Kris Olson, executive director at Sunrise Recovery Home shown with Monte, one of the residents.
Kris Olson, executive director at Sunrise Recovery Home shown with Monte, one of the residents.
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For 20 years, Sunrise Care Facility, Inc. has been dedicated to helping others help themselves to find a new sober life.

The recovery home provides support, shelter and food to meet the short and long-term needs of chemically dependent men and women. Its continued mission is to encourage and promote the person's journey to wellness, self-worth and self-esteem, a sound recovery program, and adapting to a sober lifestyle.

Located at 551 S. Division Ave. on the south outskirts of the city of Spring Grove, the facility's name has now been changed to Sunrise Recovery Home, "to better reflect what we do," Kris Olson, executive director of the facility, pointed out.

20th birthday celebration

To celebrate this milestone, the staff and residents at Sunrise extend an invitation to its "birthday" party at the Spring Grove Fest Building on Saturday, April 26. All events are free and open to the public, and freewill donations will be accepted for food and music.

"We are still looking for donations for the auction," Olson stated. "If you have an item or service that you feel might be someone else's treasure, please consider donating it to the auction. It's tax deductible."

The doors will open at 2 p.m. for social hour, auction preview, and food will be served until it is gone. The live auction, conducted by Wennes Auction Services, will begin at 3 p.m.

A "Sunrise Share" time will begin at 5 p.m. with alumni and friends of Sunrise sharing their reflections and expressing gratitude to the community. The open speaker meeting from 5:30 to 7 p.m., special guests from surrounding AA groups will share their stories and personal thoughts.

Live music and dance, with the rockin' tunes of the Joe Cody Family Band, will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. There will be foosball, pool, and darts during the open entertainment times.

"We'd love to see former board members and founders of Sunrise, families who have experienced the gift of recovery (or the unfortunate losses from chemical dependency), and anyone working in the field of prevention and rehabilitation," Olson noted.

Birth of Sunrise

Greg Wennes recalled his life after alcohol addiction. "I got sober in 1979, and when I came home my family was gone, and it was really lonely, dark and cold, and empty. It wasn't easy to go back to society.

"Years later when I met Jacque (whom he later married), I thought it would be nice to have a place for recovery.

Wennes told Ed Kingsley, Harold Omodt, Harold Thompson, and others, his idea of establishing a recovery center.Fundraisers were held and a committee went out to find a location and got it under way.

The Tweeten Foundation of Spring Grove loaned funds from the sale of the hospital and nursing home to purchase the property at 551 S. Division Ave., which included five acres of land, a house and some outbuildings.

"They were willing to stick their neck out and purchase the property and sell it back to Sunrise as a contract for deed," stated Dr. James Gray, a member of both the Tweeten and Sunrise boards. "And, they haven't missed a payment."

It was difficult to get the place going, but there were many people who donated time and money toward the mission.

The idea of Sunrise was "born" in 1987, and the facility was dedicated and opened on April 5, 1988 as a non-profit corporation.

Charter members of the Sunrise Board of Directors included Greg Wennes - president, Dr. James Gray - vice president, Dinah Nord - secretary, Sheriff Dennis Swedberg - treasurer, Rev. Joseph Cashman, Dr. Glenn McCarty, Harold Omodt, Brenda Rosendahl, Bob Schmidt, Diane Schmidt, and Harold Thompson.

About Sunrise

Sunrise provides residents, age 18 and older, with a variety of recreational and leisure activities, as well as responsibility for all the daily house chores, yard maintenance, gardening, painting and upkeep of the house and outbuildings.

It's close proximity to La Crosse, Wis., Decorah, Iowa, and Rochester, Minn., allows Sunrise residents utilization of the many services and opportunities of these larger cities.

The facility has a capacity of nine residents. At times it has been full and people have had to be turned away. There are not many facilities like it in Minnesota.

Sunrise is basically self-supportive. Residents make payments for the cost of board and lodging with their income from Social Security, disability, veteran pensions, other pensions or private funds.

Referrals of clientele are accepted from all counties in Minnesota, and, under certain conditions, out-of-state persons can be taken in. A resident must be referred by an appropriate source such as court or probation services.

In most cases it is preferred that the individual has completed some type of treatment prior to entering the facility.

