By Seth Daniel
After decades of finding support in the noon-time hour, members of the 30-year-old Alcoholics Anonymous meeting found themselves without a home at St. Catherine’s a few years ago.
The popular local meeting – which has saved many a life over the years – got temporary space over the last two years in a space near the Graphic Arts building in Sullivan Square. That wasn’t going to last, members knew, but they never thought it was going to be so difficult to find a new home before they had to be out last month.
But it was.
At least until Shannon Lundin, a local anti-substance abuse coordinator and recovery community member, ran into Pastor Erik Maloy of the First Church in Charlestown. Starting this week (March 1), the church has agreed to host the meeting permanently Monday through Friday at noon.
“Erik came to me early on where I work at the Charlestown Coalition and said he wanted to help some way and he had a heart for Charlestown,” she said. “I tested him out to see if it was for real. I told him we have a high opioid overdose rate and we have a lot of people in recovery. He was excited to help…When this came up, I approached him about it and he was more than happy to host it.”
Maloy said the First Church is growing since he and his wife arrived three years ago, taking over the pastor-ship two years ago. They have gone from about six regular members to 35 members and now have a children’s ministry. Beyond that, they also want to reach out to the Charlestown community and meet needs that are there.
“The best thing you can do when you come into a community is to hear the community,” he said. “You have to understand the community you’re in. Understanding that there are high overdose rates in Charlestown, you see the need. It’s our job to serve the community and we’re excited and blessed to have the opportunity to host the meeting…We want to make sure that our talk lines up with our actions. To be able to show that is something we want to be at the First Church.”
Lundin said the ‘Loonie Noonie’ has a history that goes back 30 years to Father Coyne at St. Catherine’s Church, who allowed the meeting to be established as he also wanted to help the effort. She said the meeting is at noon seven days a week, and there are no fewer than 50 or 60 people there every day. It ranges from young people, to people with families, to retirees – and most are from Charlestown.
She said it has been disappointing that all of the other churches and organizations they reached out to did not respond or offer to help.
“We’ve reached out in the community for a long time and the first people to step up have been those who have only been here for two years,” said Lundin. “There were grown men crying at the meeting when they heard we have found a place to go. People are so grateful…The recovery community has been looking for the best solution and we are hurt other churches and organizations didn’t step up also to help”