How ironic the Brooke’s House logo was conceived on a napkin. After all, a napkin is used to clean and protect – the same purpose of the sober living home for adult women that was built as a result of a father’s promise to his daughter. Brooke’s House provides a community-based, safe, stable and emotionally supportive living environment for adult women in the early stages of substance abuse recovery. Ensuring a tranquil, home-like facility, Brooke’s House provides state-of-the-art treatment and recovery services with resources to help residents achieve their dreams of living drug-free and productive lives.
Kevin Simmers promised his daughter Brooke a sober-living house unlike the ones she had stayed in, if she remained drug free for one year. Tragically, she died on April 14, 2015. The promise was kept, however, in loving memory and to keep the 19-year-old’s legacy alive. Three months after her death, the Simmers family started the journey of fulfilling Brooke’s dream by creating Brooke’s House.
With the guidance of family friends Kathy Hall and Jeff Bohn, both professionals familiar with non-profit organizations, Brooke’s House earned its status as a non-profit entity. With its 501(c)3 designation, all donations would be tax-free for the donor. After looking at residential properties throughout Hagerstown, Kevin drove to Technology Boulevard to look at a parcel of land that was free of other homes and serene, apart from the hustle and bustle of downtown Hagerstown.
The land was owned by the Fulton family. On the day Kevin looked at the property, a double rainbow appeared over the property. It was a sign of great things to come, as Adna Fulton and his family donated the 3.5 acres and a plan was put into place to build Brooke’s House. Jason Divelbiss, who was a source of inspiration for the project and encouraged Kevin and Dana many times over to move forward with it, helped transfer the property to the newly-approved non-profit organization.
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL
Starting from scratch, they could design Brooke’s House to include everything many typical sober living homes didn’t have – nice bedrooms, a kitchen with ample room, a chapel, a common room that wasn’t cramped or used as a secondary bedroom. The Simmers family was blessed to have Dave Rider apply his talents as the contractor. Rider stepped forward on Day One and didn’t look back, making sure Brooke’s House was constructed in a timely fashion with superior craftsmanship. He promised the family he would do whatever it took to make the house a reality.
But they needed funds to make it happen.
Brooke’s death didn’t go under the radar as Kevin, a former narcotics detective in Hagerstown, spoke at local schools about his daughter’s tragic passing and the drug epidemic that is prevalent in his own community. It led to civic organizations and churches inviting him to share “Brooke’s Story.” They financially supported his efforts by making donations to Brooke’s House. Soon, media outlets began picking up the story. Local media coverage turned into regional interviews that turned into national coverage. Outlets in Washington aired his poignant story. Then came NPR, Fox News, BBC Worldwide. Donations would come from all over the world after each interview.
The community embraced the facility as well—from a place to build, to members who fill the board of directors, and business partners in the community who were willing to give of their time, treasure and talents. Groundbreaking was held May 1, 2018.
For many of the volunteers, it’s personal – many of them have lost a loved one to a drug overdose. It’s a way for them to give back. Kevin and wife Dana know about the pain, grief, anger and suffering that others are experiencing because they still have their moments, too. “There are really no words of consolation for someone who loses a loved one they cared for and loved so much,” they say. “However, they can feel at ease to tell their story and talk with us because we are open, honest, transparent and nonjudgmental, which helps everyone. For many, helping with Brooke’s House is way to stay positive. We suggest to people, find something that inspires them, something they believe in and support wholeheartedly. Stay positive and have faith that God is in control.”
The Simmers family has put into practice that advice.
They are appreciative of the community’s support and encouragement that has buoyed any of their doubts or setbacks. They are reminded every day of that kindness and generosity. For them, Brooke’s House is more than a building project. It’s a promise that has helped them stay focused on making a difference in their community. After all, they are pursuing their daughter’s dream.
As for that napkin that family friend Jim Spatz used to scrawl the identifiable logo, it is framed and safely displayed on a wall inside of the home. It serves as a reminder that Brooke’s House is filled with endless opportunities of help and hope for women who want to lead a drug-free productive life.
Written by Michael L. Straley