Ebony Lifeline aims at addiction prevention, recovery among minorities

Many people begin a new year resolving to better themselves.

If you have decided this is the year you want to try to eradicate the demons of addiction and alcoholism, consider giving Ebony Lifeline Support Group a call.

The group began as a grass-roots movement in 1984 through the efforts of founders Bob Thomas and Luther Stubbs.

It’s goal: assisting in the transition from addiction to recovery for African-Americans and other minority groups.

Thomas said the support group came up with the name Ebony to alert minorities with addictions that the support group was specifically tailored toward them.

“We wanted black people and Hispanics to know they could take ownership at support meetings and be empowered to have a choice in their recovery,” Thomas said.

Ebony also wanted to dispel the myth and excuse among some in the minority community that alcoholism and drug addiction are “a white man’s disease.”

Thomas said ELSG came about because some minorities were having difficulty using established recovery groups such as Alcoholic, Narcotics and Cocaine Anonymous to overcome their addictions.

But the support group does help integrate their participants into those recovery organizations if they so desire, Thomas added.

ELSG works in cooperation with area treatment facilities, employers and others in addressing recovery- support services.

It was incorporated officially in 1988 with its main purpose to aid and support minorities in the prevention of alcohol, drug and chemical dependence.

In the 1990s, ELSG began its outreach programs focusing on community-prevention activities and targeting area youths.

ELSG has been involved over the years with the Youngstown City Schools.

April M. Brown- Alexander serves on the ELSG Advisory Board and, through the Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic, she manages the school district’s Youngstown Super STARS Afterschool Program.

ELSG annually has written and received $2,000 to $3,000 grants to provide drug, alcohol and violence-prevention programming and materials to Youngstown students, she said in an email.

From 2009 to last year, in partnership with Neil Kennedy, those funds were used to support student and family programming to the Super STARS program at Taft and Williamson elementary schools.

The programming expanded to also provide families with healthy lifestyle choices to include health and nutrition, Alexander added.

ELSG also issues an annual McCullough Williams Community Service Scholarship Award to a deserving Youngstown City Schools graduating senior.

Williams, who died in 2004, was founder of Sterling-McCullough Willliams Funeral Home, the first black Democrat elected to Youngstown City Council’s 3rd Ward and a former president of the Youngstown Board of Education.

Thomas said Williams was dedicated to advancing the future of black youth, and that is why the award bears his name.

Ebony Lifeline also acts as a referral source to professional services for mental-health and family services the group does not provide.

Ebony has partnered with, and/or received in-kind or financial support from various community entities over the years such as Family and Community Services, Belmont Pines, Neil Kennedy and Glenbeigh treatment centers, Alexander said.

“What I know Mr. Thomas will not tell you is he is the driving force behind Ebony Lifeline,” she said. “His passion for helping those in need, or in need of recovery, has not waned since I met him in 2000. He is the heart of ELSG and is unrelenting in his efforts to help the community.”

ELSG networks with WYSU-FM, the Youngstown State University radio station, to get out the message of help and recovery. The broadcast is called “Life on Life’s Terms.”

ELSG has received the Community Collaboration Award with YSU from Meridian Services, an addiction-treatment program on the city’s West Side.

Thomas said ELSG has helped many people on the road to sobriety and given them a second chance to live productive lives and become leaders.

“Several have gone on to college and started new careers,” Thomas said, adding some also have become active in their churches, and others also have gone on to become ministers.

A key fundraiser for the group is its annual sports banquet and hall of fame, which began in 1997.

Every year, ELSG honors and inducts into the hall of fame minorities from the Mahoning and Shenango valleys who excelled in sports over the decades and have gone on to become positive role models for young people.

I had the honor of being the keynote speaker at the 2012 banquet.

ELSG has its meetings on Sundays beginning at 7 p.m. at Homeless Solutions, 550 W. Chalmers Ave., on Youngstown’s South Side. Contact William Allen at 330-746-0355 for information. For a list of other available meetings, call Thomas at 330-261-1825.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. Contact him at ebrown@vindy.com

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