A Community of Hope
Jenna’s Promise provides people in recovery from substance use disorder with supportive services that help them make a lasting change in their lives
STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY JENNA’S PROMISE
When Greg and Dawn Tatro founded Jenna’s Promise in 2019 with their son, Gregory Tatro, and their daughter-in-law, Amy Tatro, their goal was to create a supportive community for people in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) that addressed the critical gaps in treatment, aftercare, and recovery housing systems. At the time, the Tatro family was grieving the loss of their bright and loving daughter, Jenna, who tragically passed away as a result of her battle with SUD.
In the advent of Jenna’s passing, the Tatros channeled their grief into positive action, building a haven of hope and recovery in the town of Johnson. They purchased and renovated several buildings throughout the town, including a church, several houses, and multiple commercial spaces. They then converted them into recovery housing, a community center, a medical office, and several recovery-friendly businesses. In the process, they brought new life to Johnson’s economy, and they set a bold precedent for innovative and comprehensive recovery programs.
Over the past few years, Jenna’s Promise has earned the endorsement of prominent politicians, such as Vermont’s Governor Phil Scott, Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressman Peter Welch, and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, among others. Thanks to their vocal support, the generosity of private and public donors, and recent grants from the Vermont State government, the Tatro family’s vision is continuing to manifest and take shape in promising new ways. The staff and board of Jenna’s Promise have forged strong partnerships with recovery organizations throughout Vermont, and they have also built a thriving program that provides housing, on-site treatment, employment opportunities, and all-encompassing services for women in recovery from SUD. “We work with treatment centers across Vermont, including Valley Vista, Serenity House, and many others,” says Jenna’s Promise’s COO, Daniel Franklin. “We’ve also built a close working relationship with Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire, who can provide longer and more intensive care. We work closely with Vermont Foundation of Recovery, and Recovery Vermont trains a lot of our people through the Vermont Recovery Coaching Academy. We always say that recovery takes a village, and it’s taken a broad coalition of partners and funders to make this happen.”
Many of the services that Jenna’s Promise provides are run out of the “Jenna’s House” building, a community center built on the site of the church where Jenna’s memorial service was held in 2019. The Jenna’s House building now houses a meeting and conference room that has hosted many well-attended recovery events, sobriety fellowship meetings, and several sober weddings for people in recovery. Jenna’s House also hosts supportive meetings for the family members of people with SUD, as well as community wellness programming, such as fitness classes, yoga, and acupuncture. “We learned from our experience with Jenna that SUD is, indeed, a family disease,” says Jenna’s Promise’s Co-Founder, Gregory Tatro. “It’s difficult for families to try to navigate an incredibly complicated treatment system. We wanted to make that process of navigation easier for families, and our aim is to provide them with the tools they need to take the next steps to help their family members become as successful as possible in recovery.”
As a result of their ongoing partnership with North Central Vermont Recovery Center, the basement floor of Jenna’s House is home to an on-site recovery center that provides Medication-Assisted Treatment, counseling services, and clinical therapy, among other services. Recently, the Tatro family also purchased a building in downtown Johnson and converted it into a medical office, which will soon house the Johnson Health Center. The Johnson Health center will offer affordable healthcare and accessible SUD treatment services to the local community, including Maintenance-Assisted Treatment and all-purpose clinical healthcare services for local residents. “We believe that effective treatment starts with treating the whole person,” says Jenna’s Promise’s Founder and Vice President, Dawn Tatro. “We knew that it was important to build a healthcare center for people who couldn’t afford treatment. It benefits the whole community, including Johnson’s residents and students at the Northern Vermont University campus in Johnson.”
The recovery program at Jenna’s House is built around a multi-tiered, holistic approach of housing and employment opportunities. Participants can build personal skills, confidence, and accountability, all while moving forward in their individual journeys of recovery. Initially, program participants reside in a highly-supervised recovery house where they are visited routinely by staff members. As they gradually readjust to their new lives in recovery and form connections within the community, they are offered the chance to work at JP’s Promising Goods, a retail store that sells discounted and secondhand items at an affordable price. Program participants apply for the job with a formal interview, and are then trained by fellow residents in recovery. “The best part of living here and working here is being able to integrate into the community in a safe way,” says a program participant, who wished to remain anonymous. “We have a job and a place to live, and we also have a supportive group of friends who hold us accountable in our recovery.”
JP’s Promising Goods is also home to an appliance shop, which is staffed by a local community member in recovery, named Brandon. Although he is not a participant in the Jenna’s Promise program, Brandon is still grateful to have been granted the opportunity to work in the shop by Greg and Dawn Tatro. “They’ve saved a lot of lives with what they’ve done here in Johnson, and I’ll always be grateful that they gave me the chance to work here.”
Once program participants have gotten their footing at JP’s Promising Goods and have successfully maintained their recovery for several months, they are then offered the opportunity to advance
to a recovery house with slightly less supervision and structure. If they choose to, they can also apply to work at the Jenna’s Promise Roasting Co., an artisan coffee roasting company that makes and sells high-quality coffee. Jenna’s Promise Roasting Co. roasts all of their beans with a world-class Öztürkbay coffee roasting machine. The machine was donated to Jenna’s Promise by the frontman of the legendary rock band, Phish, Trey Anastasio, who is actively involved in recovery advocacy efforts throughout the State of Vermont. After participants have established a firm knowledge of the coffee roasting process, they can apply to work at Jenna’s Promise Café, which is located in a building that also houses recovery residences on its upper floor. As they continue to progress in their recovery, they move on to the least-supervised tier of recovery housing. From there, Jenna’s Promise staff members help them find affordable housing and access grant funding from various government programs, enabling them to transition into living independently while safely maintaining their recovery. “There are quite a few programs out there that can really help people,” notes Jenna’s Promise’s Co-Founder, Amy Tatro. “We’ve been able to reach out to the Public Housing Authority, which has given us money for housing, the Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture, and many other government organizations. When we talk to the people who run those programs and tell them what we’re doing here, they go out of their way to make it work for us. It feels good to know that the conversation is changing on a national scale, and we’re proud to play a part in reducing the stigma surrounding SUD and helping people move forward with their lives in recovery.”
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