Creating a volunteer force out of your alumni

2013 Collaborative Session Notes 

Developing Alumni Committees

Convener: Murry Sandlin, Ranch of Dove Tree [email protected]

Scribe: Sabrina Mathis, Foundations Recovery Network [email protected]


Tania Bhattacharyya, New Directions for Women

Caitlin Rayner, New Beginnings Lake Charles

Ross Martin, Focus Healthcare of TN

Melissa Garrison, Rosecrance


Has anyone set up/have a committee model to share?

– Are elected officers necessary?


– Do you develop annual projections?

o Yes. Develop annual projections not only for assessment but also to have for future

reference when working with administrators on budget and staffing priorities

– Fundraisers and events?

o Decide on a yearly calendar of events and necessary fundraisers

o Be flexible and know your time constraints

o Consider the target audience and having a variety that will appeal to the masses

– Are bylaws/job descriptions necessary?

o Yes, sets the tone and structure

o Assures the future – elect officers

– What are the goals/purpose for committees?

o Keep newcomers involved

o Keep it as family


– Use small start from the corporation/facility

o Show statistics/referral importance for additional funding.

o Incorporate the annual projections of previous year

– Rely on donors

What do alumni take responsibility for?

– Events – planning, set-up, clean up

– Fun in sobriety

Tap into the community around your facility first

– Ask alumni what they want/ start focus groups

– Bring them back to the good feeling – where the miracle began

– Remember…….FUN!



New Directions

– Has developed an Alumni Leadership Council

– Host brunch 4 times a year

– Gives alums updates from the facility

– Developed sub-committees (calling committee, event committee, etc)

New Beginnings for Women

– Just elected officers for committees of 12 people

– Developed bylaws, job descriptions, annual projections

– Decided on fundraisers and schedule of events to host for the year

2013 Collaborative Notes 


Convener: Leonard Bade, Integrated Recovery Solutions  [email protected]

Scribe: Felicia Kleinpeter, St. Christopher’s  [email protected]

Sherri Layton, La Hacienda
Tania Bhattacharyya, New Directions for Women
Carver Brown, Pine Grove
Michael Holtzer, CeDAR
Chris Gates, MAP Health Management
Harold Jonas, Sober Systems
Diana Drake, New Beginnings
Megan O’Connor, Valley Hope
Tim McLeod, Sierra Tucson
Tom Hofstedt, Alta Mira
Cecile Callis, Pavillon
Donna Schwartz, Valley Hope
Case Study: Building a Volunteer Corp at Betty Ford Center
Goals: Alumni stay connected to the center
Alumni stay connected to recovery
Went to chapter groups to build recovery focused community
– Started with 12 people meeting 2 x’s a year
– In a 9 year period, grew to 140 volunteers located throughout United States
– Purpose: volunteering, delivering services
– No rules regarding terms, voting
Step Ladder Theory of Group Dynamics for Volunteers and Clients

Who am I?: Safety/Who are you?: Trust/ Who are we?: Intimacy/How do we get there?: Goals, Strategies and tactics/Where are we going?: Vision, Mission and Values
– Work together, not alone to get to know one another
– Peer Support doesn’t need to maintain distance like clinical
Betty Ford Center held 150-200 breakfast talks about
– What’s life like today (personal share)
– What kind of alumni services can be provided to the group

– Establishing local chapter groups
Volunteer Selection is based on people we see
RAV – Regional Alumni Volunteer
Key Bridges (Services)
1. Alumni Contact
a. Connect volunteer with client within 24-48 hours of discharge.
b. Put in chart/system where and when
c. Set up meeting through alumni office
d. Ask set of questions: avoid war stories, become curious and empathetic
e. Take to meeting next day if lucky

  1. Support Groups
    a. Identify as “men and women who got sober at BFC)
    b. Social events – bring program to communities, sober fun, commitments
    c. Recovery Management – Pre, During and Post
    d. Volunteers can help on front end – Meet with someone struggling and get them to the plane
    e. Use as advocates
    f. Send volunteers to sober events to speak
    g. Volunteers for AMA Panel
    h. Back to Basics
    i. Trained BFC 140 volunteers on grief recovery
    ii. 3 day certification
    iii. Make/get calls when families experience loss
    iv. If no alumni are in area, call AA Central Office – Bridging the Gap
    Really need critical mass of sustainability
    BFC’s 140 volunteers get paid by getting to attend workshops for free
    Recovery Enrichment

2014 Collaborative Session Notes 


Convener: Paul Scudo, CeDAR, [email protected]

