Foundation President Grace Dias, Executive Director Karen Blanchard and Vice President Isabel Malley at the June 12 Capital Campaign Kickoff event for the Michael J. Dias Foundation at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow.
Reminder Publishing photo by Bill Zito

LONGMEADOW — Grace Dias called it “the beginning of an important journey.”

Shedding light upon “an urgent need for safe and supportive housing for women in recovery from substance abuse in the Pioneer Valley,” the Michael J. Dias Foundation hosted a June 12 capital campaign kickoff event at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow.

Grace saw her son Michael experience addiction, and he eventually died in 2009. Out of that loss came the foundation, a collaboration among friends, family and people sharing a common goal. What would become three houses, homes for those in recovery, addressing addition and struggling to regain their independence.

She also saw a need to forge ahead, acknowledging the disparity in available resources within the community.

“There’s three facilities in Western Massachusetts for women, there’s 43 in eastern Massachusetts,” she said.

The purpose of the kickoff campaign is to raise funding to purchase and open a sober house for women in the area.

“The goal is $500,000,” she said. “Our houses are paid for, they’re not financed and that’s why we are solvent financially. The board is volunteer, the officers are volunteer, outside of the employees at the houses on a day-to-day basis and our executive director, we’re all volunteers and we’ve been doing this for 12 years.”

Dias said the hope is to find a property close to the foundation’s other homes in the Springfield area.

“These people need to be on a bus line, they don’t all have cars,” she said. “They need access to resources and jobs.”

The other locations — Michael’s House, Sean’s Place and Christian and Brian’s House — are all named for people special to those within the foundation and each represents and offers progressive, transitional steps for men on the road to recovery and independence.

Now, the goal is to provide the same services for women in recovery, in an area lacking and the need mounting.
Foundation Vice President Isabel Malley has also been with the foundation since day one. She attributes the success so far to “passion.”

“We are really involved in the houses,” she said. “At Christmas, we do ornaments for everyone we’ve lost, it’s all about giving back.”

Karen Blanchard, the foundation’s executive director, said community support and partnerships are crucial in their continuing success.

“The city of Springfield has been amazing for the foundation and extremely supportive of what we do.”

Dr. Megan Miller, an OB-GYN and board-certified specialist in addiction medicine at Baystate Medical Center is chair and spokesperson for the foundation’s campaign. She also runs a clinic for pregnant women with substance abuse disorders.

“I care for this population and I collaborate with a lot of the resources in the community.”

Miller sees challenges ahead but also a group of people who can meet those challenges.

“It’s really quite amazing what they’ve done, finding a house, renovating a house and getting all this up and running in the way that they have with these other houses to me seem like a huge challenge, but these people have really already risen to that challenge multiple times over,”

More information on the campaign and the foundation can be found at mdiasfoundation.org.