Posts Tagged: Sunrise Care Facility

Community Builder: Greg Wennes

Community Builder: Greg Wennes – Sunrise Care Facility, Spring Grove, Minnesota

Story and photos by Kristine Jepsen • Originally published in the Fall 2017 Inspire(d)

It’s a sunny Thursday morning, and Greg Wennes is waiting in a plastic lawn chair, under the mature trees shading Sunrise Care Facility, just “Sunrise” for short. It’s a farmhouse on the outskirts of Spring Grove, Minnesota – known by locals as the Gilbertson place. As many as 10 men, all recovering alcoholics or addicts, can eat, sleep, work and find community and support here. They may stay weeks, months or years as they transition between formal rehabilitation treatment and regular, productive lives.

When Greg, owner-operator of Wennes Communications Stations, helped found Sunrise in 1988, it was among the first of its kind in this part of the Driftless. And while these days he’s a guy who has the glow of wintering in warmer places and who drives a glittering burgundy motorcycle, among other classic rides, he needs you to understand this about him first: He’s a recovering alcoholic, a lifelong condition.

There was a time when he himself came home from residential treatment to find his house empty but for a mattress and a dying spider plant, his wife and kids gone. He’s been to the depths, and he knows what it takes to climb out (and stay out), one handhold at a time. Sunrise was founded to provide the footing.

“Drinking is a lonely occupation,” he says, “but ‘sober lonely’ is incredible. It’s one of the most difficult parts of recovery.”

Opening a care facility isn’t the easiest thing in a tight-lipped Scandinavian community, where people keep problems to themselves, but beneath any public stigmatization that existed, Greg and other founders quickly assembled a broad base of support, across medicine, recovery treatment policy, public health, law enforcement, and ministry. The home opened as a non-profit with significant help from the Tweeten Foundation, previous owners of the local hospital. Renovated twice to date, Sunrise operates with resident fees paid privately or subsidized by state and federal public health systems. Supporters aspire to add a private wing for women soon, too.

“It takes an alchie to know and help an alchie,” Greg says of his friend and colleague Greg ‘Gregor’ Rostad, using recovery slang for an alcoholic, as opposed to a ‘normie’ (an un-addicted person). Gregor, also a successful business owner, is in his fifth year as administrator on-site at Sunrise, a job layered with management, mentoring, discipline, and compassion. “It takes being both an achie and a business person to make this place work,” Gregor says. Above all, he has to keep inevitable social challenges from trampling the bottom line.

Residents, each with his own private room in the stately farmhouse, make meals together in teams. They coordinate clinic and therapy visits, run errands in Sunrise’s two shuttle vans, and perform all the maintenance of the house and five-acre grounds. They also host and attend recovery meetings, both on-site and at other meeting spaces around the region. Friends and family can sign in to visit, and it’s common for residents to walk the mile or so into downtown Spring Grove to shop on their own, enjoy the view of neighboring pastures, and get a breath of normal, small-town life.

“Anyone can quit drinking,” Greg says. “The question is, ‘How do I learn to live and function in society as a sober person?’ Our goal is to provide a sober, safe sanctuary.”

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To join the conversation, Greg and Gregor recommend Facing Addiction (facingaddiction.org), a resource hub for those living with addiction or wanting to support someone who is. To learn more or support Sunrise Care Facility, visit sunrisecarefacility.com.

Comedian Mark Lundholm Performs May 8

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Nationally acclaimed comedian Mark Lundholm will make a valuable and rare appearance May 8 in the unique surroundings of the Hotel Winneshiek in downtown Decorah. The public comedy show is in conjunction with Lundholm’s work with area addiction recovery groups. Entry is by free-will donation with proceeds going to Sunrise Recovery in Spring Grove, MN, and NE Iowa Behavioral Health recovery patient services. Lundholm’s appearances are being graciously funded by local private individuals affected by substance addiction and recovery.

From humble beginnings on the streets of Oakland, California, as a homeless criminal, mental patient, to a world-renowned entertainer, Mark Lundholm’s humor is a wild ride of challenges, changes and 2nd chances. Just out of rehab, while performing a 20 Minute comedy routine at San Quentin State Prison, Mark discovered his childhood survival skill of making people laugh was his ticket out. Armed with plenty of material poking fun at the insanity his life had become, Lundholm has worked his way up – literally from the gutter. It was not long before Mark garnered the attention of Showtime Comedy, and was given his own special. Ultimately Mark’s entire story was produced as an off-Broadway play called “Addicted… a comedy of substance”.

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Having performed in all 50 States and 10 foreign countries, including appearances on Comedy Central, Showtime, A&E, NBC, and CBS, Mark Lundholm’s pure, dark look at his past, and clever glimpses of the future make this funny man one of the best. Mark has been hailed as “a younger George Carlin” by the Contra-Costa Times, and The New York Times called him “Riveting… Dark and Funny!” The San Francisco Chronicle said he was “Funny. Cannily rendered… comic precision.” Mark has performed for Eric Clapton, Donald Trump, Jerry Stiller, and former President Ford. Taking the time to give a little back each year, Mark re-visits a handful of jails and prisons, rehab centers, homeless shelters and other places he has lived.

The public comedy show begins at 8pm (7:30pm doors), May 8th in the Hotel Winneshiek Ballrooms in downtown Decorah. Entry is by free-will donation, with no one being turned away. Lundholm’s visit to NE Iowa is being generously funded by private individuals whom have been touched by addiction recovery. The performance, as Lundholm says, is “PG35”, with strong adult content, and all comedy fans are welcome.

http://marklundholm.com/