Category Archives: News

linda buzick wearing pink shirt standing in front of marvel way sober living apartments

Linda Buzicks Recovery Story – How Acts of Service and Community Living Support Her Sobriety

Linda Buzick lives in a one-bedroom apartment at Marvel Way, her home since the supportive living complex opened its doors in fall 2023. She’s a leader in her home AA group, a weekly attendee of Marvel Way’s meetings, and an active member of the local recovery community. She finds strength and meaning in being of service to others and enjoys spending time with friends, going on short hikes and walks, and reading. She’s looking forward to adopting two kittens, getting out more in her recently-gifted car, and planning community potlucks.

Linda’s life hasn’t always looked this way. She’s struggled with alcohol and gambling addictions for much of her life and has worked through treatment and relapse more than once.

Here’s what she’s learned along the way – and why this time she isn’t going back:

Linda Buzick lives in a one-bedroom apartment at Marvel Way, her home since the supportive living complex opened its doors in fall 2023. She’s a leader in her home AA group, a weekly attendee of Marvel Way’s meetings, and an active member of the local recovery community. She finds strength and meaning in being of service to others and enjoys spending time with friends, going on short hikes and walks, and reading. She’s looking forward to adopting two kittens, getting out more in her recently-gifted car, and planning community potlucks.

Linda’s life hasn’t always looked this way. She’s struggled with alcohol and gambling addictions for much of her life and has worked through treatment and relapse more than once. 

Here’s what she’s learned along the way – and why this time she isn’t going back:

From The Beginning

Linda grew up in Washoe Valley with her mother, father, and 6 siblings. She’s lived in Northern Nevada all her life. Growing up, her home was an alcoholic household and Linda experienced a lot of trauma from a young age. When she first started drinking, she thought she was just having fun. But looking back, Buzick recognizes she was “practicing a lot of bad behavior,” even early on. As she got older, “I ended up getting hooked on gambling, which led me down a pretty dark path,” Linda explains. She stole from her employer and went to prison for 2.5 years. When she got out, she was 52. She never stole again but continued to drink and gamble. She didn’t recognize her addictions.

Linda’s Recovery Story

Linda first acknowledged her addictions in 2007, when she was struggling with mental health issues. She decided to seek help through the Reno Problem Gambling Center. While AA didn’t feel helpful at the time, she benefited a lot from the gambling program. She stayed sober for 7 years. Linda wasn’t working a recovery program and became complacent, which she believes led to her relapse in March 2014. After getting a DUI in March 2018, she tried to stop drinking and gambling again.

In late 2019, Linda entered treatment at The Empowerment Center. Before Marvel Way, a small house with 7 beds stood on the property and – after graduating from treatment at TEC – she worked as House Mom at this small sober living space. She stayed sober for 9 months and moved out in September 2020.

What went wrong? “I was acting as if, doing that whole fake it till you make it thing,” Buzick shares. “I eventually relapsed because there was a lot of stuff left undone and undealt with, which I’m working on now.” In her drinking, she lost her job and, now old enough, began collecting Social Security. She tried going to AA groups, but couldn’t stay sober. After an especially bad relapse, Linda felt ready to make a change. “For the first time in my life I asked someone for help in a non-manipulative way. I said ‘I need help. I don’t know what to do.’ And I actually let them help me. They came and got me and they let me stay with them for 10 days.” From here, she began a program at Vitality in Carson City, followed by a longer program at Crossroads in Reno. She graduated in September 2023 and moved into Marvel Way, where she still lives today.

linda buzick's headshot

On Acts of Service & Living Life Differently

For Linda, “What’s different for me today is that I don’t ever want to go back. It’s no longer just about not drinking or not gambling. For me, it’s about changing my behavior, about no longer lying or manipulating people. It’s about wanting to be useful, which is something I didn’t even think I was capable of.”

She accredits her therapist, as well as role models she’s met through treatment, for the change. She’s still learning, still in therapy, and focusing on her service. She wants to be of use, share her story, and support others on their journeys. Service can mean a lot of things for Linda. It can be helping other members of her 12 Step groups, holding a door open, or sharing a hug. At first, getting used to being a more compassionate and accepting person felt like a bit of a shock to Linda. But she’s proud to say that when asked for support, these days she almost never says no.

Community is very important to Linda. While she admits she’s been a bit of a loner at times, she’s enjoy getting to know her neighbors and the Marvel Way staff. She’s spending more time with community than she ever has anywhere before. Linda’s a co-host of her home AA group, regularly attends meetings at Marvel Way, and has a schedule of other groups she attends each week. She enjoys spending more time in Marvel Way’s common spaces, hanging out with her neighbors, and less at home on her computer. Buzick’s latest project? Organizing monthly potlucks for a local recovery Facebook group – to be hosted at Marvel Way. She explains, “Marvel Way is helping me stay connected in a community way, which is not something I ever thought I would have been capable of doing. It’s easy for me to become complacent, to think I don’t have to go to a meeting every day or stay involved with people. I know the difference between isolation and having some alone time. I like living in an environment where I’m being held accountable, not only in testing, but in the way I interact in the world.”

What’s Next for Linda?

Linda enjoys spending time with friends she’s made through her recovery community, especially when she gets to go for hikes and walks with them. While her health makes longer treks challenging, she’s recently enjoyed trips to the Steamboat Wetlands and Sparks Marina. She loves to be outside and walk barefoot in the grass.

She’s recently been gifted a car and is getting it repaired and ready to go. She’s working through health issues affecting her feet and eyesight, and once she’s healed hopes to spend more time at her favorite quieter places, like White’s Creek and Thomas Creek. She’s already taken computer classes and, after healing from cataract surgery, plans to look for a part-time from-home data entry job.

