New hope, new life — Doors are open at the Delta Alano Club

First of a four-part series

GLADSTONE – In the 30 years since the Delta Alano Club in Gladstone opened its doors in 1983, it would be impossible to calculate the individuals who have found new life and hope through its programs – both to alcoholics through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and to their spouses and families through Al-Anon.

Unfortunately, it would be equally impossible to calculate the ones who attended meetings – some a number of times – only to leave in defeat.

“We never take attendance or keep records,” said “Mary” (not her real name), a charter member of Al-Anon. “So we have no idea who’s been helped and who hasn’t. There are a lot of people who come in two or three times and others who stay forever.”

Mary conceded that everyone who comes to an AA meeting isn’t coming because of a decision they have made on their own. Some are required to attend a number of AA meetings as a condition of a court order or as a requirement after the release from a treatment center. In both cases, the alcoholic is required to show written proof that they have attended a meeting.

“We’re not getting very many young people to attend meetings,” said Mary. “There are a lot of people between the ages of 20-25 who only come once or twice and don’t come back.”

As a mandate of Alcoholics Anonymous, absolute confidentiality is required at all times. This policy is in place so that those who attend meetings, particularly in the beginning, are more willing to open up to the other members. Even if AA and Al-Anon meetings are going on at the same time in different rooms in the building, confidences are honored.

“We don’t take each other’s inventory,” Mary said. “And those who in Al-Anon don’t talk about the AA guys and vice versa. We’re all dealing with our own issues.”

When the club was established in Gladstone, the group purchased the former Grace Baptist Church located on the corner of Michigan Ave. and S. 6th Street. The building and grounds have undergone considerable renovations over the years.

While checking out their new facility when the building was purchased, one of the members noticed there were 12 steps going from the first-floor landing up into the second floor meeting rooms.

“That was almost prophetic considering there are 12 steps to recovery in the AA program,” said Mary. Each step was later painted with an appropriate number as a reminder to the alcoholic of the importance in undertaking the steps one at a time on their way to sobriety.

Throughout the building – both upstairs in the meeting rooms and downstairs in the fellowship rooms, posters with encouragement are everywhere and even the doors to the rooms are painted with messages and reminders.

Cup racks are evident both upstairs and down. One rack contains cups of active members of the club. A rack in the upstairs meeting room contains cups once owned by deceased members along with a sign that reads “Please do not use these cups! These coffee cups are of members who are now drinking coffee with Dr. Bob and Bill W. Hopefully they are watching over us one day at a time.” Dr. Bob and Bill W. are the original founders of the Alcoholics Anonymous program in 1935.

The most recent renovation is the installation of a stained glass window etched with the logos of both AA and Al-Anon located on the top landing of the facility in place of a Gothic window that preceded it. An ongoing fund-raiser to purchase the window was begun in 2007.

A large butterfly is etched into the top portion of the window as a sign of new life. The bottom portion is divided in two parts with a triangle with a circle inside on the left side to indicate Al-Anon, and the second with a triangle within the circle for AA. The three sides of the triangle indicate “unity,” service,” and “recovery.”

Financial support for the club is obtained through a variety of ways.

“Anyone who comes to the meetings is welcome to join the club,” Mary pointed out. “Monthly dues are $10 for a member and $15 for a couple.”

In addition, the club’s annual pastie sale, traditionally held in October, is a major fund-raiser.

A number of area churches and civic organizations make regular contributions to the Alano Club. According to Mary, the First Lutheran Church in Gladstone has established a mission endowment fund from which regular donations are received. The Congregational Church in Rapid River takes a onthly collection among its congregation that is also donated.

“That’s been a very faithful thing that they’ve done,” Mary said.

Located at 601 Michigan Ave. in Gladstone, the doors of the Alano Club are open seven days a week from early morning to late in the evening. AA meetings – both open and closed – are held throughout the week, as well as Al-Anon meetings.

Members frequently visit the club at any time throughout the day, apart from meetings, to visit and fellowship. One member said she likes to go in when no one else is there and straighten up.

For more information about the Delta Alano Club and its programs, call 428-1184.