By Julie Horner
The south end of Boulder Creek’s main drag is humming with life again as SLV Alano Club fills the empty space left by Video 9. A frequent downtown stroller, I admit I hadn’t walked that distance along Highway 9 since the video store closed, usually making it only as far as the new Village Farm to tend the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin garden plot. It was a pleasant surprise to enter the familiar premises to find comfortable sofas, a big screen TV with folks gathered round to watch a DVD, and tables of community members busily collaborating. The atmosphere was convivial, casual, and welcoming to a stranger blowing in off the street.
Co-owner Rickey E rose from the conversation to greet me, offering a warm, well calloused working man’s hand. He gave me the tour, peering into the meeting room in the back where rows of sofas and chairs were arranged facing forward awaiting meeting night when people from all walks of life come to lay down their burdens and hear much needed words of encouragement. He pointed to snacks, water, and sodas in a refrigerated case and a plate of donuts on the counter, all of which, he explained, are gratis to anyone who has come to the center for support and needs something to tide them over. Donations are accepted but they cannot charge for the refreshments.
He invited me to Google “Alano Club” and continued with his own description: “Alano is a worldwide chain of centers for helping folks become clean and sober – we facilitate a space for Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) 12-step recovery meetings.” These centers are privately owned businesses that supply a safe, clean place to recover along with the fellowship of supporters who are also in recovery. “We will not turn away anyone who is hungry or needy,” he said.
“In this room we have people who have been sober anywhere from 6 months to 30 years; it’s a diverse group. We have plenty of sofas, plenty of room, plenty of people to help and who are willing to share their experience with people who need help.”
Along with fellow business owners, Joe E and Indrich M, and staff members, Carl S and Charles W, who welcome visitors on the day to day (the tradition in recovery communities is not to use last names), SLV Alano Club hosts 17 A.A. meetings a month and an “Anything Goes” group of Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.) that meets twice a month.
Rickey says they’ve been up and running for about two months now. “We’re modeling our startup after all the others, and there are literally thousands of them worldwide, even in Eastern Europe,” he said. With a donated pool table that the teens mostly use when their folks are in meetings, and free Wi-Fi for anyone who needs to be connected, they’re planning to make the new location permanent as soon as they get confirmation from the building owner. For now, it’s month-to-month, and they have a backup location chosen in Felton just in case. But he has a good feeling about Boulder Creek and is sure, “It’s up and onward from here!”
Rickey has decades of experience helping others. “Many of us came from the Ben Lomond Fellowship.” That’s the always bustling location on Highway 9 in a house that he says belonged to a once-upon-a-time Superman and was left to the group in the actor’s will…they have a 99-year lease, he says.
“Alano Club operates as a full committee of community members that helps guide the ship. By purpose and regulation, no one person has the power…it’s set up to be a group effort.” A.A. at large does not advertise: They base their efforts on attraction rather than promotion. “Alano Club is a separate entity – it’s like separation of church and state – neither tells the other what to do.” Rick facilitates community connection and runs the meetings but says, “I am your servant, not your boss.”
The main takeaway for people who are new: “We’re here to be of service to help people become and stay sober.”
The greater community of neighbors helping neighbors includes SLV Museum, which has opened up their grounds to the group for horseshoe tournaments, block parties, and parking, and Boulder Creek United Methodist Church, which hosts A.A. and Al-Anon meetings. Rickey says his mother-in-law plans to start another Al-Anon meeting at SLV Alano Club as well.
“There are a lot of folks in need in the area. And we’re not all poor.” It’s a point about perception that resonates. Alcoholism and substance abuse can affect anyone, regardless of economic or social status. Rickey says, “The ‘financially recovered’ help carry those who are new or having a harder time. Therein lies our open-door policy. Anyone trying to stay clean and sober is welcome.”
While much of the efforts focus on serving portions of the community who cannot pay for help, they do take donations, and in fact, memberships are necessary to help keep the doors open. The cost of a membership at SLV Alano Club is $200 a year and companies and individuals who step up to sponsor Alano programs are listed as generous donors on Alano Club’s vast online network.
One of the most rewarding moments in service of those in need is “the new guy who walks in the door and he’s still shaky. We pretty much circle around him.
SLV Alano Club is kid- and good dog-friendly. “Our doors are always open – from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm – come on in and say hello. Any time.”
12550 Central Ave, Boulder Creek, CA 95006 | 831-217-5034
Copyright 2016 Julie Horner