Each week, approximately 2,000 recovering addicts and alcoholics step foot inside the Alano Society of Minneapolis, the oldest continuously operating AA club in the world. But with people asked to stay in and keep their distance to stop the spread of coronavirus, the club is dangerously close to going dark.
While there are plenty of groups that have maintained their regularly scheduled meetings online, and there are numerous online AA resources, speaker recordings, and other tools available, for many the Alano Society of Minneapolis is the only hope they have of maintaining their recovery.
The problem, says club treasurer Cheryl Larson, is finding volunteers to keep the doors open.
“We called the governor’s office [when businesses started shutting down] and were told that we fall under mental health status,” Larson explains. “That means we can continue to stay open as long as we have enough staff. A lot of the suburban AA clubs closed, but they have a population that can use the internet. For us, it’s not just a socioeconomic issue, but we have a number of people who are of the age that they never learned the internet and aren’t going to start now that they’re in their 70s or 80s.”
According to Larson, the club has taken every measure to ensure the health and safety of all members, asking that groups be limited to no more than 10 people per room, thoroughly cleaning after every meeting, and, of course, encouraging members to stay home if they feel sick. However, some members still don’t think the club should be operating.
“We’ve gotten a lot of heat from members about being open. They think we should be closed,” Larson continues. “The flipside is that most of those members have access to the internet and can hop onto online meetings.”
As anyone in recovery will tell you, routine and support are two of the most important tools in maintaining sobriety. Especially in times of stress and uncertainty. However, if the club is unable to get volunteers to be in the club during operating hours, many may find themselves left to their own devices.
“The club has no paid staff, and a lot of people are scared with everything going on right now. But if we can find two or three volunteers to be at the club during hours that we’re open, we can keep offering services.”
Other Twin Cities clubs, like the Sahara Club in St. Louis Park and Cavalier Club in Edina, have also stayed open, but with limited meeting times. Though plenty of other businesses are fearing the potential of closure means to their financial livelihood, members of 2218 fear what a possible closure means to their physical and spiritual livelihood.
“We’re kind of the last safety net for a lot of people, so we need to figure out how we can take care of everyone who needs the club.”
For information on volunteering at the Alano Society of Minneapolis, contact Peter S. at 612-469-0260. The club is also asking for donations of hand sanitizer, and financial contributions that can be made online at2218alano.org.