LEWISTON — Debra York’s son was in his late 20s when he was prescribed opiates for pain after a truck accident. His use did not stop when his prescription ran out.

Deb York stands in her new retail secondhand store in the GridIron Plaza in Lewiston. Bags and boxes of donations have been steadily coming in from friends and supporters. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

“Between that and alcohol, he really suffered a lot,” York said. “It got to a point where I knew if he didn’t get help, he was going to die.”

Volunteers at Operation HOPE out of the Scarborough Police Department got her son into a detox program. It has been a long, painful road, and it is not over, but she is grateful.

York, longtime owner of Remco Radiator & Auto Care in Auburn, is opening A Second Chance Retail in the Gridiron Plaza on outer Lisbon Street on April 1, and earmarking proceeds for Operation HOPE (Heroin-Opiate Prevention Effort) and its partner, Portland Recovery Community Center.

“A second chance for the articles, a second chance for the people,” she said.

Initially all-volunteer run, A Second Chance will sell “gently used” clothes, toys, household goods and furniture. She would eventually like to hire people in recovery to work there.

“Our long-term vision is to open a camp for children, whether it’s for kids to go while their parents are in recovery (or) kids to go that are in the foster care system,” York said.

“Our short-term vision is to focus on getting the parents well so the kids will have well parents at home.”

In 10 to 20 years, she would like to explore building a recovery center. In the meantime, she will direct funds to Operation HOPE, and eventually, nonprofits doing similar work.

There is a lot of work to be done, she said.

“If you have somebody who’s really sick and they’re ready for help, it’s not that easy, ‘OK, let’s get help,'” York said.

Calling around to rehabilitation centers, she was told her son had to make the calls himself or that there was not enough room.

“Unless you have insurance, $15,000 or a scholarship, nobody wants you, and the state-run facilities don’t have enough beds,” she said. “Operation HOPE, running into that was like a lifesaving event because they got him into detox.”

Scarborough Police Chief Robbie Moulton said the program has placed nearly 360 people in recovery programs since November 2016.

People who walk through the doors at the Police Department and ask for help are screened, for instance, to make sure they don’t have any pending charges, and paired with volunteers who call programs on their behalf, working with people who have insurance and who don’t.

“People come in and see us when they’re at a place where they need help and can’t seem to find it,” he said.

The program relies on grants and donations. He wasn’t aware of York’s effort. The $30,000 she’s hoping to raise could help eight to 10 people, he said.

York said it took 18 months to form a nonprofit, An Angel Wing’s Inc., and then find the retail location.

She plans two scrolling TVs for the shop, one showing “a memorial streaming people who lost their battle to substance use,” and on the other, pictures of people “winning” their battle, as she puts it.

“If we can fund 10 (people a year in recovery), I’ll feel like my dream has come,” she said.

Her son is 35 and still struggling, York said.

“The alcohol has almost taken his life more than once,” she said. “Right now he’s in recovery, but it’s day by day.”

Her younger son, Josh Stoehner, is the new nonprofit’s marketing and fundraising director. York and Stoehner said they have been overwhelmed with donations as they have geared up to open the store, filling two storage units, a two-car garage and rooms in both of their homes.

“It’s a tall order, from Day One to now, it’s a tall order,” Stoehner said. “The need for this is so vast. It’s not just Lewiston-Auburn, it’s not just Lewiston, it’s not just Pine Street, it is coast to coast, country to country.”

To volunteer or donate goods, contact Debra York at (207) 513-6051.

[email protected]

This story has been updated with the correct phone number.

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