Michael Izzo, Daily Record 12:03 a.m. EST November 24, 2014

The Milestone House, a 65-bed sober living facility in Dover, has helped hundreds get back on their feet after bouts with addiction. But for some living in the facility, the holidays can be a lonely time, and one couple that volunteers at Milestone wanted to help change that.

Bob and Jacki Force have been volunteering at Milestone for three years, and prior to Thanksgiving 2013 they realized there was a large number of the residents that had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving. This is the second year they will offer a complete feast at noon on Thanksgiving.

“These are people going through recovery and in some cases they may have burned some bridges. Their families may not want them coming home just yet, they might not be ready to leave yet, or it won’t be a safe spot for them,” Bob Force said. “We just wanted to make sure they had somewhere to go.”

Milestone Executive Director and Founder Mike Frank the Forces are doing something amazing for the residents.

“People like them that volunteer and offer us extra support allow us to do what we do,” Frank said. “Especially for residents who are early on in the program when it’s too soon to reconnect with family or leave the nest so to speak, they have the opportunity to sit down and have a nice meal. The newer residents are really excited, and I can tell you the food is amazing.”

The Forces and other members of their church, Rockaway Assembly of God, cook most of the food with money being donated to help out.

Frank said Milestone gives people a place to stay while they continue to get better after an in-patient treatment is complete.

“It’s a sober living and recovery facility focused on the 12 steps, holding residents accountable, and staying clean and sober,” Frank said. “In recovery we need to hold up the mirror. We need to question the mind that told us using and drinking was OK.”

Most residents of Milestone stay for about a year, transitioning from an intense, hands-on start to the program that features a dozen weekly events, to slowly acclimating back to real life, getting a job, and moving out of the house.

“We’ve had hundreds of people come through here, and we’ve seen them go back to school, get jobs, and reunite with families,” Frank said.

Director Nicoletta Danicic said Milestone always had a Thanksgiving meal, but the Forces took the celebration to another level.

“Thanksgiving is a time to be with family, but that can’t always happen,” Danicic said. “Fortunately, recovery is a second family we can celebrate here.”

Danicic said alumni have always contributed to fund the holiday meals.

“But then Bob comes along and makes it way better,” Danicic said. “They spoil us, more finances, more help, a small army of volunteers, all making it even more traditional. It’s a beautiful experience to look forward to.”

Danicic said Thanksgiving is an important holiday for Milestone because the themes of giving and gratitude work hand in hand with recovery.

“Alcohol and drug addiction is the number one problem in America. It affects every family and it’s an issue we need to talk about to break the stigma associated with it,” Danicic said. “These are good people with an illness and recovery makes them incredible members of society. Thanksgiving is no small part of that.”

The Forces are wary of accepting too much of the credit for this program, specifically noting the financial contributions of doctors Ramtin Kassir and Masoud Mojarradi.

They’re also getting help from three families from their church, the Bozzones, the Cotters, and the Ramnarines.

“I don’t know how we would have gotten this done without all of them,” Jacki Force said.

The inaugural Milestone Thanksgiving meal served about 40 residents, and they expect a similar number this year.

The Thanksgiving event will also feature four speakers. Deena Bipphart of Gold’s Gym will discuss nutrition, Bob and Jacki’s son Shane Force of Atlantic Home Loans will discuss the value of a good credit score, Ron Bailey of Bailey Associates will discuss job opportunities, and Jack Redmono of Christ Church will discuss spirituality.

The Forces say just two years in, the Milestone Thanksgiving meal has become a part of their holiday tradition.

“This is a special place which is why we love to do this,” Jacki Force said. “What we’d really love is for more people and businesses to be aware of it. And if anyone in the community is willing to offer to help out in some way, to offer a chance for employment, give them a call.”

To volunteer, donate, or offer job opportunities for residents go to www.themilestonehouse.com or call 973-442-4600.

Staff Writer Michael Izzo: 973-428-6636; mizzo@dailyrecord.com

Original Source: http://www.dailyrecord.com/story/news/local/2014/11/24/dovers-milestone-house-planning-special-thanksgiving/19344179/

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