Since 2016, Wilkes Recovery Revolution, Inc. (WRR) has worked to make recovery a reality in North Carolina. WRR was founded by Devin Lyall, whose own experience in long-term recovery helps inform the nonprofit’s services, peer-driven structure and leadership – including a board of directors made up of over 50% individuals in recovery. WRR’s partnership with ARC began in 2019, when Lyall began her service as a member of ARC’s Substance Abuse Advisory Council (SAAC), a volunteer group of leaders from recovery, health, economic development, private industry, education, state government, law enforcement, and other sectors representing each of the Region’s 13 states.
WRR’s partnership with ARC has now grown with a $260,000 investment from ARC’s INvestments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Initiative which awarded $10 million to projects strengthening recovery ecosystems and workforce reentry across Appalachia. WRR will use the investment to launch Wilkes Fresh Start – a therapeutic work program for those seeking recovery and employment. Through the program, individuals in recovery would have the opportunity to grow local produce and sell it through the Wilkes Fresh Mobile Market, a community collaborative designed to address equitable, healthy food access in underserved areas of Wilkes County.
Like most aspects of their operation, the idea for Wilkes Fresh Start began through the lived experience of their community members. Several residents of their Phases Transitional Housing Program volunteered in a local church’s community garden. WRR quickly learned of the therapeutic value that individuals in recovery found from simply playing in the dirt, watching plants grow, and feeling responsible for such meaningful work. With this ARC investment, Fresh Start participants will not only grow produce, but also learn other valuable work and life skills by selling market-fresh goods, earning short-term certifications and more.
The program will also connect participants with support services including a Peer Navigator, a North Carolina Certified Personal Support Specialist (PSS) with lived experience who links individuals to services necessary for recovery and workforce reentry. Program participation and peer guidance will help build participants’ financial independence, which will help them overcome recovery barriers such as obtaining a driver’s license, paying probation fees, covering family reintegration costs, childcare, housing and more.
“Addiction is the opposite of connection, and through this program individuals in recovery will be able to feel like a contributing member to their communities, which will increase their likelihood of success in recovery,” said Devin Lyall. “People want to do better but they have to be given access to the necessary programming and support services to do so.”