After a year and a half at Marvel Way, she’s feeling a lot more settled…and is about to adopt two kittens. She notes, “I haven’t had a pet in a very long time. And I feel stable enough now to take that on.”

linda buzick in costume

Linda’s Advice

When we asked Linda to share advice for those newer to recovery, she hesitated. Because she knew, for many years, that she wasn’t really listening to the advice she was given. She’d been told to find her support system, to just stick things out one day at a time, and to find her higher power. But she didn’t.

Until eventually, she says, she felt ready for change. “I reached that point where I’d never want to go back. I never forgot all the stuff that I had learned. And I recognize that I had been choosing to stay stuck. I had been choosing to live in self-pity. I’d been choosing to play the victim. I’d been choosing all those things for a very long time. And it was time to make a different choice.”

a marvel way resident with her two pet dogs, sitting at a firepit outside the supportive apartment complex

Something to BARK About! How Pets Make a Difference at Marvel Way

Did you know? About a third of Marvel Way’s residents are living alongside their furry friends. We’re home to 9 cats and 9 dogs – and expect these numbers to continue to climb. It’s just one of the many ways we stand out from the affordable housing and recovery pack.

Why did Marvel Way become home to so many animals? How does having pets benefit our residents in recovery? And what are we doing to support them?

Keep reading to find out more:

a marvel way resident with her two pet dogs, sitting at a firepit outside the supportive apartment complex

Shelters & Animals

For individuals struggling with homelessness and addiction who already have pets, their animals can become just one more barrier to getting the help they need. Most shelters and programs don’t allow them, which sometimes means staying on the streets feels better than leaving one’s best friend behind. On top of that, once sobriety is achieved, low-income individuals in recovery often have multiple hurdles in their searches for long term housing, including histories of incarceration and eviction. While there’s countless benefits to living with pets, they can unfortunately introduce a challenging extra step to the apartment hunt.

Supporting Pet Ownership

Once our residents settle into stable housing, getting a pet can be a big step to making things feel a bit more like home. However, sometimes residents get so excited about their pets that they don’t recognize the new responsibilities they will bring. In Marvel Way’s early months, TEC Director of Community Development Yvette Myers spoke to a resident who had gotten a puppy, despite working long days, and started to see the support that’s needed. “It’s just that they don’t know,” she explained. “They get pets because they just want to have something.” Instead of saying “absolutely not” like so many housing programs would, Yvette helped the resident out with a kennel, bedding, dog food, and vaccinations. THAT’S HOW THE MARVEL WAY PETS PROGRAM BEGAN.

At Marvel Way, we’re all about identifying our residents’ needs and building programs around them. So, to launch our pet program, we decided to do just that.

Marvel Way residents are allowed pets, with similar size and breed restrictions to other apartment complexes in town. We understand the therapeutic benefits of having pets and want to support our residents. To do this, we offer both scheduled support and as-needed assistance. We schedule vaccination and neutering days, when the SPCA comes in to take care of a few residents’ pets at once. Additionally, when residents tell us they’re out of work or struggling financially, we talk to the Katie Grace Foundation to connect them with pet food and other donated supplies. We’re working with a University of Tennessee program (more on that in a moment) to connect residents with free veterinary care. And we’ve also noticed collaborative pet care popping up – a resident who’s often home helps out with walks, supporting neighbors working long hours away from their pups.

Why Pets Matter

Simply put – life can be ruff – and encouraging responsible pet ownership can make the difference. While only some of Marvel Way’s pets are registered as Emotional Support Animals, we know all can provide significant benefits. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “The unconditional love of a pet can do more than keep you company. Pets may also decrease stress, improve heart health, and even help children with their emotional and social skills.” The evidence shows they can help their humans cope with everything from anxiety disorders to ADHD, autism, and even cancer.

Says Psychology Today, “Petting, holding, or cuddling an animal increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine in our bodies, which are feel-good, calming brain chemicals. As a result of these positive chemical changes, our feelings of depression and loneliness may be reduced while our self-esteem and happiness may increase.”

We think pets are the perfect fit for people in recovery – and the research agrees. Taking care of a pet is a great way to practice responsibility, gain self-confidence, and provide a sense of purpose. They help us become more social and more physically active. 86% of Americans say having a pet has a positive impact on their mental health. They can even be seen as “life savers.”

Partnering with the University of Tennessee

Like Marvel Way’s supportive housing model, our support of pets is just as new an idea. So, when the University of Tennessee’s Program for Pet Equity Health Equity reached out to us about doing a study, of course we agreed. Their research mission is “to understand the impacts from lack of access to veterinary care on communities, families, and animals care teams.” Their work also includes supporting underserved families and educational opportunities.

In the study, they’re surveying Marvel Way Residents about why they want pets, what resources would help them provide better care, and how they’re benefiting from their relationships with animals. Participation is completely voluntary, but residents who fill out the initial and follow-up surveys for a 6-month period are awarded with a series of gift cards. We hope the survey’s results (to be published in a University of Tennessee White Paper) will help guide not only the Marvel Way Pet Program, but the development of similar programs nationwide.

What’s Next?

When it comes to pets at Marvel Way, we’re just getting started!

As we work towards completing Marvel Way Phase II, we’re fundraising to add a Dog Park to the apartment complex. We aim to add a fenced-in dog run, alongside a shaded BBQ zone, playground, and community garden. The outdoor area will become a centralized gathering space, reenforcing the social benefits of pet ownership as we build our recovery community.