The semi-structured, home-like living arrangement has no limited length of stay. A care plan has to be developed for each client - a step-by-step plan of what needs to be done to get the individual clean and sober.

Following their residency, options for maintaining a healthy, productive life are considered.

Originally the facility was only for men, but about eight years became co-ed.

Volunteers are also important to the residents, to provide rides to employment, doctor and clinic appointments, counseling and AA meetings.

Community minded

Sunrise clients are community-minded and enjoy getting involved in whatever way they can. Individuals, businesses and organizations often call on them to help out with various tasks.

Eight years ago, one of the residents at Sunrise who used to do gardening, stirred up the idea to plant a vegetable garden.

This project has been very successful and gives the residents outdoor physical activity in the fresh air. It also provides the opportunity to grow food for their own use, as well as selling fresh produce and donating the over abundance to senior housing facilities in the area.

Mission of compassion

"The mission of Sunrise is to fix broken hearts and care for people who can't care for themselves," Wennes pointed out. "This refuge and oasis to recover from addiction has helped me stay sober. Thank God for Sunrise - that's who should get all the credit."

Sunrise board

Current Sunrise board members are Jessie Rommes - president, Patty McManimon-Moe - secretary, Ron Schroeder, Tom Falbo, Pat Blagsvedt, and Sister Michaeline Healy. There is a vacant seat on the board that needs to be filled. The board meets the second Monday of each month at 5 p.m.

"People don't understand the disease," Wennes stated. "By the time they come here, family, money and everything is gone."

"It's important that people of the community understand that a small percentage of people with the disease of alcoholism do recover. If even one could get sobriety, it's worth it," Wennes said about the facility.

"Sunrise was quite controversial for people in the area, but I'm really glad we got it going," Dr. Gray commented.

"What's kept it going is the good directors - people who cared to make it work," said Harold Thompson, who was director of Houston County Human Services and served on the Sunrise board.

"Greg has been the spark plug, the king-pin, for the whole thing, as well as a lot of individuals who worked on the board through the years."

"At Sunrise, hundreds have had the opportunity to recover," Wennes reported, adding, "It's a wonderful mission."

Gary Solie, Spring Grove resident and businessman, has served on the Sunrise board and continues to stay active and supportive, Olson stated.

"I'm in the recovery program myself and Sunrise has been support for me. I've worked with Kris and some clients, offering them work opportunities and I've seen the positive it has created.

"It's a unique place, and I'm grateful the facility is here and to see the growth in the clients and the success stories."

In addition to administrative tasks, Olson also does the accounting work for Sunrise and is in charge of maintaining policies and procedures for the facility.

She also does networking with various professionals such as social workers, and with criminal justice persons on referral contracts.

A client tells his story

"I came to the facility in 1992," stated Monte Bothun, a client at Sunrise. "I was having difficulty with my daily life and my social worker recommended I come here.

"I'm a chronic alcoholic and have had a hard time keeping sober. I've been here 8-10 times over the years, each time I left on my own accord against staff's advice.

"It wasn't until January 10, 2006, that I came here once again and been here ever since. At present I've been sober 2-1/4 years, which is a huge accomplishment for me. My previous best time of sobriety was nine months here.

"Kris and I put together a plan of action - I go to several AA meetings per week and I am employed part-time as a dishwasher at TemptationS on Main."

"I've had lots of homelessness to deal with and also deal with depression. I see a therapist on a monthly basis and that seems to keep me on an even keel.

"For the last 3-4 years, I've been taking medications to stop the urge to drink and smoke, and this has been the driving support for me. But foremost in my recovery is my faith in the higher power - God."

Another success story

Ken, an alumni originally from Rochester, stated, "If it wasn't for Sunrise, I'd be dead." He spent nine months at Sunrise and now lives in downtown Spring Grove. "I fell in love with Spring Grove. It's so nice and quiet and peaceful and I'm happy here."

Since Ken had been in the cooking field for 30 years, he enjoyed coming back to do cooking at Sunrise, and working in the garden.

Now, due to some asthma and health problems, he can no longer be around smokers, but has been helping Bentley/ Wennes Auction Service. "Mark Dokken and Greg have been so good to me