Posted at 9:58 AMUpdated at 9:58 AM
FORT WALTON BEACH — Beyond the doors of 52 Beal Parkway NW are 45 years of hope and healing.
The unassuming building is home to the Alano Club, a nonprofit organization designated to providing a “safe and supportive meeting place” for individuals in alcohol and addiction recovery, according to its website.
With the building going up for sale, the club must either buy the building at an asking price of $190,000 or relocate. Board members aren’t so worried about relocating the meetings, but the longtime history of the clubhouse known simply as “52 Beal” will be hard to replace.
“What’s important is knowing the building will be available long after us,” said Ken, one of the Alano Club board members. “It’s been a safe haven for the last 40-plus years. We’re looking to protect it not just for the immediate future, but beyond.”
The Alano Club is an outside organization separate from Alcoholics Anonymous and the other 12-step programs that meet at 52 Beal. The space has regular meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and other recovery groups.
Inside the building there are a stand full of pamphlets and white boards wishing a “Happy Birthday” to members. A poster of the AA 12 steps hangs on one of the walls. The room smells like fresh coffee.
There is no cost to visit a meeting, but the organization collects donations to cover expenses.
“It’s literally dollars in baskets,” said Joe P., another Alano Club board member.
SUPPORT 52 BEAL
To learn more about the Alano Club, visit alanoclubfwb.org. You can also donate to the GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/5v15x5c
According to the Okaloosa County Property Appraiser’s website, 52 Beal Parkway NW is owned by a Gary Lee. Mike, Alano Club board president, said the Lee family has been very gracious to the Alano Club, renting the building on a month-to-month basis for less than $300. Mike said they were given notice that the property was going up for sale a few months ago.
“He’s been very generous and offered very low rent,” he said. “But now he’s liquidating assets.”
The purchase price of the property is $190,000. The Alano Club is looking to raise an additional $60,000 to improve the building, which was built in 1956, and set aside reserve funds. So far the club has raised more than $13,000.
After more than four decades, 52 Beal has become known as the hub for recovery meetings. And for people in recovery, it’s comforting to know that the meetings have stayed in the same space.
“It’s like your favorite chair,” Joe P. said. “A lot of special things happened here. There’s a lot of fear when people walk through that door for the first time. This is a good, central location.”
Vacationers in Fort Walton Beach even consider the space a home away from home, said Mike. “Tourists, snowbirds … they know 52 Beal,” he said.
Joe F. has been going to meetings at the clubhouse since 1977. To him, the building is a landmark, he said. No matter if members are court-ordered or stop in out of curiosity, you walk out of meetings a different person.
“It was home base,” he said. “I was here because I didn’t trust myself any place else. It gave value to my life other than drugs and alcohol.”
Those recovery meetings were the basis of his social time. Not only did he go to meetings, but the Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties. If the meetings move, he’ll move with them, but “it wouldn’t be the same,” he said.
“We’ve been here long enough,” added. “People know this place.”