By Norm Weber
LAKEWOOD – The Living Miracles held its Open House ceremonies on Thursday May 9, 2013 to display its new location it opened on Nov. 1, 2012 and because May 9 is the anniversary of the writing of the organization’s mission statement.
This event could have occurred shortly after the move from the 117th location, but the purpose for holding out was to have a nice spring day to hold it. Over 100 people were invited and dozens actually attended the event that included a gaggle of hors d’oeuvres and a large presentation for the guests.
It was May 9, 2009 that Living Miracles first got together to form their mission statement. Some of the people in attendance were there that night.
“That was the first step that we took to forming our own non-profit organization,” said Jennifer Kruse, executive director of TLM. “What a nice thing to have our open house four years from the day we started our independence.”
At the time the independence began, TLM had 80 members with a staff of five. Today there are 275 members with a staff of 11.
“The Living Miracles is made up of an excellent staff and a wonderful board of directors, members and volunteers,” said Mrs. Kruse. “We have everyone working together for the cause of helping one another. The strength of our team is the unique contribution of each individual member.”
The team work is acknowledged by the staff.
“We have a good team and big-hearted executive director,” said Betty Gradiski, a peer support specialist who had both of her sisters in attendance. “I love our director and I love all my co-workers. We have a fantastic team.”
It was fewer than six months that Peer Support Specialist Kurt Johnson was still in the hospital, but he made a rapid recovery and quick transition to the outer world and shortly after his release found himself in the role of a staff member.
“When I was at the hospital, I found out about Living Miracles,” Johnson explained. “When I came here, I did not go back to the world I was in, which was a pretty bad place. I wanted to get to a place where I could talk and be around people who could understand me and not judge me and allow me to recover. I was fortunate that Jennifer offered me a position as a peer support specialist.
“I come here every day to aid in my recovery, to help my friends who are also recovering. We do a lot of fun things here and I love everyone here and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
Johnson took a group of Miracles fishing with him last week.
“Before I became a member and joined the staff, I had heard about Living Miracles from several people,” said Marc Mannheimer, the program coordinator. “During my first meeting here, a dual recovery meeting, I felt very calm because people understood everything that was going on with me. Since being on staff, I’ve loved seeing the members grow.”
Bob Purdy serves several roles at Living Miracles – peer support specialist, state hospital mentor, driver ed instructor and van driver.
“I’ve been going to Living Miracles as a member since 2010 and all I could say is that I like everything about it,” Purdy said.
Janet Simonovich is the staff graphic designer.
“I try to do everything that is asked of me,” Simonovich said. “I came to Living Miracles because there was a void in my life. I come from a family that valued education and Living Miracles values education. I will probably be here in some capacity the rest of my life.”
Simonovich showered praises upon Mrs. Kruse, which elicited a standing ovation from the crowd.
“I started at Living Miracles as a volunteer in 2008,” said Marissa Norden, the president of the board of directors and a licensed social worker. “As far as an organization goes, Living Miracles is one of the best.”
Board member Owen Charles had a wad of notes prepared in which he discussed the membership and the extraordinary amount of diversity found in the group.
Charles stated that the variety includes members that belong to the five major religions in the world (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism), members who don’t belong to any religion, one member who has two masters degrees, members who are parents, members who are aunts and uncles, members who come from other cities and states other than Ohio,, one member born in Panama, one member born in Jerusalem, a member who is a published poet and who won a prestigious award, a member who was once a monk, and a member who was once a Hollywood stage actor.
“We are also from every age group, from those in their 20s all the way up to those who are in their 70s,” Charles pointed out. “Living Miracles is the spice of life just like variety is the spice of life.”
Lee Ann Gramuglia is a board member but also a highly active member in the groups and volunteer contributor in a lot of areas of the operation.
“I would like to thank the other board members for all the knowledge they bring here that helps people with their mental issues,” Gramuglia said. “Everybody here really makes a difference.”
Three group members gave testimonials.
“I have been here for five years,” said Don MacKay, a Living Miracles member. “On May, 18, it will be my third year anniversary of not being in the hospital. I was in the hospital every other month for a number of years prior to that. ”
The program ended with MacKay and Charles reading from the Living Miracles published book of poetry Echoes of Hope. MacKay read his poem titled “Keep Pressing On,” Charles reading his poem titled “Life is a Mystery” and member Denise Phares singing Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” with Mannheimer providing the guitar music.