Just as we’ve including Equine Therapy for our Empowerment Center Clients, we’re looking to bring more animal companionship to Marvel Way. At The Empowerment Center, thanks to our partnership with Reno Rescue, our women in recovery enjoy riding and grooming horses while improving their emotional regulation, self-confidence, and sense of responsibility. Similarly, we hope to partner with an animal shelter to encourage beneficial connections between residents and animals needing support.

first floor of the empowerment center's new hq's design drawings

Taking a Peek at Our New HQ

At The Empowerment Center, we’re looking forward to our new headquarters and treatment center – TEC2. While we’ve loved our South Virginia home since 2005, as we’ve evolved from our roots as The Launching Pad halfway house to the addiction treatment center we are today we’ve come to need more space. We’re ready to serve more women and are excited to expand our signature treatment program. A purpose-built headquarters will allow us to do just that.

Thanks to last summer’s $12.5 million grant from the Nevada Housing Division, we’ve been busy planning our next steps.

Located across the street from Marvel Way, TEC2 will expand our capacity from 36 to 80 women. The new, modern space will give our clients even more opportunity to breath. It will allow them space, time, and a way to experience success in increments that are healthy and manageable. This roles into increased confidence and increased ability to maintain mental health while staying clean and sober.

Ready to see what’s in the works? Here’s a snapshot of what The Empowerment Center will be offering in our new building’s common spaces, programming rooms, bedrooms, and outdoor areas.

Common Spaces

With The Empowerment Center serving 80 clients, our shared living areas are going to feel very different. To create a temporary home for so many more women struggling with addiction, we’ll be upgrading our communal areas for relaxing, getting to know one another, and preparing shared meals. Supporting healthy lifestyles is one of the many ways we support long term sobriety, after all. By adding a commercial kitchen and fitness center, we’ll be giving our clients even more tools to heal.

That’s right – a commercial kitchen! It’s hard to believe, but at our current location, our clients have been self-organizing shared meals. In our new, larger space, a modern commercial kitchen with a supervising Kitchen Manager will be a must. Food will continue to come from donations from people like you, the food bank, and our friends at the Katie Grace Foundation. While our new Kitchen Manager will provide a structured support system, our clients will continue to partake in the planning and creation of meals. We find that working together in the kitchen is a great way to teach life skills and encourage our clients to build teamwork and community while supporting one another. Some of our greatest core memories are centered around food, and sharing meals encourages our clients to build similar experiences.

For many of us, fitness plays an important role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and caring for ourselves. It can even feel like therapy. Similarly, we’re working to bring the benefits of movement to our Empowerment Center women. We’re already offering fitness classes with the support of Camie Craig Fitness and Reps for Recovery. At TEC2, we can’t wait to provide a home for our wellness program, in a fitness center equipped with strength training and cardio equipment. Studies show that promoting physical activity is linked to decreased substance use and increased likelihood of maintaining sobriety, in both people and animals. We feel it represents a small yet meaningful addition to the wrap around services on offer at TEC.

Programming Rooms

To match our evolving programming, adding more rooms helps us tailor treatment to the specific needs of every woman at The Empowerment Center. It will allow each client to progress at her own pace. With more programming rooms and meeting spaces, we’ll simply be able to do more – to offer concurrent programs simultaneously, including smaller breakout sessions for group therapy and a dedicated space for our Workforce Development program.

Our new Workforce Development area will feature a mix of computers and shared tables, allowing for a range of vocational groups, guest speakers, and supported job searches. When the room isn’t being used for formal programming, it will remain open for general use as a computer lab.

Finally, we’re excited to improve our therapy spaces. At TEC2, our purpose-built therapy rooms will provide a more comfortable environment for clients to work 1:1 with their counselors.

Semi-Private Bedrooms

In early recovery, having a roommate adds to stability and safety. This can be vital for individuals who’ve been in unstable living situations for a long time. In balance with this, TEC also understands how some women aren’t used to having roommates and desire personal space.

That’s why, with our new building, we’re introducing semi-private shared rooms. While our rooms will still sleep two, they’ll feature a partial wall dividing the space, offering an extra level of privacy. This supports our clients in focusing on their recoveries while enjoying having their own space within a larger community. Each of our rooms comes fully furnished and includes a private bathroom, mini-fridge, microwave, and TV.

design drawing of outdoor spaces at the new empowerment center hq tec2

Outdoor Spaces

Did you know? Access to outdoor spaces has been proven – again and again – to reduce a wide range of psychiatric problems. While walks, gardening, exercise, and other outdoor activities are especially beneficial, even the simple acts of sitting outside or having views of plant life are proven to reduce anxiety and depression, quicken recovery from physical ailments, and “support an individual’s subjective process of finding a path towards living a meaningful life.”

As with our Virginia Street treatment center and Marvel Way Apartments, TEC2 will feature outdoor spaces. The courtyard and landscaped areas marked in our design drawings will offer areas for picnicking, BBQing, and simply enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Once again, we’ll be including raised garden beds in our landscaping plans, supporting clients who enjoy getting their hands dirty, nurturing veggies, and sampling the flavors of a job well done.

headshot of Yvette Myers – Director of Community Development at the empowerment center

A Chat With Yvette Myers – Our Director of Community Development

Have you met Yvette Myers?

If you’re often out and about in Reno, you may have connected with our Director of Community Development. Yvette’s worked for The Empowerment Center for 2 years – and networking is a BIG part of what her world is about. She links our clients and residents with resources and services, partners with other nonprofits, meets with donors, and shares what we do with the greater community.

Ready to get to know her better? We sat down to speak with Yvette about her work, what motivates her, and what she’s working towards in 2024!

headshot of Yvette Myers – Director of Community Development at the empowerment center

Meet Yvette Myers

At The Empowerment Center, working within the community to share TEC’s programs and goals was Yvette’s first step. “Everyone knows somebody who could use our help,” she explains, yet so many people were unfamiliar with our organization. Still, Yvette notes, “in a nonprofit, you do what needs to get done, what’s needed most” and her role can vary a lot from day to day.

