BENNINGTON — Turning Point Center of Bennington has a new location, a new executive director and new motivation to connect with the community.
Turning Point hosted a holiday open house on Wednesday, so the town could see the organization’s new space, and it did not disappoint. The new center is at 160 Benmont Ave., Suite C481 on the fourth floor. There are several signs directing visitors once inside the building.
“I am thrilled with our new space,” said the organization’s new executive director, Margae Diamond. The space has high ceilings, exposed brick and red carpeting throughout. It’s cozy, and the main room is covered in a mural painting.
The new space gave the organization the elbow room to start wellness offerings such as yoga, meditation and reiki. That room is dimly lit, and the floor is covered in yoga mats and sound bowls.
“It is my deep, deep hope that we can help to provide people tools and ways to calm themselves and find their center without the use of prescriptions,” Diamond said.
The old location was on Main Street and, while convenient, Diamond said she prefers the new locale.
“It’s not on Main Street anymore, and I actually think that’s not a bad thing,” said Diamond. While the homeless population and other at-risk groups are struggling with recovery, Turning Point also caters to professionals and other people who might not want to be seen coming and going from the organization’s office.
The new location allows those in recovery to maintain their anonymity.
Diamond can see beyond the stereotypes of recovery.
“Yes, the opioid epidemic is horrific,” she said. “Yes, people die, and it’s shocking. But I can assure you that there are three times the number of people who are dying a slow, quiet death from liver failure.”
She said “alcohol is still the number one problem here in the state — as well as Bennington.” It’s easy to get caught up in the overdoses, because of their shock value, and Diamond isn’t taking away from the importance of the opioid crisis, but she is also shining a light on those who are addicted to alcohol and deserve a chance at recovery.
MEET THE NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Diamond was appointed as the interim director for Turning Point on July 1 of this year, and she became the permanent executive director on Sept. 1. She was born and raised in Bennington and, before finding her way back in March 2020, she spent 30 years in the San Francisco Bay area.
She headed business development for Charles Schwab’s National Donor-Advised Fund for 13 years. When she came back to Bennington, her first move was to co-chair the town Safety and Equity Task Force that established the Community Policing Advisory Review Board.
“I have a very different set of skills, I think, than my predecessors, just because I’m coming from another place, and I’ve had corporate experience,” she said.
Her skill set gives her a unique perspective on how to run Turning Point. She understands the ins and outs of running a nonprofit.
After returning to Bennington, Diamond noticed how widespread the problem of addiction is and “how it is touching literally every sector in this community.” From workplaces, the police, children — “I mean, there just isn’t one thing that hasn’t been touched.”
“I have personal experience that makes this relevant work for me — that I am in recovery. And so this is a personal passion of mine,” she said.
After what Diamond describes as a “long struggle,” she knows what it’s like to go through recovery and come out the other side.
“I wish I had this kind of support when I was going through it,” she said.
Diamond said the concept of peer recovery that Turning Point uses resonates with her. “I love what we do. I love how we do it, meeting people where they’re at. And I will say that lived experience is priceless in terms of connecting with someone,” said Diamond.
The staff at Turning Point believe that everyone is in charge of themselves, and that “personal power” is important on the recovery journey, she said. It’s hard to get someone to fight for themselves when their self-worth has been stripped from them, but it’s possible.
“They have to do it for themselves, not because other people are badgering them or that they think they’re appeasing someone,” said Diamond.
As much as the organization will welcome people into their new space, Turning Point will also be venturing out into the community to meet people where they feel safe and to cut through any transportation barriers.
So far, Turning Point has run a group inside PAVE’s safe shelter and in the homeless shelter. Diamond said they’ve both been effective.
One of the main initiatives Diamond is working on is building Turning Point’s community partnerships.
“I believe that no single agency will solve this problem,” she said. “It’s literally going to take the proverbial village to solve this.”