Heather Lister, CeDAR

Heather Lister, CeDAR        Dave Alexander, Northbound         Chris Gates, MAP
Gina Thorne, Lakeview        Theo Baars, Westbridge          Michele Jackson, Promises
Kristen Smith, Balboa       Savannah Ganji, Milestones     Courtney Wood, Westbridge
John Courshon, Gateway     Tori De Groote, Sovereign      Karen Zaccour, Lakeview
Neena Wilcox, Bridge to Recovery      Sam Woodbury, Northbound     Wally Paton, B2B
Ryan Miller, Futures     Sabrina Mathis, Foundations     Carver Brown, Pine Grove
Murry Sandlin, Ranch at Dove Tree     Emili Barbour, New Directions for Women

Volunteer programs offer a wide spectrum of opportunities for alumni to be of service.  Examples: detox, administration, cottages, spiritual center, family center.

CeDAR uses some of William White’s peer mentor ideas for training:

  • Orientation
  • Peer Recovery Support volunteer training
  • Concept of giving back

Sharing your experiences with patients:

  • Candid feedback of your own experiences helps them.
  • But, not allowed to offer suggestions for their treatment our use the word “should.”

How sober do you have to be to participate?

  • CeDAR follows University of Colorado Hospital guidelines. If no violent offenses or felony, minimum nine months sober to work in detox or cottages. If 60-90 days sober, can volunteer at events and programs.

Peer recovery process:

  • Patients respond well to volunteers, especially relative to clinicians. Volunteers are willing to share more.

Is training done individually or in groups?

  • Groups

Since many patients have had spotty work histories, can volunteers use this experience for job references?

  • Yes

What do we have to know about liability insurance?

  • CeDAR is covered by the hospital’s volunteer program do HIPAA requirements are covered.
  • Go ask your local hospital how they set up their volunteer program in your area.

If they have poor boundaries, how do you discourage their involvement as a volunteer?

  • Confirm your thoughts about them with their counselor.
  • Tell them it’s not a good fit for them.
  • Give them examples of other opportunities to serve.

Are volunteers certified?

  • No, there is no official certification or education credit. It does not meet official behavioral health standards for certification.

What can volunteers do in the detox unit?

  • Non-medical assistance: cover the phones, walk patients to the hospital, sit in common room and support/listen to them while detoxing.

Do you introduce the alumni concept to those in treatment?

  • Yes, in recovery community classes.


  • Make patients aware of alumni programs and support while in treatment.
  • Get permission to contact them when they leave treatment.
  • Ask if they’d like to do service work once out of treatment.
  • At discharge – have them sign form saying it’s OK for staff and other alumni to contact them

Lakeview did focus group with core alumni to find out what they’re willing to do.  One example with Gen Y: phone calls for one hour per month at lunchtime to call alumni about upcoming events. It’s done on campus and lunch is provided.  Legal, however, said it didn’t qualify as volunteers re: HIPAA.

New Directions has The Association, which consists of six women who plan two big events a year.  It’s a formal structure with officers and the events are their responsibility.

Other examples:

  • Alumni Leadership Council did not go well. They felt it was too much to do as alumni. The treatment center learned what can be expected, which wasn’t what they were hoping.
  • Sunday Alumni Services: two groups, brunch is served, can spend the day, drug testing and breathalyzer
  • Free One Week Tune Up: can come back for free assessment, no detox onsite.

Peer Recovery Support: It’s the caulk that fills in all the gaps! 

Spring 2015 Collaborative Session Notes

The Power of Volunteerism-Showing up in Love and Service

Convener: Leonard Bade, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, [email protected]

Scribe: Felicia Kleinpeter, St. Christopher’s [email protected]


Haggerty, Kevin The Ranch [email protected]
Dunn, Patrick JourneyPure [email protected]
O’Neil, Cara Hanley Center at Origins [email protected]
Brown, Carver Pine Grove [email protected]
Kirschberg, Lauren Pine Grove [email protected]
Baars, Theo Westbridge [email protected]
Wood, Courtney Westbridge [email protected]
Placencia, Tammy Hazelden/Betty Ford [email protected]
Stannard, Elizabeth Hazelden/Betty Ford [email protected]
O’Shea, Chris The Journey Home [email protected]
Zaccour, Karen Lakeview [email protected]
Rosay, Stacy CCAR [email protected]
Lynch, Chris American Addiction Centers [email protected]
Starbuck, Lisa The Farley Center [email protected]
Wilcox, Neena The Bridge to Recovery [email protected]
Cape, Laurie The Bridge to Recovery [email protected]

Success of alumni volunteerism at Betty Ford Center:

Had 20 very committed alumni willing to have sober groups, alumni panels, leading recovery meetings, and help with IOP.