With the opening of Marvel Way, Yvette works with tenants who need Supportive Services. By getting to know each resident, she’s figured out how to support them best: through parenting classes, connections to childcare providers, making therapy available on site, and easing access to food resources. For example, when Yvette realized how many residents were food insecure, she began our partnership with The Food Bank of Northern Nevada. We pick up food every Monday for Marvel Way.

Similarly, Yvette realized how important pets were to Marvel Way’s residents. For residents who’ve experienced homelessness, going to a shelter can be challenging, as shelters don’t always allow animals. At Marvel Way, we’re doing things differently: we understand the therapeutic benefits of spending time with our 4-legged friends and support pet ownership, partnering with the SPCA of Northern Nevada to provide vaccinations and trainings on site. Yvette is working with The University of Tennessee on Marvel Way’s pet program, using it as a model for supportive housing organizations in other states. Together, we’re looking at how having a pet can change someone’s life.

Yvette’s Background

Yvette is a 3rd generation Nevadan. She has two kids, Jessica and Josh, and a 12-year-old granddaughter, Emma. She enjoys travel, spending time in Tahoe, reading, and the theater. She’s on the Board of Directors of A.V.A.’s Ballet Theater and The Optimist Club of Reno.

When she arrived at The Empowerment Center, she brought with her 20 years of experience in the social services world. She first found her passion for being of service at Community Services Agency, where she ran weatherization and emergency services programs. From here, she moved to Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada, where she ran much of their programming, including their Crossroads treatment program, Holy Child Daycare, Food Pantry, and Casa de Vida, Resource Center.  Yvette has also worked with homeless youth at Eddy House and pregnant mothers at Casa de Vida.

Today, she brings her knowledge and connections to The Empowerment Center and Marvel Way.

Working to End the Housing Crisis

For much of Yvette’s career, she’s worked on housing and substance use struggles, as well as issues that stem from these. She’s recognized how intertwined so many social services issues can be. While she knows we can’t solve every problem overnight, she’s enthusiastic about doing her part to create better opportunities in our community.

One of her favorite things is “watching when a woman’s ready to graduate from The Empowerment Center and then actually being reunited with her family and moving into housing,” Yvette explains. She loves “seeing them out in the community, leading productive, sober lives.” At Marvel Way, what stands out the most is “seeing how residents grow where they’ve never had that opportunity before.” We are family to most of the tenants. We have gotten to know most of them, and they now feel comfortable asking is they need assistance.

For Permanent Supportive Housing to work, it’s essential to provide Supportive Services.

Yvette is aware that, while finding housing these days can be challenging for many Reno-ites, the problems are amplified for individuals with histories of incarceration and eviction. She’s worked from a list of “felon-friendly housing,” meeting with landlords and property managers. She’s determined which are, in fact, felon-friendly – and has helped make the case for Empowerment Center graduates looking for permanent homes. One thing that often helps, is that most of the Property Managers Yvette meets with are familiar with The Empowerment Center. They have family and friends who’ve completed our programs!

Expanding Services

Bringing everything together, she’s excited to see the completion of Marvel Way Phase II and TEC2, the new Empowerment Center Treatment Center. With these expansions, we’ll double the capacity of each program. What’s more, by running the two facilities across the street from each other, we’ll be able to unite the programs and share services and resources on a greater scale – continuing to work on the overlapping issues of addiction, homelessness, and mental health as one.

“Being able to service twice as many women is amazing, because The Empowerment Center is the only program in our region taking women coming out of prison. We work with the Prison System, along with Specialty courts and of course women coming in on their own Yvette notes.

Looking to the future, Yvette is excited for even more space to house women from outlying areas, supporting nearby rural and mountain-town communities in bigger ways.

Jasmin Malik’s Recovery Story

“After everything I’ve gone through, The Empowerment Center’s one of the best – actually – the best rehab program for women in Reno. If you stick through it, it really works,” declares Jasmin Malik.

Jasmin graduated from The Empowerment Center’ 5-month treatment program on June 11, 2023. She’s also the first graduate of Reno’s STAR program – a pre-trial initiative supporting individuals struggling with opiate addictions.

We’re excited to share Jasmin’s addiction story with you – as well as her accomplishments, new life, and recommendations for anyone considering getting clean. We’re so proud of everything she’s achieved, and can’t wait to see what’s next in her life journey!

jasmin malik holding a scallop plate wearing a chef's uniform

Meet Jasmin Malik

Jasmin Malik came from a big military family. She was born in Southern California and it was there where she spent most of her childhood. Like most military families, the Maliks moved around a lot – including a posting in Reno during Jasmin’s high school years. Her family felt happy, and normal.

Jasmin started smoking weed at 16, followed by drinking, coke, and other drugs when she encountered them at parties. She considers herself to be an alcoholic first. She got a DUI at 26, 4 years ago, and had a breathalyzer placed in her car. She quit drinking – but sometimes struggled to fall asleep. Her friend offered her Percocet, and it helped. She took them for a week, tried to stop, and experienced her first withdrawals. Jasmin realized her pills were laced and that she was addicted to fentanyl.

From here, Jasmin’s addiction to opiates began. She tried to get sober after six months, but couldn’t maintain it. She kept using to avoid the withdrawals. For a while, “Nobody knew that I was an addict, because it was hard to tell anyone,” Malik explains. As she lost weight, her struggles became harder to hide and she felt her life going downhill. She was selling drugs to support her addiction. And she was tired of it.

On Reno & Getting Arrested

At this point Jasmin was still living in Southern California, but her mom and best friend were in Reno. Ready for a fresh start, she got clean and made the move.

Arriving in Reno, Jasmin quickly realized that fentanyl was just as popular here as in Southern California. She still had trouble sleeping, and once again found solace in her drug of choice. All her money was going to fentanyl, she wasn’t paying her bills, and her mom soon recognized Jasmin had developed a problem.

