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Roiling clouds and a storm warning did not deter nearly 100 visitors, volunteers, officials, and supporters from celebrating the opening of Newtown Parent Connection’s new and permanent headquarters at Fairfield Hills on July 25.
Officials including State Representatives Mitch Bolinsky, J.P. Sredzinski, and Dan Carter gathered alongside First Selectman Pat Llodra, Police Chief James Viadero, Director of Planning George Benson, Health District Director Donna Culbert, and a mix of local Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development, and Fairfield Hills Authority members at the newly renovated duplex on Washington Square.
The building is one of several available for redevelopment in an area of the former state hospital campus where staffers resided. It is now sparsely outfitted for the nonprofit, which was originally conceived by Dorrie Carolan after she learned her son, Brian, had become addicted to drugs.
She envisioned a grass roots agency that brought families together so they would feel more supported and less stigmatized — or paralyzed — by their own loved ones’ addictions. But after Ms Carolan sadly lost her son to a prescription drug overdose in 1999, the Newtown Parent Connection (NPC) became Ms Carolan’s full-time passion.
One of the first things she did was to expand on her group’s support system, branching out with facilitated sessions welcoming other parents and loved ones who, like her, had lost a child, brother, sister, or other close relation to substance addiction.
During a brief program of opening remarks, the Mrs Llodra and Mr Lyddy both praised Ms Carolan for her perseverance, not only in maintaining the necessary energy to keep the NPC going, but for additionally branching out to address and council local residents who came to the agency seeking help in placing their loved ones in effective rehabilitation facilities — primarily in Florida where they would be free from negative influences that could speedily propel them back into their life-threatening behaviors.
As she stood before the crowd, struggling to contain her own emotions, Ms Carolan recalled her late son before refocusing on those at hand who supported her through the year and a half process of acquiring and redeveloping the duplex.
“It’s Brian’s legacy that drives the force of this foundation — and could we ever have imagined this disease of addiction and substance abuse would take so many young lives, and grow to such epidemic proportions,” Ms Carolan said. “Fortunately, in Newtown, Parent Connection has had tremendous success assisting families by getting loved ones the help needed to live a clean and sober life.”
Among others she recognized was Sandy Hook builder Mike Burton, who acted as general contractor on the project. She thanked the first selectman for securing a $500,000 grant from the state to help complete the NPC’s new home.
That grant was originally intended for another local health care organization, Kevin’s Community Center clinic, before its founders decided against Fairfield Hills as a base of operations for a planned permanent facility.
Ms Carolan also reserved some special praise for a local resident who applied his talents and keen eyes to the project, Euene Vetrano.
“What were you thinking?” she said, directing a bright smile toward her humble helper.
“As you can all see, Gene has done an amazing job with this project,” Ms Carolan said. “He has put his heart and soul into making sure that every detail has been done to specifications. From the architectural design of the building to assisting in the purchase of appliances, inspecting bricks and 100 other things, your arduous stewardship of this project has delivered something we could never have ever imagined.”
For those Newtown residents watching a son or daughter or other loved ones as they struggle with a drug or alcohol addiction, the agency’s weekly Hope & Support meetings provide a facilitated, confidential venue to get information on how to handle a child’s suspected or confirmed substance use.
For others left behind when a child or grandchild, brother, sister, or parent has sadly lost their battle, the NPC offers empathy and help through a monthly facilitated bereavement group where surviving loved ones can find some degree of solace among peers who have endured similar tragedies.
The agency also hosts large gatherings that bring in experts or motivational speakers addressing current issues and trends related to drugs, alcohol, or recovery, and the group’s annual Parent University provides loved ones and professionals a full day of speakers, workshops, and support.
For immediate assistance, call 203-270-1600, or learn more at the Parent Connection’s website.