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Giving back: Stephen's Place is a transitional home for men in recovery

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As the Christian community celebrates the first week of Advent and many Americans thank God for the blessings of the past year, many Lehigh Valley residents are looking for ways to give back to their community. One charity that survives entirely on donations -- taking no money from any government source -- is Stephen's Place, a halfway house that aims to provide a safe, spiritual environment for non-violent offenders coming out of prison and dealing with substance abuse recovery. A product of the ministry of Sister Virginia Longcope and part of the Lehigh Valley charitable landscape since October 1994, Stephen's Place is located in Bethlehem, PA, and provides housing assistance, educational and vocational service coordination, substance abuse recovery coordination, and a supportive, spiritual environment for men over age 18 coming out of prison after a non-violent offense.

Research published this year in BMC Psychiatry supports the model provided by Stephen's Place. According to Ayna Johansen and her colleagues at the Norwegian Center for Addiction Research, "Social support programs should be based on a positive identity model of recovery that enables the building of a life-sustainable identity." Dr. Johansen writes, "From the perspective of the recovered addict, receiving help from supportive people has been identified as the most important factor to one's personal recovery process." She adds, "Interventions that include family therapy have been found more effective than individual or mixed approaches." The website for Stephen's Place explains how the halfway house works with the recovering men's families: "Part of the recovery process is to break out of the cycle of self-centeredness and to reach out to others. Here at Stephen's Place, we find ways to reach out to the residents' families as well as the community."

Dr. Johansen also asserts that the "positive identity model of recovery" is crucial to successful recovery from addiction; in other words, the recovering person must build a new identity that involves doing good for others and being responsible for making good choices. At Stephen's Place, residents "maintain the house and grounds and participate in every aspect of home ownership in preparation for their return to society." Additionally, residents "play a major role" in planning and executing the family events held at Stephen's Place, such as the annual Easter egg hunt for residents' children.

Stephen's Place is a non-profit, tax-deductible organization registered in the state of Pennsylvania. The organization's tax-deductible and non-profit status can be verified by calling the Pennsylvania Department of State toll-free (from within Pennsylvania) 1-800-732-0999 or (when calling from a non-PA area code) 1-717-783-1720. Monetary donations are gladly accepted. Interested donors may contact Stephen's Place by using this web form or by phone: 1-610-861-7677.

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