Malik would wait until her mom was in the bathroom, and then she’d sneak out to go pick up. Last September, she got pulled over on a late night pick up. They searched her car – and arrested her.

“I always tell everyone that getting arrested was the luckiest thing for me, because I didn’t know how to get sober on my own,” Jasmin explains. From pre-trial, she became one of the first to join the STAR Program. The STAR program works with individuals struggling with opiate addiction during pre-trial. Participants plead guilty to misdemeanor charges, are placed on probation, and are supported by a multidisciplinary team including a probation officer, a licensed clinician, a peer support specialist, and a case manager.

jasmin malik graduating from reno's star program after completing addiction treatment at the empowerment center. wearing a button down shirt and holding a diploma, standing in front of a judge

Recovery at The Empowerment Center

When Jasmin told her team at STAR that she was ready to go to rehab, they helped her sign up for The Empowerment Center’s treatment program. Still, Jasmin wasn’t completely sure she wanted to be here. Starting out, she knew STAR required her to stay at TEC for 30 days, and that her mom wouldn’t allow her home unless she reached this mark. At the end of 30 days, her mom was away on vacation, so Jasmin needed to stay 2 more weeks before she could leave. And by the time her mom came back from vacation, Jasmin was making good progress in her recovery and knew staying in treatment for The Empowerment Center’s full 5-month program was the right path for her.

“It felt like an accomplishment because I was always the black sheep of my family. It just felt like something I needed to do. And after being able to learn everything, all the reasons why I had to keep going back to the same problem and habits, it really helped,” Jasmin recognized. She accredits TEC not only for helping her get sober, but for her success after graduating.

Jasmin’s Life Today

Within 6 months of getting sober, Malik moved into a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom fully furnished apartment. She paid off her car. She felt like she had everything she wanted back in her life. She was the 14th STAR program participant, the 1st STAR graduate, and is proud of what she’s achieved!

Jasmin’s experienced with working in kitchens, and during her stay at TEC she found a new job at a fine dinning restaurant. She was so successful here that within 3 months, she was promoted to one of the most challenging positions in the kitchen, cooking complex entrees. She enjoys her job and feels great about how fast she’s learned it. Since she earns more than she did at her old job at a casual restaurant chain, she doesn’t have to work as many hours and feels less stressed.

Today, Jasmin lives with her girlfriend Dominique. They met in recovery at The Empowerment Center, but took things slow and followed the rules. Together, they enjoy cooking meals at home and going out to eat at some of Reno’s best restaurants. They watch movies and learn new things on YouTube. Each holiday, they decorate their apartment and have had friends and family over for small, sober gatherings. Dominique used to bartend, and now that she’s in recovery from alcohol she enjoys making complex mocktails for their guests. Jasmin says, “I’ve gotten to a point that I don’t want to impress anyone anymore.” She’s happier focusing on herself and her personal goals.

Jasmin still meets with her Empowerment Center therapist, Karen, weekly.

jasmin malik standing outside of her apartment, with white walls and a turquoise door

What’s Next for Jasmin

In January, Jasmin began college at TMCC, working towards her AAS in Culinary Arts. She’s the first STAR program graduate to receive an educational scholarship, covering her 2.5 years of coursework in full. This semester, Jasmin’s schedule includes a combination of business and culinary classes. She’s continuing to work full time while in school.

While she’s enjoying her current fine dining job, in 5-10 years Jasmin hopes to open a food truck or restaurant, perhaps with her girlfriend. If they start with a food truck, they’d like to serve paninis, soups, and easy-to-eat hand foods. For their restaurant, they have bigger plans! They enjoy fantasizing about menus and restaurant names and look forward to running their own business – with Jasmin managing back-of-house and Dominique managing the front.

Advice for Those Considering Recovery

Jasmin recommends TEC (and we’re not just saying this…) to any woman looking for a safe, comfortable, and supportive place to go.

While at first Malik felt nervous about having to be on a schedule, follow rules, and go to class, she ultimately found it to be helpful for her. She liked the space she shared with her roommate and that it included amenities like a Smart TV, fridge, and microwave – as well as access to a shared kitchen and the ability to cook and get snacks.

As for the rules, she realized “that’s what you need to do, because what you’ve been doing in life hasn’t been working. So it made you have to go back to square one, back to school, to get your life in order. And then you’ll be able to get the tools you need to live the life you want.” While being on blackout and away from her phone in the early days of her stay at TEC was challenging, Jasmin felt that she benefited from staying busy with therapeutic and workplace development groups, doctors appointments, and other activities.

Jasmin appreciates the support she received not only in her recovery, but in working towards the next stages of her life. The Empowerment Center provides clients with recommended jobs to apply for, interview clothes, and – eventually, a vetted list of felon-friendly apartments. All of which Jasmin appreciates. Finally, she appreciates that the TEC staff continued to care about her post-graduation. “It’s not like they let you go and you’re off on your own,” she explains. “It’s definitely worth the time because The Empowerment Center educates you and makes you feel

sarah verdugo in nature facing sideways with sun in background

headshot of Amy Aranda, The Empowerment Center's intern from the University of Nevada Reno School of Social Work

Our Partnership with the UNR School of Social Work

The Empowerment Center is proud to partner with the University of Nevada Reno (UNR) School of Social Work’s Field Education program. Since 2022, we’ve been working with interns pursuing both Masters and Bachelors degrees. Each student is given a list of local organizations to choose from and applies for positions matching their values and interests. This past semester, we’ve been grateful for Amy Aranda’s and Brianna Bedient’s help as they’ve completed their internships with us.

We love our social work interns. They work so hard and the women we serve really benefit from having them here,” says TEC Executive Director Roxanne DeCarlo. “It is always sad when the semester is over, but I know they are moving on to greater things. Thank you UNR for a great 2023! We look forward to another year working with you.”

