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Friday, September 29, 2023
Sept. 29, 2023

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Recovery Cafe Clark County provides a safe haven

Vancouver program aids those in recovery from addiction, past trauma

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
6 Photos
Darius Roberts, from left, a member of Recovery Cafe Clark County, makes his way through the salad bar at lunchtime as fellow member Cliff McFall shares a laugh with circle facilitator Monte Gantka. Recover Cafe Clark County offers free food to members. The cafe specializes in helping people recover from substance addiction, abuse, past trauma and more. “We don’t determine what recovery is for our members,” said Recovery Cafe Clark County Executive Director Larry Worthington.
Darius Roberts, from left, a member of Recovery Cafe Clark County, makes his way through the salad bar at lunchtime as fellow member Cliff McFall shares a laugh with circle facilitator Monte Gantka. Recover Cafe Clark County offers free food to members. The cafe specializes in helping people recover from substance addiction, abuse, past trauma and more. “We don’t determine what recovery is for our members,” said Recovery Cafe Clark County Executive Director Larry Worthington. Amanda Cowan/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Laughter rang from the dining room at Recovery Cafe Clark County in Vancouver on Thursday afternoon.

A couple dozen people gathered at tables at the Fourth Plain Boulevard gathering spot, digging in to plates of macaroni, salad and dessert. The vibe and good feelings resemble a college dorm, and that’s the typical scene for the cafe during the lunch hour five days a week.

While the menu varies by the day, it’s always something that “will stick to your ribs,” said Larry Worthington, the executive director for Recovery Cafe Clark County.

Like the lunchtime grub, Recovery Cafe’s aim is simple, but hearty.

The cafe specializes in helping people with recovery, with as few barriers as possible to access. Membership has three requirements: they must be sober for 24 hours; they must attend one recovery circle (a small support circle) each week and they must give back to the cafe community in some way, helping with chores or being a greeter.

“We work with a pretty marginalized population, and our goal here is to treat everyone with radical hospitality,” Worthington said. “The Recovery Cafe is set up to be a support system for anybody in recovery.”

Recovery Cafe Clark County

Where: 3312 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

When: Open 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Information: 360-984-6163 or www.recoverycafecc.org

Recovery can mean different things to members, Worthington explained. It can be recovery from drugs, alcohol, abuse or other past trauma.

“We don’t determine what recovery is for our members,” Worthington said. “They determine that for themselves. Our position is, ‘We just want to accept you where you are. Join you on your journey’ and hopefully at some point, you’ll just come in to visit us because you don’t need us anymore.”

Monte Gantka, who has been sober for more than 14 years now and runs a recovery circle, said he enjoys the fellowship of Recovery Cafe.

“This is everybody’s cafe,” he said.

There’s a Kleen Street Recovery Cafe off St. John’s Road, as well. That location and the Fourth Plain location are run by different people. Recovery Cafe started as a Seattle venture and has expanded to more than 20 sites around the country, serving more than 700 members, Worthington said. The Fourth Plain location, which doesn’t charge for meals, opened in August.

Worthington said the cafe has been a fulfilling venture.

“I spent a lot of years being concerned about me, and doing this work can be exhausting sometimes, but it’s so rewarding,” he said. “I work with people who every day are shunned by pieces of our society. I like that we can create an island for folks where they know they are safe, they know they’re accepted and they know they’re loved.”

Joyce Looker started coming to the cafe around October. She’s been sober from alcohol for more than a year, and clean from drugs for more than six years. She works the phone and front desk a couple of times a week. Looker said the openness of cafe members is what draws her to the cafe.

“You can share anything, everything. It’s just helped me deal with situations,” Looker said. “There’s people here to talk to so I get support. I go through issues. We’re all human.”

The cafe offers meals, which Worthington said might be the only food some members get all day. It also offers computer access, books, recovery classes, support groups and a place to meet people and hang out in a safe environment.

Worthington explained that one member joined with severe social anxiety and a substance use addiction. For his first month at the cafe, he sat by himself and didn’t talk to anyone. But over time, he warmed up and started to join for the cafe’s karaoke night.

“Once they see they are all treated exactly the same, people just start opening up, and start looking at some of the things that have been barriers or challenges and start creating their own goals, and start achieving those goals,” Worthington said.

The cafe relies on grants and donations for money, but Worthington said he plans to have fundraisers in the future to keep the cafe around. He wants the cafe to be sustainable over the long term, and maybe even grow. He said he would like to expand the cafe’s current hours to include the evening, so the cafe can serve dinner, too.

“We’re growing. We’re a small group that runs it,” Worthington said. “Give us a year, and we’ll probably look a lot different.”

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Columbian staff writer