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Volunteer service can help with addiction recovery because it gets you out of the house to do something positive that doesn’t involve drinking or drugs. 

By Christina Seid

It’s hard to believe that only five months ago, Diane Rigor was experiencing houselessness due to drug addiction. She struggled to take care of her most basic needs and often relied on Blanchet House for food and clothes. Now as a regular volunteer in the cafe where she once sought aid, she serves meals to people who are in her former predicament. That is people who are in active addiction and struggling to survive.

Volunteer helps with addiction recovery

Diane Rigor serves meals in Blanchet House’s free cafe.

First Steps Towards Addiction Recovery

“When I found myself hiding in a shed covered in filth I thought, am I really doing what I want?” recalls Diane. “I never thought I would be one of these people. I’m well educated. I have a lot of morals that I compromised in my active addiction.”

Blanchet House, in Old Town Portland, offers prepared meals three times a day, six days a week served restaurant-style by volunteers. Its dependable meal schedule along with the community found there is key to Diane’s progress in maintaining sobriety.

“One of my first little spiritual awakenings was when I promised Tony [a resident who works in the cafe] that I would be here for lunch. I dragged myself to the cafe even though I didn’t feel good,” says Diane. “I didn’t want to disappoint Tony.”

Being expected to show up to eat gave Diane the incentive to do so. That accountability was one of her first steps toward sobriety.

“I needed to change multiple things at one time, which is really hard to come by unless you have something like Blanchet House,” she says.

Volunteer Community Gives Support to Recover

Change can be difficult, but a supportive community makes all the difference. As a volunteer, Diane receives encouragement from peers to keep going. She also rebuilds her self-worth by being able to contribute to the community.

“I’m really grateful that I’m now at a place where I can give back,” says Diane. “It feels really good to know that I matter because we all want to matter and have a purpose.”

To forge a new path, Diane needs a lifestyle filled with environments that foster growth and rehabilitation.

Volunteer serves in Blanchet House's cafe

Diane laughs with a guest while she volunteers to serve lunch in Blanchet House’s cafe.

Volunteer Service Provides Healing and Connection

Volunteer service can promote healing for people in recovery.

Jennifer Coon, a Peer Support Specialist at Blanchet House, has personal experience with addiction so she understands that being of service to others can help a person stay sober.

“When you’re in your addiction, you’re very selfish. Giving back, providing for other people, and volunteering feels like the right thing to do. It’s part of your recovery,” says Jennifer Coon, a Peer Support Specialist at Blanchet House. “You’re very wounded when you’re first in recovery. It helps to heal your wounds if you give back to the community and serve people that are hurting, homeless, and need help.”

Diane’s past challenges give her unique insights and compassion for those who are in active addiction or recovery.

“Life out on the streets is so hard. Just the way it really affects your brain and changes your perspective, because everything is so hopeless,” Diane says. “You just get caught in this trap of craving and loss and despair, and it’s so miserable. I feel like I can relate to the clients a little bit better than some people because I understand.”

Future Plans Include Volunteer Service and Peer Support

As Diane looks into the future, she plans to stay clean by continuing to volunteer and start a new job with the social services nonprofit Transition Projects Inc.

“My job right now is to not use drugs, first and foremost, but to leave a space for my higher power to show me what to do. I’m just really grateful that I can be a part of something bigger than me,” she says.

Diane has been able to make a lasting impression in the cafe with her special way of engaging with the community.

“She’s the light of everybody’s day. She is such a joy to be around,” says Jennifer Coon.

Blanchet House needs compassionate individuals aged 14 and older to volunteer in its cafe. You can sign up to serve on its website.


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