2 Dimensions: Those in close proximity: had many opportunities to be of service

Those who lived elsewhere: chapter meetings, had to empower the volunteers


Connecting People at Discharge: Alumni were assigned to be alumni contacts when someone discharged in their area

Families, BFC Family Alumni had a contact sheet as well for family alumni. They are connected to new family members if:

  1. They had gone to BFC Family Program
  2. They were committed to Alanon


Volunteer Core

  1. Alumni and Family Members were qualified each time they were connected with the new ones
  2. BFC had 140 Volunteers over a 9 year period
  3. High referral source at 3.5 people every 2 years
  4. Donations to BFC
  5. Had authentic conversations with alumni
  6. Assigned roles
  7. Heart, Care, Love, Passion

The BFC Alumni Program mantra: be of love and service

Change of topic: for those of you involved in TPAS what made you want to become a volunteer?

  1. After hearing Frankie Grundler and Becky Flood speak about TPAS. They are very passionate about TPAS.
  2. Neena Wilcox: wanted to be a part of the collaboration that drew here to TPAS in the first place. Wanted to get involved behind the scenes.
  3. Carver Brown: TPAS gave him a sense of not being alone. He was with people who share the same passion and vision he has for his alumni. It was captivating.
  4. Ryan Miller: He was supported by his center to attend and felt a personal push to join in Helping Others Help Others!
  5. Lauren Kirschberg: Was excited to finally meet some other people who work with alumni of treatment centers. Had felt alone “making it up as she went”. So refreshing to share ideas and felt so comfortable in this environment.

2015 Fall Collaborative Notes

How to get Alumni Excited

Convener: Emili Barbour  [email protected]

Scribe:  Sabrina Mathis, Foundations  [email protected]


Missy Garrison, Rosecrance  [email protected]

Jaana Woodbury, Northbound  [email protected]

Nikki Soda, Harmony  [email protected]

Adam Blough, Waters Edge  [email protected]

Paul Hamblin, The Bridge to Recovery  [email protected]

Dick Dillon, Innovaision, LLC  [email protected]

Heidi Solomonson, Hazelden  [email protected]

Lorie Obernauer, Coach [email protected]

Brenda Capizzi, The Mesa House Inc  [email protected]

Meredith Turnbull, The Gardens  [email protected]

Brittini Lyons, Sunspire Spring Hill  [email protected]

Vanessa Wentwoord, FRN Michaels House  [email protected]

Carol Ricossa, FRN The Oaks at La Paloma  [email protected]

Jocelyn Weiss, FRN Atlanta  [email protected]

Nicole Topor, Sunspire Desert Palms  [email protected]


How do you engage alumni?

Seeing alums who want nothing to do with program

They are post treatment life – have moved on

How can we be models of new sober life without feeling like we are selling something to them?

Is there a feeling of shame built into the alumni program?

Is there resentment to the facility center they attended?

The routine while at treatment is that the alumni program should be built into the process.  However, seeing that the clinical team is putting it on the back burner – directly seeing a decline in involvement and the importance.

  • Missy (Rosecrance)
    • We have to now engage clinical staff to show them how much we appreciate how hard they are working as well as engaging the patient to learn about the alumni program.
    • Constant connection
      • Active alums that are involved – teach them to reach out and let us know
      • Recognize their milestones
      • Recognize things they said while in treatment
    • Dick Dillon
      • Patients must learn to volunteer while they are in treatment
      • Alums who become staff members tend to lose credibility
        • Recruit new “volunteers” to help
      • Must have a wide variety of things going on to get the folks to participate
    • Lorie
      • We must realize that the world has also sped up
        • People are busy
        • Times are different
        • People feel like they don’t have enough time to do everything
        • This is a great place to be for us to help them see the importance of alumni meetings


  • Patients attend alumni meetings on Thursday nights – learn about it early on
    • Meeting with patients in a group
      • Talk/Community Needs
      • Importance of treatment
    • People coming back are the newly treated
      • Its good – they are finding meetings or they moving on
    • Use the Law of Principle
    • Remember the experience
    • Always feed them! They come back for food!  Let the alums own a piece of it – pick the menu
    • Get the excited ones engaged early on


  • Give them ownership
  • Empower alumni to participate
  • Let the alums make the decisions

How do you present what alumni program is?

