Wolfe Street rolls out Red Carpet
For Alfred Williams, a risk consultant for BXS Insurance, involvement with Little Rock’s Wolfe Street Foundation came from his own personal struggle with alcoholism.
“I’m one of those that was saved by this organization,” he says of the foundation, which provides meeting space, education and outreach for those seeking recovery from similar struggles. “I was in AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] and out of it numerous times. And in ’86, I got sober. And I got sober through the workings of this organization.” Now, Williams is a Wolfe Street board member who goes and shares his story when he’s asked.
A year ago, Williams, fellow foundation board member Jody Mahony, and board chairman Tim Laughlin approached one of the busiest, most prolific volunteers in the city, Ellon Cockrill, to see if she would consider serving on the board.
Cockrill said yes.
“I knew about Wolfe Street be-
fore, because when it was over on Wolfe Street I visited several times and went to the bookstore and bought books … and shared those books with friends. I was called the Queen of Codependency at one point in time so I wanted to know what that was and how to get rid of that title,” says Cockrill, a retired dietitian.
Williams snickers loudly. “When are you gonna get rid of it?” he asks.
“It hasn’t worked,” she acknowledges. Regarding Wolfe Street, she explains, “I knew there were a lot of … people I admired and respected involved in [the foundation], trying to help people with addictions. I have so many people I know who’ve been [affected] by addiction in very negative ways, that [I] felt like this is something I could do … I’m a girl who can’t say no. So I said OK.”
Not only did Cockrill say yes to Wolfe Street, she has teamed up with Williams to co-chair the foundation’s newly revamped Red Carpet gala, slated for 6 p.m. Feb. 23 at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 100 Napa Valley Drive in Little Rock.
GLAMOUR — WITH NO COMMERCIAL BREAKS
Last year marked the end of Red Carpet’s role as an Oscar Night watch party, a simulcast event designed to mimic the atmosphere of the Academy Awards.
For the first time, the gala will take place on a Saturday — the night before the 91st Academy Awards, in fact — and will bear no Oscars theme. In recent years, Red Carpet had been plagued by inclement weather and/or technical difficulties. “Sometimes you can only control what you can control,” Williams says. Also, because the Oscars run so late the night before the workweek officially begins, early departures from past galas were common and plentiful. “What I thought of a time or two was, ‘Boy, I’d like to get home and go to bed,’” he admits.
But Red Carpet 2019 will still offer guests a chance to put on their formal best and pose for paparazzi photos like the stars … as well as bid on silent and live auctions, buy red boxes representing a chance to win fine jewelry, and enjoy dinner, dancing and music by The Zac Dunlap Band.
Red Carpet — for which planning went fast, due to a transition period that culminated in the naming of a new executive director, Joy Reynolds, in December — generates a third of the budget for the Wolfe Street Foundation. This is the largest nonprofit in Arkansas dedicated to recovery from alcoholism or addiction. Its Wolfe Street Center, a 12,000-square-foot building at 10th and Louisiana streets, houses 250 recovery meetings each month; offers two meals each week and hosts, and leases meeting space for, workshops and special events. “So if you figure there are 250 meetings a month here, just say four people came to each meeting, that’s a thousand people. And we know there are 40 people in some of the meetings,” Cockrill says.
A HAVEN FOR RECOVERY
The agency itself is not affiliated with any 12-step program. Wolfe Street Foundation’s outreach and educational programs include Municipal Outreach/Sobriety Court Partner, a program in which Pulaski County judges send those involved in driving-while-intoxicated and other cases to Wolfe Street Center for community service work and recovery education; workshops on codependency, financial sobriety and other topics; continuing education for professionals; and participation in campus events to help colleges and universities build student awareness of the risks of alcohol and substance abuse. Wolfe Street offers similar outreach for companies, helping them develop recovery programs for employees.
This is Williams’ sixth year on the board. “And it’s been remarkable how this organization has grown in that period of time — both in its services to others and how it’s developed.”
One of the things Cockrill would like for Wolfe Street to do is provide transportation to the center for people who need it. “I’m working on that, by the way,” she says. “I don’t have permission to do that, but I’ve already reached out to several people who said, ‘Call me when you have your first meeting.’”
“The reason [Cockrill and I] get along so well is, we’re not ‘permission’ people,” Williams interjects.
“We’re ‘forgiveness’ people,” Cockrill says, joining Williams in alluding to that old saying that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission.
What is the long-term Wolfe Street wish list for each of the two event chairmen? Williams would like to see more education, from a community outreach standpoint; Cockrill would like more people to know what the agency does.
“What we can do to help cure alcoholism and addiction is one person at a time,” Williams says. “But you’ve got to educate. And we do a lot of that education from our building right here. We’re open 16 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“One of the nicest things is to watch newcomers come in and watch them brighten.” He invites anybody to come tour the place, which has three paid staff members and which welcomes additional volunteers.
REMEMBER THE NAME
Cockrill recalls being asked recently if she was working with an AIDS-awareness organization. “I said ‘No, I’m at Wolfe Street.’ And they go, ‘Well, that’s an AIDS organization.’ … I wish that every time someone said ‘Wolfe Street Foundation,’ they got, ‘Oh, that’s the recovery center.’ I wish those two were synonymous … ‘If your child is hurt, go to Children’s. If you have cancer, go to UAMS or CARTI. But if you have addiction issues in your family and you want support for recovery, go to Wolfe Street.’”
Because Wolfe Street wants to provide optimum services, costs and overhead for Red Carpet 2019 have been kept low on purpose. “We want people to come and have a good time knowing that the bottom line is that they will be helping people who are [recovering] from a horrible disease called addiction.
“And my addiction is volunteering and I’m trying really hard to recover. But I have no support system for that,” Cockrill says, jokingly.
“It’s because there’s a word that she hadn’t learned,” cheerfully quips Williams, who’s glad she didn’t say no to Wolfe Street.
Alfred Williams and Ellon Cockrill are co-chairmen of Red Carpet 2019, to be held Feb. 23 at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church as a benefit for the Wolfe Street Foundation. The event will no longer be the Oscar-night watch party it was for two decades, but will retain the Hollywood glamour.
Co-chairmen Alfred Williams and Ellon Cockrill had to work fast to put together the revamped Red Carpet 2019 for its beneficiary, the Wolfe Street Foundation. “We want people to come and have a good time, knowing that the bottom line is that they will be helping people who are [recovering] from a horrible disease called addiction,” Cockrill says.