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Fire code violation threatens Lynchburg recovery center

Published On: Sep 26 2013 04:22:44 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 26 2013 06:19:34 PM EDT

A small problem in the kitchen could cause the Lynchburg center to close before it officially opens.


Answering the phone is one of many jobs Betty Green does at Recovery at St. John's.

The business on Powhatan Street in Lynchburg is more than just her employer.  It's where she lives.

When Green's husband died two years ago, she and her dog, B.J., were left homeless.

"I lost everything," Green said.  "Thank goodness St. John's opened the door for me."

Recovery at St. John's is a substance abuse treatment center.  It's not officially open yet, but people like Green will offer counseling.  The facility will operate on a "peer-based" model, where recovering addicts help others dealing with the same problem.

"There is nothing available on this basic of a level in Lynchburg, or anywhere else in this part of Virginia," said Greg Hand, program coordinator for Recovery at St. John's.

To house the center, volunteers have spent five years renovating an abandoned nursing home that was on the verge of being condemned.

"To see what has been done so far, it seems insurmountable," said David Eddy, a program director for Recovery at St. John's.

The building has come a long way, but a small problem in the kitchen is threatening to derail the progress.

An exhaust fan above the stove is violating the city's fire code.  Fixing it will cost around $7,000.

"In the grand scheme of things it's not a lot of money, but it's a huge amount of money to us," said Eddy.

The center relies on grants and donations.  It could take more than a year to raise the money they need, but they don't have that much time.

If the problem isn't fixed by October 13, the center will lose its temporary occupancy permit.

Green will have an even bigger problem.

"If we lose this place, I won't have a home to go to," Green said.  "We really do need help."

Repairs to the exhaust system are the only thing that need to be done for the center to get its occupancy permit and officially open.

A small amount of donations have been collected for the work, but the center still needs at least $5,000 to fix the exhaust system.

Donations can be sent to:

Recovery at St. John's

3500 Powhatan Street

Lynchburg, VA 24501

(434) 528-5800