by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Earlier this week, officials of the Capitol Hill Alano Club (CHAC) notified SGN that, as of December 31, the organization will dissolve.
The decision, which may come as a shock to the many members who attend weekly CHAC meetings, was made because the Board of Directors feels that the mission of CHAC is being fulfilled. The lack of a permanent physical space to meet in was also a factor.
The news is, as one board member described it, 'bittersweet.' On one hand, the organization has existed for nearly 30 years and was born in a time when a safe space for members of the LGBT recovery community was needed. On the other hand, times have changed and, according to some board members, 'several safe places exist within the heart of Capitol Hill' to meet the needs of the recovery community.
In 1974, the Puget Sound area's first all-Gay Alcoholics Anonymous group met once a week in the basement of the Capitol Hill United Methodist Church. In the years following that small beginning, the Gay and Lesbian community in recovery grew significantly and in response, the Capitol Hill Alano Club was realized.
Officially founded in 1982, CHAC is a registered nonprofit that provides meeting space for a variety of recovery and 12 Step programs. Though founded and supported by the LGBT community, CHAC has welcomed all people seeking recovery and currently hosts nearly 60 meetings a week including Al-Anon, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, and other addiction recovery groups as well as the Seattle Spanish-speaking chapter of A.A., La Esperanza.
The Capitol Hill Alano Club is funded entirely through donations, fundraisers, and individual memberships. The organization is managed by volunteer contributions of time, service, and talents.
The club moved five times throughout the Capitol Hill neighborhood, finally planting its roots at 1900 E. Madison St., but on March 22, 2011, a fire set in the course of a burglary left CHAC without a home.
'Through tireless efforts of individual club members, alternate meeting places were found for most groups,' CHAC officials told SGN in a written statement.
The two largest CHAC meetings moved into space provided by Seattle University.
'Since then,' say officials, 'some meetings have folded, but many found a home at the Seattle Area Support Group (SASG), formerly known as Dunshee House.'
Recovery in the LGBT community continued despite this unforeseen adversity. The CHAC Board of Directors says it is important to acknowledge 'the tremendous assistance from Seattle University and SASG during the immediate aftermath of the fire.'
At first, the plan was for CHAC to move back to 1900 E. Madison upon completion of renovation. 'However, we also were faced with the financial reality that the current lease arrangement was not economically sustainable,' said officials. 'The rents being collected along with the periodic fundraisers were not enough to cover expenses.'
Several months ago, the CHAC board engaged a commercial real-estate agent to search for a suitable home. The criteria were simple: a location in the heart of Capitol Hill with enough room for an 80-person meeting.
'We came close to securing such a location several times,' CHAC officials told SGN, 'but were unable to finalize a lease.'
During that time, the board also revisited the mission of CHAC.
'Part of the discussion was to analyze the current status of recovery meetings serving the LGBT community,' said officials.
What they found (more than 40 recovery meetings each week at SASG and various Capitol Hill churches) is that the mission of CHAC is being fulfilled. Not in the nature that was deemed necessary in the early 1980s - under one roof - but in several safe places within the heart of Capitol Hill.
After much contemplation and discussion by individual board members, the CHAC Board of Directors unanimously passed the following resolution at a March 20 board meeting: 'Recognizing that the LGBTQ community continues to find recovery in the Seattle area, the board acknowledges that its mission is being fulfilled by the greater recovery community. Therefore, a motion is made to dissolve CHAC as of December 31, 2012.'
Upon formal dissolution of CHAC, there will be some funds remaining. According to officials, 'The CHAC board will be fulfilling its fiduciary responsibility by designating how the remaining funds will be distributed after all financial commitments have been settled.'
The final distribution of funds will be made 'in the spirit of CHAC's primary mission of ensuring that LGBT recovery from addiction continues,' said officials.
CHAC's annual fundraiser, Bat N' Rouge, has been graciously handed over to SGN's stewardship. This year's faceoff between the dykes and the drag queens will take place August 12 at Bobby Morris Playfield and will benefit Washington United for Marriage, the campaign to secure marriage equality in Washington State.
As CHAC's final chapter is written, officials have a message to the community: 'Please remember with gratitude the brave souls who brought CHAC to life, along with the countless hours of the many tireless volunteers who kept CHAC alive, the community at large who has supported our efforts through the years, and most of all, the simple fact that CHAC saved lives in the LGBTQ community.'
Finally, officials say, 'As you trudge the road to happy destiny on your daily journey, may the spirit of CHAC live on in you through your recovery.'
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