PORTSMOUTH — Realtors and Rotarians are teaming up to help address the state’s opioid crisis with an event to benefit four Seacoast programs dedicated to addiction treatment and recovery.
The event is Sharing Hope, which will be held on Sept. 24, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at 3S ArtSpace, 319 Vaughan St.
With a $50 per person contribution, this fundraiser will benefit SOS Recovery Community Center in Dover, Hope on Haven Hill in Rochester, Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, and Portsmouth-based Step Up Parents.
SOS Recovery, Hope on Haven Hill, and Safe Harbor provide on-site programs for opioid addiction treatment and recovery, while Step Up Parents is a program that offers financial assistance to grandparents and other relative caregivers raising children of loved ones struggling with substance use disorders.
The real estate professionals involved in the fundraiser come from the Seacoast Board of Realtors, while the Rotarians are part of District 7780, which includes Rotary Clubs in Maine and southern New Hampshire.
They are being pulled together by Karen Kulberg, regional sales director for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/The Masiello Group and the 2018 president of the Seacoast Board of Realtors, in her creation of Realtors for Recovery (http://realtorsforrecovery.com/).
She said she wanted to parlay her experience as president of the real estate board “into something bigger.”
“You meet a lot of people and forge relationships, and I really began to understand – and I knew this before I became president – how fabulous Realtors are and how much they want to give back to the community,” she said. “I thought if she take the power of Realtors, it could have a really, really huge impact.”
She polled people within the Masiello Group to get a sense of just how best real estate professionals might have an impact, and the need she said she heard time and again was the opioid crisis. “Everybody had some personal stories in our offices where people had been touched directly by opioid addiction,” Kulberg said.
Participating in the effort is Rotary Club members from within District 7780 as part of its own response to the opioids crisis involving overdose recognition and response seminars.
Kulberg is a member of the Hampton Rotary Club and, being aware of the district-wide initiative, she met with Kennebunk Police Chief Robert MacKenzie.
MacKenzie, the father of a daughter who struggled with drug dependency, is a member of the Kennebunk club and organizer of the District 7780 Recovery Initiative Committee, which organizes seminars that educate the community on the dangers of opioids, supports education campaigns in public schools, and raises money to train recovery coaches who assist drug users who are trying to turn their lives around.
“A lot of people tend to shy away from the subject because they look at it as dirty or evil and want nothing to do with it,” MacKenzie said in a Rotary publication. “They think it doesn’t happen in their town. But guess what: It happens in every town.”
The resulting partnership, according to Kulberg, pulls together too very large organizations dedicated to community service – Realtors and Rotarians.
“We were really thrilled to get that partnership with the Rotary Clubs,” Kulberg said. “Rotary and Realtors are two of the biggest service organizations in the country.”
Nine speakers will be moderated by Ritchie Farrell from Milton, a former heroin addict, who authored “I Am a Heroin Addict” and film producer known for “High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell” (1995), “America Undercover” (1983) and “The Fighter” (2010). He is also a motivational speaker who addresses addiction, trauma, sexual abuse, and domestic violence.
The nine speakers include:
Scott Plante, singer/songwriter who shares his music in an effort to reach others battling addiction;
Jasmine Lamontagne, a woman in long-term recovery who has dedicated her life to helping others;
Chris Sullivan, former Patriots football player who is spreading awareness about the perils of drug and alcohol use;
Pat Cronin, director of professional relations at Northeast Addictions Treatment Center. He has been a face and voice of recovery nationwide for over a decade;
Matt Ganem, a poet whose work addresses struggles with addiction;
Amy Anagnost, an entrepreneur in long-term recovery;
Cami Baker, author, speaker and business strategist who uses her story of recovery to inspire business people worldwide;
Phil Spagnoulo, founder of New Life Recovery;
Tim Francis, a blogger and web designer specializing in the addiction treatment industry.
Each participant has an important story to tell about addiction and recovery, according to Kulberg.
“The speakers that I have are dedicated to spreading the story, reaching back to help the next person,” Kulberg said. “They’re going to come and talk about their journey to recovery. They are people who have created recovery centers themselves or are director of recovery centers. It’s just a really dynamic group of people who are coming together for this event.”
There were 420 opioid related overdose deaths in the state in 2018, and so far in 2019 there have been 90, according to the state attorney general’s office.
The crisis affects everyday life in a lot of ways, according to Kulberg, including for real estate professionals who she said must advise people showing a home for sale to hide and secure their prescription drugs and valuables. People will show up at an open house to steal what they can to feed a drug habit, she said.
“These are good people who would not normally do that, but their body is craving it, they’re going to do whatever it takes to keep themselves from getting sick,” she said.
For information about the fundraiser and tickets, visit www.facebook.com/realtorsforrecovery. The event will include a silent auction. Anyone wishing to help out as a sponsor or with auction items is invited to email Kulberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.