A combination of awe and admiration was shared among the several dozen people that witnessed the ribbon-cutting ceremony that took place on the campus of Cornerstone of Recovery, Blount County’s highly respected addiction-treatment center located in Louisville just off of Highway 129. The crowd was gathered to celebrate the opening of two new buildings: one an administrative complex housing classrooms, a cafeteria, administrative offices and meeting rooms, the other a new, 172-bed housing facility. But in a larger sense, they were also there to pay tribute to the organization’s founder, the late William “Bill” Hood, a recovered alcoholic whose vision of a treatment center that could help addicts like himself led to Cornerstone’s founding in 1989.
Hood himself never lived to see Cornerstone come to full fruition from its original location in a nondescript strip mall located on Topside Road. Staffed by only 18 employees and boasting only 22 beds, it eventually grew to the sprawling and idyllic 16-acre campus it is today, 28 years later. He died in 1993, barely four years after it opened.
Nevertheless, on Friday, May 19, under a sweltering afternoon sun, Hood’s optimistic spirit seemed to be everywhere. Webster Bailey, Cornerstone’s executive director of business development and outreach, emceed the event and noted in his introductory remarks that there is still a stigma associated with addiction, but he went on to insist that, “By opening up our doors to the general public at events like this one, we can begin to change perceptions about addiction. We want to tell the world that recovery is possible.”
After leading the group in the Serenity Prayer (“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference”), he introduced a series of speakers who offered their thoughts about the impact Cornerstone has had on the region. The first individual to take the podium was Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell. “All of America, especially East Tennessee, is in the midst of a crisis with the disease of addiction,” Mitchell stated. “Having Cornerstone of Recovery in our community gives us an advantage over other communities that don’t have a high-quality facility with deep ties to the community to rehabilitate those who need it.”
Don Mull, Alcoa city mayor, echoed those comments when it was his turn to speak. He touched upon the economic impact of the facility, mentioning the fact that Cornerstone employs 230 people, making it one of Blount County’s – and Alcoa’s in particular – largest private employers. He also offered an array of impressive statistics. Over 50 percent of Cornerstone’s patients are from outside Tennessee, resulting in ample outside dollars flowing into the community. Adding to that economic impact is the fact that, each year, clients and their families purchase over 600 round-trip airline tickets that bring them into McGhee Tyson Airport, and that over 1,500 local hotel rooms are purchased by family members and business associates of those patients during their stays.
“Hundreds of Cornerstone alumni have relocated to our area and become permanent residents of East Tennessee because of their connection to this special place,” Mull pointed out before adding, “Cornerstone is a huge supporter of many of our local charities and community health initiatives. Cornerstone is a good corporate citizen and a big part of our city.”
Then it was State Senator Doug Overbey’s turn. His remarks were greeted with enthusiastic applause when pointed out that the current expansion officially makes Cornerstone of Recovery the largest residential treatment provider in the state of Tennessee. “This type of growth is exciting to see, and I know that it’s not without risk,” he reflected. “This investment is one that we can all benefit from, and, for that, I’m grateful.”
The next series of remarks were made by John Hood, the son of Cornerstone’s founder and a former addict himself. He paid testimony to what his father had achieved, speaking of a “passion for recovery [that] paved the way for starting Cornerstone of Recovery.”He went on to say, “He had a dream and a vision for what a treatment center ought to be, and he set out to achieve it. He believed he was called by God to start Cornerstone.” Hood then drew an analogy to the Book of Deuteronomy and the story of how Moses delivered his people to the Promised Land. He concluded by thanking the staff, the leadership, the partnerships, the community and “especially the patients and the families who have entrusted us with the responsibility of providing the care they so desperately needed.”
Scott Anderson, Cornerstone’s chief clinical officer and clinical director, observed that the expanded facility will improve Cornerstone’s clinical programming and services. He suggested that it will offer an environment conducive to emotional and spiritual healing, and that “the environment we are creating will help us foster a deep sense of change in our patients.”
Anderson said that because the facilities have previously been spread over multiple locations, it had occasionally become a logistical challenge for patients and staff. The campus will create a better sense of community, he said, because it reduces the need to transport patients from site to site.
“One of the most exciting aspects to this new campus for us is that we feel that our outsides now match our insides,” President and Chief Executive Officer Steve McGrew commented when it was his turn to speak. “Our new facilities match the quality of our clinical programming … Now, with these new facilities, we have the total package, quality care with quality facilities.”
It was then left to Scott Seaman, the developer and project manager for LawlerWood, the architects and designer, to sum up all that was accomplished since breaking ground a year prior. “I can speak for the architect team, the construction team and all who have been involved throughout the project when we say that it is our hope and belief that Cornerstone will use the beautiful facility to serve the needs of our community for generations to come,” he said.
Following another blessing, the dignitaries lined up to cut the ribbon and officially declare the new facilities open. The crowd moved inside to enjoy cake and refreshments and to get a much-needed respite from the heat of the afternoon. Inside the confines of the cafeteria, the temperature was considerably cooler.
Even so, a warm glow that resulted from the recognition of accomplishment and achievement lingered.