rare ability to play by ear, infusing the music with a soulfulness beyond reading notes. Dr. Bayan decided a music program would be a wonderful way to keep his playful spirit alive while adding to WRS programs that address the importance of creativity in healing.

The John McManus Music Program has been an instant success. Facilitated by staff members Jamie George and Wade Mallett, program residents and recent program graduates gather on Sunday afternoons to share time and talent with one another. Often joined by some of McManus’ musician friends and even on occasion his 12-year old son who, like his father, is a natural musician. His singing and dance moves are a delight. WRS has great appreciation for the generous donations of instruments from the community that assure everyone can participate.

On a recent Sunday, Jamie started with some guitar and a welcome before a program graduate who’d dropped by joined him on guitar. Next, a resident shared several beautiful a capella songs with the group. Everyone who wanted to keep the beat on one of the many percussion instruments was encouraged by Jamie. Another resident promised some piano playing later in the hour. The laid back atmosphere was welcoming and friendly and punctuated by laughter; just the kind of good medicine that McManus and Dr. Bayan always acknowledged as an important part of healing the whole person.

Music Program Honors Co-founder McManus

As a way to honor co-founder and talented musician, John McManus, Dr. Ruby Bayan has added a Sunday afternoon music program that aligns with the Waterfront inclusion of creativity in the healing process. Facilitated by staff members Wade Mallett and Jamie George, residents and program graduates gather to share and learn music, often joined by some of McManus’ musician friends and family. Generous donations of instruments from the community are greatly appreciated.

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