Amy Aranda headshot

Meet Amy Aranda

Amy is in UNR’s online Masters Program. Her background is in healthcare – she has an MBA in healthcare management and has worked in billing and administration at several facilities. She’s currently in utilization review at an eating disorder treatment center, submitting clinical information to insurance companies to get the necessary level of care authorized, for regular outpatient, intensive outpatient, and partial hospitalization programs. Aranda’s “slowly been switching to the more clinical side of working directly with clients and patients,” which has motivated her to earn a Masters in Social Work.

Amy has a history of substance abuse in her family and her passion for working with people struggling with addiction stems from there. She “thinks the cross between eating disorders and substance abuse is very similar, except you can’t stop eating. There’s no abstinence from that drug of choice so treatment is a little bit different.” Yet, she explains, “the two disorders are often connected.” When someone stops using a substance, they can have a transfer addiction that leads to an eating disorder, their substance of choice may have been related to wanting to be thin, or they may struggle with weight gain while recovering from addiction.

In her internship, Aranda works about 16 hours a week for The Empowerment Center. She works with Karen McKinney, TEC’s Mental Health Counselor, on social work competencies, groups, treatment plans, and interventions. Amy created and implemented a needs assessment survey to help TEC staff gain insights into how their program is going. And, she helps advocate for clients at medical appointments. Also – bringing her experience working with Eating Disorder Recovery to TEC, she’s been teaching nutrition, mindful movement, and even Zumba classes!

From her work at The Empowerment Center, Amy now knows she definitely “wants to work with this population and continue working with people who are in recovery from substances, tying that together with my eating disorder, nutrition, movement knowledge, and all of that in the future.” She’s learned a lot, had a great experience working with clients and staff, and “looks forward to meeting and inspiring new ones as they come in on their journeys.” She plans to continue to volunteer and help out at TEC. Says Karen, “I really enjoyed supervising Amy and watching her build rapport with clients while implementing case management and leading a Zumba group.”

sarah verdugo in nature facing sideways with sun in background

Meet Brianna Bedient

Brianna Bedient is a senior in her UNR Bachelors program, a Social Work major, and in recovery from Substance Use Disorder. She came to TEC as an intern with a huge leg-up in understanding of our organization. After all, she’s an Empowerment Center graduate herself! She completed our program in 2017, after her release from prison.

“From a client’s perspective, The Empowerment Center helped me build a foundation for my recovery. Everyone who worked here was very supportive and very welcoming,” Brianna explains. Her experience at The Empowerment Center inspired her to find a career where she could use her experience to help others seeking recovery from addiction.  After she completes her Bachelors, she plans to earn her Masters in Social Work before attending medical school to study psychiatry.

As an intern, Bedient is observing and facilitating group therapy sessions in topics ranging from relapse prevention to CBT, attachment styles, healthy choices, coping strategies, and conflict resolution. She’s also available to help answer client questions. Her favorite part “is when clients are excited about a group that I do” because she understands the difficult position they’re in firsthand.

Through her work, Brianna has realized how much goes into planning and facilitating successful groups. She notes, “I think this internship is a great opportunity for experience! I appreciate that The Empowerment Center gives you a bit of autonomy in what you want to do.” When Brianna’s had ideas for groups she’d like to plan, she’s run them by Karen, then worked alongside Karen to develop them further, before facilitating them. Brianna has learned a lot from her coursework, and has enjoyed the opportunity to implement her knowledge through in internship and see its impact on women in recovery at TEC. She looks forward to continuing to intern at TEC in her Winter 2024 semester.

“Substance abuse treatment is Brianna’s chosen population,” Karen notes. “It was fun to watch her work autonomously with clients. By the end of her internship, she had built rapport with many clients and was even facilitating fun groups, like jeopardy!”

reno's empowerment center women's addiction treatment center design rendering

Introducing: A NEW Empowerment Center HQ!

‘Tis the season to celebrate! We have so much to rejoice in as we close out 2023!

This year was HUGE, for both The Empowerment Center and Marvel Way. We’ve been busy improving our programs, growing our resources, and setting the stage for bigger things to come. We’re excited about the work we’ve done to support women struggling with substance use disorder and house women and men in early recovery.

What next, do you say?

Keep reading our BIG announcement, our 2023 wrap-up, and LOTS more details on what’s to come in 2024, 2025…and beyond!

reno's empowerment center women's addiction treatment center design rendering

1. TEC2: A New Empowerment Center

The Empowerment Center is excited to announce $12.5 million in funding for a bigger, better Empowerment Center. Thanks to the Nevada Housing Division, we look forward to improving our programming, increasing the number of women we serve, and providing a better treatment environment. We’re grateful to the Nevada Housing Division for your ongoing support. We couldn’t do it without you.

With our TEC2 treatment center, we’ll increase our capacity from 36 to 80 women. We’ll also be expanding our programming, with the added capacity allowing for more flexibility to offer individualized treatment programs to our clients. We’re increasing our medical services, with an on-site clinic providing convenient care, including Medication Assisted Treatment, to Empowerment Center and Marvel Way clients, residents, and graduates. Our new TEC2 building will be across the street from Marvel Way, allowing for a more streamlined sharing of services and resources between the two halves of our organization.

With the additional space, we’ll be able to offer more 1:1 support to our clients while improving collaboration among our treatment team. While we love our South Virginia treatment center, we’re proud to have outgrown the space and are so incredibly excited for everything TEC2 will bring!

sarah verdugo in nature facing sideways with sun in backgroundan empowerment center woman writing in her addiction treatment journal

2. Improving Our Treatment Program

2023 brought great changes to our signature treatment program. We’re proud of our staff’s work to strengthen the way we support women struggling with substance use. Among the biggest changes is moving from a 4-month to 5-month program. The extra month is already making a difference in helping transition our women through the early stages of recovery and into lasting employment and stable housing.

