To say the Maple Ridge Treatment Centre had humble beginnings would only be half right.
That start, 50 years ago, was short on facilities, but long on heart.
In 1964, Wilf Jordain opened his household to recovering alcoholics who were being released from prison.
The mens’ social assistance cheques didn’t cover all the new costs incurred at the Jordain household, so he and his wife took extra jobs, cleaning offices and driving taxi, to cover the bills.
Saturday is its 50th anniversary, and the public is invited to tour and celebrate the centre that grew out of Jordain’s work.
Visitors can see what germinated from a few private citizens reaching out to those in need. It became the province’s first half-way house dedicated to rehabilitating people suffering from problematic alcohol use the next year, in 1965.
In 1966, a $6,000 government grant was used to purchase the property next door to Jordain’s, and the program was moved there.
That’s the same site of the MRTC, which is now a clinical facility that serves 50 to 60 men at a time in a 35-day program.
It was built in 1988 for a cost of $2 million.
Helena Summers is the manager of the facility for the Fraser Health Authority.
Summers said it is not uncommon for people who once suffered because of addiction to want to help others going through it. She said the Jordains had no other motive for their work.
“It’s just because they cared,” she said. “There’s a lot of giving back.”
Visitors to the centre will find a cabinet filled with artifacts and history, as well as a mounted photo of Jordain, the patron saint of the place. He was killed in a car accident in 1981.
Even more compelling than the dates, events, and the story behind the ground-breaking treatment centre is the impact it has had on those who went through it.
“It gave me a second chance at my life,” said Wally Walker.
He runs the alumni association for the centre and is looking forward to Saturday’s events, and to an Oct. 25 alumni reunion.
He knows how going back there effects many former residents.
“Expression of gratitude is a huge thing for many of us. It means so much to us. If it wasn’t for what I went through here, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
He talks about returning to the centre like he might in visiting the house where he grew up.
“I’m home. This is where it all began – where the new life began.”
The alumni association is the soul of the centre. It was started in 1994 by a counsellor at the centre, and Walker has been its head since 1998.
For the first eight years or so, it was a way for “former clients to come back and meet and greet and share,” he explained.
“Then we decided the alumni had to be a little bit more,” he said.
The group wanted to support the existing clients, as living proof that the program works. They meet every Thursday and Saturday, and there are generally six alumni to about 25 clients.
“We’re bringing our experience, strength and hope back to the clients dealing with active addiction,” said Walker. “None of us are professionals, but we’re all in recovery.”
The centre serves people from across the Fraser Valley, as a regional resource. It is the only one of its kind, operated by Fraser Health. Summers said the centre’s clients are rarely court-ordered to get treatment.
“We take people who are self-referred, and who want to be here.”
There is a team that includes registered clinical counselors, concurrent disorder therapists, medical personnel and a full-time dietician.
“There are masters level folks,” is how Summers describes her personnel.
“We’ve kept up with the times, and we’re based on science and best practices.”
The facilities include onsite exercise and games rooms, meditation and yoga classes, and there are community partnerships with recreation and leisure services.
Summers expects to see people who went to the treatment centre decades ago.
“They want to come back, and show their families,” she said.
“It has played a significant role in the lives of a lot of men.”
On Saturday, the building at 22269 Callaghan Avenue will be open to the public from 2-4 p.m.
“We want to celebrate and recapture the history. And just for people to know we have this special place for men with substance abuse problems,” said Summers.
“House of miracles” reads a mural on the wall in the auditorium.
“A lot of people feel that way about the place.”