Dedication ceremonies for the Carol Potasnik Greenberg women’s recovery residence at the Vineyard House campus in Vineyard Haven Sunday morning were an emotional affair for donors Joel Greenberg and his wife, Marcy Gringlas, and for the approximately 70 Island residents in attendance from the recovery community and recovery service providers.
The Greenbergs are seasonal residents who made the Vineyard House a substantial matching-grant offer that enabled the organization to complete a nearly decade-long effort to upgrade the housing it offers to Island residents in early recovery. The $3 million four-building residential and administrative campus, built by Squash Meadow Construction on Short Hill Road off Holmes Hole Road, opened in December 2014.
Designed for group living for 17 men and seven women, including private (for seniors) and semiprivate bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens, laundry facilities, and common areas, the complex includes a separate administrative building with a community conference room available for 12-step meetings and other recovery programs.
Short introductory remarks by Board Chairman Mark Jenkins and Executive Director Dawn Bellante-Holland drew comparisons between the transformative nature of recovery and the benefits provided by a safe and secure environment for people building their recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Noting the community support for Vineyard House since its inception in 1997, the speakers credited efforts by Squash Meadow Construction, Jardin Mahoney, and a group of building tradesmen who worked on the project.
Mr. Jenkins noted that recovery work is not glamorous work. Indeed, most recovery work is conducted quietly, and observes the anonymity of sufferers. Stories are not often shared in a public setting, and Mr. Goldberg’s often emotional telling of his mother’s life transfixed the audience on Sunday.
Carol Potasnik Greenberg was born in 1927 in Yonkers, N.Y., “in a big family with big hearts who ate a lot, drank a lot, and laughed a lot,” he said. His mother shared the family traits, he said. “In her 40s, she moved to Israel, not speaking a word of Hebrew, to help children, survivors of a school bus bombing by Palestinian terrorists, to rebuild their lives,” he offered as an example.
He said her greatest act of courage came when she was 70, when she admitted that she was an alcoholic and had strained relationships with her family. “She went to rehab, and never had another drink. She mentored and counseled others during the remainder of her life,” he said.
Mrs. Greenberg died in 2013 of pancreatic cancer. She was 85.
Public acclaim for other contributors to the recovery community here has been observed in other Vineyard House buildings. Rooms and buildings are named for Hazel Teagan, who continues her decades of work helping addicts and alcoholics as a nurse at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital; for Kathy Ferland, longtime Vineyard House operations manager who died last month; and for Pat Gregory, who was Vineyard House treasurer and board member when he died in a senseless robbery and murder in 2014 during a California vacation.
The dedication clearly affected Dr. Charles Silberstein, an Island psychiatrist who has written extensively on Island substance abuse and has counseled untold numbers of people in recovery.
“Hazel [Teagan] and I have had this shared vision since 1995, that people would be able leave the hospital’s [former] detox center and move into a recovery environment. Then Julie Norman offered Vineyard House a property right next to the hospital. Amazing. As a psychiatrist, I can observe the ripples of recovery move through the community, something you don’t see in a larger urban community.”
The benefits of the new Vineyard House are best described by people who live there. Jill Huminski is the house manager of the Carol Potasnik Greenberg women’s residence. She has served as the women’s house manager for three years.
“I can see a tremendous difference,” she said. “This residence is telling people that we deserve good things in our lives, and they show respect for their home and toward each other. And I have never seen a group of men come together as they have here.”
Bill C, a Vineyard House resident for six months who asked that he not be identified, agreed. “This place makes me hold my head a little higher, makes me feel better about myself and in my relationships with others,” he said. “We are not on top of each other; there is room for living.”
The Vineyard House will hold its annual fundraiser, Water Tasting by the Sea, on August 6 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Captain R. Flanders House on North Road in Chilmark. More information is available at vineyardhouse.org.
Jack Shea is a freelance writer, and has served on the Vineyard House board.