  • Often times feel like you are trying to sell something
  • Group with Patient – not in clinical place
  • Get them excited by sharing personal experiences
  • Share about sobriety family
  • Replace addiction with something you’re scared of
  • Hold each other accountable
  • Repetition is good!
    • They have to see you
    • They need to hear it a few times a week
    • It’s better to attend – will receive it at last
  • Events/Reunions
    • Incorporate current patients in your events with alumni
    • Use alumni during the treatment stay
      • Alums are familiar with the process
    • Change the name of your program
      • Alumni à Recovery Support Services
    • Meetings
      • Use the open concept format at your meetings
      • Ask questions about life

2015 Fall Collaborative Notes


Convener:  Lorie Obernauer, LO Group  [email protected]

Neena Wilcox, The Bridge to Recovery  [email protected]

Scribe:  Sabrina Mathis, Foundations  [email protected]


Ryan Miller, Futures of Palm Beach  [email protected]

Carol Ricossa, The Oaks at La Paloma  [email protected]

Kaitlin Pickrel, Foundations  [email protected]

Megan O’Connor, Valley Hope  [email protected]


Leonard started the Betty Ford alumni volunteer program to bring them into locations and be of service.

Today has volunteers from all over the US participating

The first thing to do with any volunteer program:

  • Have purpose for the volunteers
  • Have a mission/point for the volunteer
  • What do I want the volunteers to do?

CeDAR has volunteers to make contact with patients

  • Help the clinical staff with paperwork
  • Walk/take patients to the hospital
  • Help Marketing team with information distribution

The Bridge to Recovery

  • Use volunteers where TBR need people to help the program survive
    • Employees who are not patients: unpaid employees of a certain sense
      • Some gone a day, some gone a year
    • Help with events/chapter groups
    • Help with fundraising
    • Talk to potential patients and families

Great example is to review the TPAS structure

TBR stepped back and used that structure to begin

  • Has a board members who is an alumnus
    • Become program advisors
    • Set up chapters in their areas
    • Host events
    • Serve as Bridge Ambassadors to help center with more referrals/admissions

Very early stages and goals for 2016 year will see it evolve

Role of Volunteer Program

  • This is not about you – has to be about the needs
  • Figure out what the needs are of your facility/organization/team
    • Get administration on board

Futures of Palm Beach

  • Know who you are targeting
  • What do you need them to do?
  • Where do volunteers go?
  • What do they do?
  • What are the responsibilities?

Everyone is on board:  What do you need to do?


  • Volunteers need to be trained
    • Volunteers don’t need to understand/know the reason for clinical decisions
      • Can’t give advice / patient can use volunteers to create the story they want to know
    • Volunteers need to know the rules of the facility/organization and changes that happen
      • Figure out how to keep the volunteers up to date on changing info
      • Set up procedures / manual / fail-safe system
    • Who is the liaison for instruction?
      • What are volunteers supposed to do
      • Staff are busy and can’t give instruction
    • What are the volunteers supposed to do
      • Ask the staff what their needs are and make a list
    • Be current patient cheerleaders / share their story

2015 Fall Collaborative Notes


Convener:  Leonard Bade  [email protected]

Scribe:  Sabrina Mathis, Foundations  [email protected]


Carver Brown, Pine Grove  [email protected]

Howard Bryant, CeDar   [email protected]

Ami Brantley, Lakeview [email protected]

Brenda Capizzi,  The Mesa House  [email protected]

Shannon Stone, Beacon House  [email protected]

Laura Niedringhaus, Beacon House  [email protected]


There are more volunteers to be involved….it’s about getting them to commit

Volunteerism is big – there is passion in the world

How to create independent

  • Totally ran by volunteers
  • Follow the 501c 3 status

In 2001 Leonard completed treatment and on the first day of sobriety was asked to start volunteer campaigns

  • Told that people will show up and help
  • Build chapter groups to give them direction

Started out with 12 volunteers the first year

Grew to 18 the following year

30 volunteers within 3 years

Currently have over 100 active volunteers

  • Have 80% continuous recovery

What to do?

  1. Watch out for the governing body, people trying to control the movement
  2. Be clear in what to do
    1. In the beginning, all had the same role
    2. Start Chapter groups
    3. Welcome everyone to meetings/be the secretary

In 2005-6, got a call about a meeting where 12-steps where being practiced in 1 days

  • Met Wally P and learned the Back to Basic program

National scope

  • Meeting with patient – panel
  • 10 mins – about first 90 days

Do offsite volunteer work

  • HR Staff orientation
  • Community integration
  • Sober companion

Hold them to commitment

  • How do you empower
  • People will do this!
    • Have something for the ones who actually volunteer
    • Retreats
  • Ask – What do we want to take into this world?

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Contact Information

Treatment Professionals in Alumni Services
PO Box 1152
Salida, CO 81201
(757) 784-7550


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