River of Refuge newsletter, July 2023

ROR Graduate Returns as Case ManagerROR graduate Michelle Baker, right, joined River of River in May to work alongside Dianna Poston as another case manager.

ROR graduate Michelle Baker, right, joined River of River in May to work alongside Dianna Poston as another case manager.

Rock bottom came for Michelle Baker when her Independence, Missouri, home had been robbed, her car repossessed, her electricity shut off, and her will to live sapped by a years-long addiction to alcohol, methamphetamines, and opiates.

The turning point came when she awoke from passing out to hear a woman pounding at her door, a detox intervention organized by Baker’s oldest daughter and a family friend. Previous attempts to stay clean had failed, but this time it stuck, and she arrived at River of Refuge in early 2020 after achieving sobriety the previous October.

After approximately seven months of working the ROR program, the mother of four children left with money in the bank and began renting a duplex in Grain Valley, Missouri. Life came full circle for Baker, 41, in May when she joined ROR as a case manager.

Baker feels “beyond blessed” for the opportunity to support and encourage families battling circumstances not unlike those she faced when she arrived at ROR. Back then, Baker had no idea that God was “paving the way for me to come back and help other people.”

She is working alongside her cousin, longtime friend, and fellow case manager Dianna Poston.

As of earlier this month, Baker was working with two families: A mom with a 7-month-old baby and a father with four children. She anticipated adding a third family with a move-in pending.

Baker knows how tough it can be to master the budgeting piece of the ROR program, and she uses her example to spur on the families she is assisting.

Baker’s case management duties also include screening and meeting with applicant families and attending outside meetings to spread the word about ROR. The fast pace and varied responsibilities suit Baker.

“I like to stay busy and feel like I am accomplishing something,” she said.

River of Refuge Celebrates the Fourth of July

The threat of rain did not put a damper on the Independence Day celebration we held for our staff and families on the Saturday before July 4. We had a cookout with all the traditional main courses and sides. Dessert featured the delicious cupcakes that have become a holiday tradition the last couple of years at ROR courtesy of Messiah Church of the Brethren. We moved the party from the parking garage to near the community garden when the skies cleared. Case Manager Dianna Poston and her husband treated the group to a fireworks display that might’ve even put neighboring Kauffman Stadium to shame.

Fourth of July 2023 at River of Refuge

From The Director

It was our banner day when workers completed our parking deck project in May. It meant that our staff and families could once again park in the lot, which added 14 spots by eliminating a round flower garden from the center of the lot.

But even more importantly, the revamped parking deck is infinitely more accessible to people with disabilities. Crumbling curbs and uneven pavement made the old lot very difficult to navigate for people using assistive devices.

We knew better accessibility was a game-changer for our families, but now we also know it means a lot to our valued volunteers as well.

When Radiant Church contacted us to come out and volunteer for the second year in a row, I was thrilled to tell the church coordinator that, yes, we could accommodate volunteers with disabilities.

The upper parking deck at River of Refuge has been refurbished and repainted
Speaking of Radiant Church, we were overwhelmed by the volunteer contingent it brought earlier this month. The church brought more than 125 people for a clean-up project

Since this was a family-friendly event, we had children of all ages working alongside their parents. It was nice to see children learning skills and giving the gift of time at such a young age.

Switching gears … We now have Narcan at our facility. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Narcan contains naloxone, a life-saving medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.

While we hope never to use it, we want to be prepared because we frequently work with families who are new in their addiction recovery.

One study cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that bystanders were present in more than one in three overdoses involving opioids. With the right tools, the CDC said, bystanders can act to prevent overdose deaths. Anyone can carry naloxone, give it to someone experiencing an overdose, and potentially save a life.

With that in mind, we have trainers coming next month to teach our staff about Narcan. Stay tuned for an update next month.

Until Next Time,
Pamela Seymour, Executive Director