Wolfe Street rolls out Red Car­pet

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - HIGH PROFILE - HELAINE R. WIL­LIAMS

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.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/JOHN SYKES JR.

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.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/JOHN SYKES JR.

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.

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