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"Sober Club" Finds a home

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BURLINGTON--Turning Point Recovery Center -- a substance-free "sober club" for addicts in recovery from drug, alcohol and other addictions -- finally has a home in Burlington. The club, which closed its Colchester space in January, opened last week in a newly renovated former garage on South Champlain Street; its official address is around the corner, at 61 Main.

Mayor Peter Clavelle will welcome the center to Burlington at an opening celebration at 5 p.m. on September 20, after a meeting of the Burlington Substance Abuse Coalition. Another opening event, with Governor Douglas, is scheduled for October.

City officials were less enthusiastic about Turning Point last winter, when the organization tried to rent the storefront at 194 North Street. Residents and city councilors complained that the club, which is funded by grants from the Health Department, didn't belong on the Old North End thoroughfare. North Street has too often been a "dumping ground" for social services, they said. After a public hearing, the city's Development Review Board unanimously rejected the club's application.

Kyrie Walker, Turning Point's site coordinator, calls that decision "devastating." On a recent afternoon, the former massage therapist could be found at the club's new digs, unpacking boxes and arranging the donated furniture. "It was a major disappointment at the time," she says, "but as you can see, it's turned out for the best."

Walker, in long-term recovery herself, is referring to the club's airy, spacious downtown HQ, beside the new Euro Gourmet Market & Cafe. It houses two pool tables, a couple of retro, restaurant-style booths and two recliners, as well as a separate area to be used for 12-step meetings such as Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous. The well-lit room is a far cry from the dim, cramped office space on North Street. "It's got a great feel to it," Walker observes.

This building, fronted by two large garage bay doors, belongs to David Ackerman, who bought it a year and a half ago. Ackerman says the space had been vacant for at least 20 years before he and his wife started fixing its broken windows, repairing the roof, and chasing out the pigeons. Turning Point is their first tenant.

Ackerman says he's comfortable renting to the club. "The people I've met that are associated with it seem to be topnotch people," he says. "I'm hoping that Turning Point is going to do good things for Burlington."

Walker is similarly optimistic. She notes that local recovery groups have already started meeting here, and on Saturday, a group of sober motorcyclists stopped by.

She says she expects her clientele to be mixed. "We have people from all walks of life," Walker points out. "Attorneys, physicians, accountants -- you just don't know."

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