Your Journey May Be Someone Else’s Life Preserver

Bob Scheffler, CEO at Haven, recently posted the following on his blog “The Art of Servant Leadership.”

One of the more rewarding aspects of working in the mental healthcare field is being surrounded by people who inspire, heal and save lives on a daily basis.  Unlike first responders who act selflessly to help others in plain sight, the heroes of mental health do so mostly in private.  Their best work often happens when no one is looking, and the fruits of their labor are often felt by the simple yet profound absence of immediate crisis, and mere continuation of a life that otherwise would be lost.  This is where the story of Lee comes in.  Lee is one of the many amazing staff at Haven that work day in and day out with the people who are the most vulnerable amongst us, and without fanfare or a desire for recognition, helps people fight illnesses they are often afraid to even admit they have.   Lee’s day job may be a staff member at Haven in Reading, but his work continues well after he has punched out from his shift.  His journey, like so many that never get told, is one of a countless number of reasons why we all do what we do every day, fighting stigma and judgment, lifting the fallen, restoring the broken and healing the hurting.  In his own words, here is Lee’s story…


After a 28 year battle of addiction to drugs and alcohol I had a spiritual awakening and started a path of recovery for myself. I had been hospitalized for my mental health, had run in’s with the law, and ruined the lives of the people who loved me the most (family). When I started my path to recovery I had no goals, had been homeless numerous times, I had little education, and no morals or values.

My first year in recovery was very crucial. With the help of the church I found my higher power under the guidance of Pastor Alex Alvarez. He kept me busy and walked me through the Christian based 12-steps. I found love for myself, learned to love others, learned compassion, learned to help others and the list goes on and on. Although I had found peace in my life leaving my addiction behind, I still had consequences to pay for my actions. I was sentenced to the DUI 2 STOP program at the YMCA of Reading & Berks. This is where the real Journey began.

While in the Transitional Living Program (DUI 2 Stop Program) I was taught basic life skills, how to interact with other men in recovery without having to use a mind altering substance, I attended 12-step Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, met with a Case Manager weekly and I shared about myself and what I could do to better my life. I attended five AA meetings a week and also attended intensive outpatient treatment at Family Guidance Counseling Center. While doing all those tasks I also had to work a full time job. The key to my change was staying busy with positive activities and remaining active in the rooms of recovery.

Once leaving the program I stayed connected to the YMCA. I obtained my GED, took college courses in addiction studies, and began working for the YMCA’s Transitional Living Programs as a Case Managers Assistant. A year and a half later I was hired as a Case Manager at the YMCA’s new program in Leesport called Camp Joy. While employed at Camp Joy I was able to utilize my own experience to help guide clients to become active in recovery and self-sufficient in their lives. In this position I gained a better understanding of addiction, recovery, case management and mental health disorders. After being employed at Camp Joy for two and a half years I was hired at Haven Behavioral Health where I am employed currently. While being employed at Haven I started another program called Hacia Adelante which is targeted towards the Hispanic population for men in recovery. Hacia Adelante is an addition to all the other housing programs at the YMCA of Reading & Berks. I am currently an active board member of the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board program (EFSP). In addition, I remain active with the YMCA as Community Outreach person where I look to find ways to put programs together to make it possible for individuals to meet their needs. I try to do what I can to enlighten the community on the desperate need for helping change the lives in this county where we can utilize our own Berks county residents to become self-sufficient as active members of society.

Every day that I arrive at Haven my goal is to say or do something to inspire a patient to continue to make progress in their path to wellness. I offer them hope by listening to them talk about their problems and what they have been through. My education and personal and professional experience aid in my connection to the clients at Haven. One of my favorite things that I do throughout my day is just making them smile. To me it is just so important to do that because some of our patients really haven’t had anything to smile about in a long time, if I can get them to smile for a second I have succeeded. At the end of the day I’m at peace in knowing I was able to help someone out even if it was just with a smile.