Guiding this process is our new Orientation Manual, or Workbook, that our clients move through during their stay at The Empowerment Center. Our Workbook leads women through their Workforce Development and 12-Step Programs, while allowing them to look ahead and see what will be expected of them. Within the pages of our Workbook, we’ve created an increasingly client-centered program, where each client is treated as an individual.

group of residents enjoying a community BBQ at Marvel Way sober living apartments in Reno, NV

3. Celebrating Marvel Way Phase I & Breaking Ground on Phase II

Marvel Way Phase I was completed in late 2022, with 2023 marking its first full year in operation. At Marvel Way, we’ve provided 42 affordable sober living apartments to Northern Nevada’s early-recovery community. While residents are living mostly independent, support is available on-site when needed, including mental health care, social workers, 12-step meetings, a Food Bank, pet supports, visits and donations from community organizations, and more!

In late 2023, we broke ground on Marvel Way Phase II. With Phase II, we’ll offer 46 additional 1- and 2-bedroom apartments. We also aim to offer community spaces for families and pet-owners. Our Phase I apartments are already home to 10 children, and we expect to house a similar number of families in Phase II. What’s more, our apartments allow pets. This is significant because pet-owners face additional barriers to housing and aren’t allowed to bring pets with them to shelters. We’re currently fundraising to include a playground and dog park with Marvel Way Phase II, as well as solar panels to keep our electric costs down.

two empowerment center reno addiction treatment center employees with santa at holiday party

4. Supporting Men

Did you know? The Empowerment Center wasn’t always just for women. Before we were The Empowerment Center, we were The Launching Pad, a co-ed halfway house.

When we shifted our work and grew into our role as an affordable substance use treatment center, we recognized that women struggling with addiction had different needs then men, needs that weren’t adequately met locally.

As we plan for the new TEC2 women’s treatment center, we’ve come full circle. We’re excited about the program we’ve developed and recognize that our services would be just as beneficial to men. So, when TEC2 is complete and our women’s program moves in, we’re planning to open a men’s treatment center at our South Virginia location.

headshot of roxanne decarlo, executive director of reno's empowerment center addiction treatment program

Meet Roxanne DeCarlo, Our Executive Director

In 2023, Roxanne DeCarlo celebrated her 9th year as Executive Director of The Empowerment Center! In her time with TEC, she’s led us through quite the journey – from our early years as a co-ed halfway house, to supporting women struggling with alcoholism and addiction, to expanding our services to include long-term independent sober living at Marvel Way.

This month, we sat down to chat with Roxanne about her work, her life, and her plans to continue to strengthen everything we do. We’re excited to give you the chance to get to know her better.

headshot of roxanne decarlo

About Roxanne

Roxanne grew up in South Lake Tahoe and has lived in Reno for 22 years. She’s a mother of 4, a grandmother of 3, a leader of the Life Church’s women’s ministry, and enthusiastic about her local hiking group. Before joining the Empowerment Center, DeCarlo worked in marketing and real estate.

Her husband was one of the founding members The Empowerment Center’s Board (then called The Launching Pad) and asked her to join as a Board Member in 2010 to help move the mission forward. When the Executive Director position opened up, as one of the more active Board Members, Roxanne smoothly transitioned into the role.

Transforming The Empowerment Center

Back then, The Empowerment Center was more of a halfway house. There were rules to follow, including staying clean and sober, but no structure in place to help residents adhere to them. One of DeCarlo’s first tasks was to implement a treatment program to support clients through their stays. “And that’s really where it started,” Roxanne explains. “We gave our clients the ability to create that first foundation with a 30-Day Blackout, where they couldn’t leave the property without staff.” Her treatment program began with one intern as a counselor, growing to today include multiple counselors, a mental health provider, and lot more structure.

Implementing the Workforce Development Program became a focus, giving clients the tools to not only find jobs, but build careers they were interested in, advance their skillsets, and identify and work towards their goals. As the treatment program grew, more funding became available to sustain it.

What Inspires Roxanne

Addiction runs in Roxanne’s family and making a difference in recovery is a personal venture for her. “Everybody here has such a heart for the individuals we serve,” she explains, “so everything they do just comes from the heart and makes for such an encouraging journey.”

When asked about her favorite moments at The Empowerment Center, DeCarlo shares, “my absolute favorite thing is, while women are often nervous when they show up, eventually their guards come down and they realize that they’re in a safe, supportive place. And then you begin to see their personalities emerge.” They show up as funny, as smart, as good cooks. Says Roxanne, “I just love getting to know them as individuals.”

From here, by addressing the underlying causes of addiction, including mental health, The Empowerment Center’s treatment program aims to create lasting change. Roxanne is proud to be a part of it. “We have the ability to create generational change when we look at addiction at its root and work to reunite women with their families, with their children. That’s why we do it.”

What’s Next for Roxanne & The Empowerment Center?

At The Empowerment Center, 2023 was a year of growth. We celebrated our first year running 42 sober living apartments at Marvel Way, offering a Nevada First balance of independent living and on-site support. We broke ground on Marvel Way Phase II, which will bring 46 additional units on board. We improved programming at The Empowerment Center, increasing from a 4- to 5-month treatment schedule.

