It was a busy day at Baldy Hughes Therapeutic Community & Farm Wednesday as an open house was held to celebrate graduations and academic achievements of residents and acknowledge work done by staff and volunteers at the facility that offers a residential program to those men recovering from addictions and interruptions to mental health.
MLAs Shirley Bond and Mike Morris were on hand to say a few words of encouragement and offer congratulations to the 16 graduates that completed the year-long program, especially to the eight that were able to attend the event. Also saying a few words was Kevin England, New Hope Recovery Society founder and chair and Peter Goudal, vice principal of the Centre For Learning Alternatives, along with members of the facility's staff.
Proud graduate, Stan Nelson, 38, is in recovery from alcohol use, and said a few words to the audience, which included current residents of the facility, staff, and family members supporting the graduates of the program.
Just a little more than a year ago Nelson was living in Victoria when his life took a turn and he was evicted from the room he was renting.
"I came back to P.G. and I ended up drinking myself right into the hospital," said Nelson during his speech as he represented the graduating class.
"I was a complete wreck and I knew that if something didn't change soon that my mind and my body would completely shut down."
When he went into detox, he heard about the Baldy Hughes recovery program and it felt like the right thing to do, he added.
"And it had been a long time since anything felt right, so I made the first step and made the call out here," said Nelson, an artist who creates charcoal pencil drawings. "Throughout my year here I was given so many opportunities to challenge myself, to grow and to learn new skills that would help me.
"As an artist, having the opportunity to claim and practice my art form without a reliance on alcohol means the world to me."
Nelson had the opportunity to study various philosophies and read about the universe during his stay.
"This reintroduced me to a spiritual way of thinking and I like to say that I'm part of the evolutionary process of the universe and I would rather be a willing participant than an unwilling passenger," said Nelson, who feels like the next phase of his life will be an adventure he can approach without trepidation.
Nelson offered his congratulations to his fellow graduates and thanked them for their friendship.
"This place is about men supporting each other in their recovery," said Nelson.
"The therapeutic value of one addict helping another is what this place is all about."
In closing Nelson thanked his parents, who were in the audience.
"Mom, dad, you might not know this but there have been many times in the past where I came really, really close to the edge," said Nelson, with great emotion.
"It hurts to know about the worry and suffering I put you through but I love you and I want to thank you from this stage for all the support you have shown me. I think in a way today, you represent everyone's parents. All of us at one time have lost our way but we are now strong yet humble, confident yet in awe of the power of the universe, self preserving but schooled in the art of being of service to others."
The day's events included presentations of academic bursaries, computer literacy course certificates, beekeeping and honey producer certificates and Community Builder awards for volunteers and outstanding staff.
After a group photo, there was a tour of the facility which is a fully-operational farm that includes a barn that hosts pigs, horses, goats and chickens, a greenhouse, a gymnasium, a school, garage and a store on 160 acres, 30 kilometres west of Prince George.
After the tour guests, residents and staff enjoyed a barbecue lunch and entertainment provided by talented residents.
For more information about the therapeutic community and farm visit wwwbaldyhughes.ca.