For 2024, we’re excited to announce that we have even MORE in the works! The Empowerment Center recently received funding to build a new treatment center, just across the street from Marvel Way. Here, we’ll more than double the number of women we serve, expand mental health services, and offer more individualized treatment programs. Tune in next week for details – and for our next-step plans for the current Empowerment Center treatment center!

headshot of sandy gordon, empowerment center board of directors member

Welcome Sandy Gordon! The Latest Addition to The Empowerment Center Board

The Empowerment Center gives our warmest welcome to Sandy Gordon, our newest Board of Directors Member! Sandy moved to Nevada during high school and is a University of Nevada, Reno graduate. She currently works for Nevada State Development Corporation (NSDC), a nonprofit certified development company. Sandy is also a wedding officiant, loves the healing arts, and is an active member of several other community organizations. TEC Executive Director Roxanne DeCarlo shares, “Sandy Gordon is a long-time volunteer for The Empowerment Center, her talent, skills, and experience are impressive, and I am very excited to welcome her to our Board of Directors.”

Sandy has been watching The Empowerment Center since they purchased an old motel on Virginia Street, which would soon become TEC’s women-focused treatment center. She continued to hear about TEC for years, watching her financial industry colleagues donate to Marvel Way’s construction and hearing all about their contributions through friends throughout our Northern Nevada community.

Sandy thought “It would be amazing to join the Board and get more involved. I want to help as much as I can.” She has seen family members and others close to her struggle with addiction in their lives and “until you have gone through this with somebody, you have no idea. You may think you do, but you do not. It is truly a difficult yet sacred experience to be there for people as they transition through the toughest stages of addiction and recovery.

headshot of sandy gordon, empowerment center board of directors member

Sandy Gordon comes to The Empowerment Center with 25+ years of experience as a banker. In her current work for Nevada State Development Corporation, she is a Business Development Officer, focusing on economic development for Nevada small businesses. At NSDC, Sandy and her colleagues advocate for small business owners, assisting them in getting commercial real estate financing through the federal government. Often, the Small Business Administration’s 504 Loans, through a government guaranteed program, are the best way to support business owners in achieving property ownership.

For many years, Sandy owned her own business as a tile and granite contractor/installer. Today, she explains, helping business owners realize the shift in their financial trajectory through the ownership of commercial real estate “gives me great pleasure in the work I do.”

In addition to her new role on The Empowerment Center’s Board of Directors, Sandy is also an integral part of several other Northern Nevada organizations. As the Chapter Secretary for CREW Northern Nevada, she encourages and unites women (and men) in all facets of the commercial real estate industry here in northern Nevada. She is a member of The Optimist’s local chapter and is on the Board for AVA Ballet and Theater. She especially loves watching AVA introduce children to the art of ballet and seed their creatives sides.

As a Board Member, Sandy looks forward to assisting any way she can, and especially hopes to lend her experiences with real estate and much more to the TEC team.

If you are looking to get involved in community work, Sandy recommends starting by thinking about what issues matter most to you personally and giving back to organizations in that space. “Getting involved with nonprofits is such a rewarding feeling, and I can’t wait to do more for The Empowerment Center.”

empowerment center board member lee hernandez

Welcome Lee Hernandez to The Empowerment Center Board!

The Empowerment Center is proud to welcome Lee Hernandez to our Board of Directors! Lee Hernandez is CFO at Lumos & Associates, a multidisciplinary engineering firm providing structural, civil, geotechnical, surveys, and construction services in Nevada and California. He also founded Firmament Financial, a wealth management company that does investment management, financial planning and long-term tax planning.

headshot of empowerment center baord member lee hernandez wearing a suit and tie with greenery in the background

As a CPA, CFA, and CFP, Lee Hernandez brings his professional skillset – as well as his personal passions for helping those in need, especially women and others who have difficulty accessing needed resources – to The Empowerment Center. As a member of our Board, he’ll assist in reviewing TEC’s financials and help oversee audit engagements.

Hernandez has been involved with The Empowerment Center and other local nonprofits for years, and we’re excited to add him to our team! Roxanne DeCarlo, TEC’s Executive Director, notes, “His commitment to our community and financial expertise make him an excellent addition to our board of directors.” Lee’s past work includes CFO at Catholic Charities and corporate finance roles in the gaming and power sectors. Prior to that, he worked in investment banking and economic consulting for the power sector. “As a nonprofit organization, we rely heavily on volunteers to make our work possible. Lee’s background and experience are huge assets to our organization,” states Board President Janel Walsh.

Lee met Frank DeCarlo when they worked together at Monarch Casino and Resort in 2010, and, through him, he met Roxanne. When Lee and his family moved back to Reno from the DC metro area in 2018, his wife, Nhit, joined Roxanne’s hiking group. Nhit began donating silverwear and other household items to The Empowerment Center…and encouraged Lee to get involved as well.

Sergeant Andrew Sherbondy headshot in dark grey polo shirt

“The mission of The Empowerment Center is such an easy one to get behind,” Lee explains, “I’m familiar with organizations focused on men, and a program specifically for women battling substance and alcohol abuse and addiction feels like it addresses a significant need.” He enjoys supporting local nonprofits and businesses, and especially likes how TEC works with women recently released from correctional facilities. “This provides a comprehensive framework with the right amount of support to get them back into society.”

lee hernandez and family on bicycles in tahoe with pine forest and mountains in background

Outside of work, Lee enjoys hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and music. He and his wife have two sons, ages 12 and 9. Both of his boys play violin, Dominic in the Youth Symphony Orchestra and Hunter in the Youth Strings Symphonia. Recently, Lee also started taking music lessons himself. He played violin in the orchestra in Middle School and High School, and when he found himself with a little extra time, picked up the violin again. He retaught himself classical music before beginning lessons to learn fiddling and folk tunes.

Looking to the future, Lee Hernandez is most enthusiastic about The Empowerment Center’s multifamily housing and expansion plans. He’s impressed by the resources we’ve received from the community – from builders to local businesses to government entities. He feels that relocating the Empowerment Center to a new building across the street from Marvel Way is a great way to see the mission grow. Lee sums up, “I see The Empowerment Center getting a lot of traction and support, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”