From Second Chances to recovery, moving on
10/05/2010
The Advocate - Eldersburg and Sykesville - Online

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When Eddie Rybolt was released in May from the Central Maryland Corrections Facility, he had no place to go, having burned most of his bridges with family and friends. He landed at Port Recovery, Inc. in Baltimore, and the first graduate of the Elite Groomsman Program at Second Chances Farm in Sykesville is part of an initiative to form a non-profit organization, The Ragpicker, Inc. to help other ex-offenders transition back into society.

A character from a series of religious books written by Og Mandino inspires the organization's name. A “ragpicker” is a street-cleaner who rescues what has been cast aside because he knows its true value. As the philosophy applies to people, the Ragpicker is as a rescuer of lost souls.

“I knew I had gotten to my lowest point,” said Rybolt of his actions that endangered the lives of two children during the commission of his crime, attempted robbery. Because he was the father of three at the time, he was especially remorseful. He has recently become a grandfather.

While incarcerated, Rybolt, 39, a repeat offender and drug addict, decided he wanted to do something positive with his life. He got clean, began working a twelve-step recovery program and mentored other inmates in the program, as well as at Second Chances Farm.

Before he was released, Rybolt was given a list of residential facilities for recovering addicts. He must be monitored for drug and alcohol use for one year, according to the terms of his parole. He sent letters to 25 recovery houses, and the one person who responded was Michelle Granruth founder and president of Port Recovery, Inc.

“Eddie came from Second Chances [Farm] to a place that gives people second chances,” said Granruth.

Granruth explained that Port Recovery not only provides her clients housing, but also addresses their other needs. If someone needs clothing, her staff sees that they get it. If someone cannot pay the rent, they call on local churches to help. They refer clients to counselors, community groups, government agencies and medical providers. At least twice a week Granruth visits each of the 10 recovery houses, getting to know every client. She is available day and night to assist with any problems or conflicts that may arise.

“We work at correcting the addictions issues, as well as healing the whole person,” said former client and director of operations Patrick Bonnar.

Port Recovery is part of a 12-Step recovery program. During their first 30 days, Clients must stay clean, attend daily meetings, find a sponsor, obey house rules, pay rent, perform chores, find employment and show evidence of work toward recovery. Group activities, outings, holiday celebrations and occasional dinners together help residents bond.

After 30 days progress of recovery is rewarded with positive reinforcements such as all-day and weekend passes, Granruth explained.

“They know they are accountable to do the right thing to stay here. They need love and responsibility. Recovery is about responsibility. They get that here, they live it and they see it” she said.

A recovering addict herself, Granruth, 48, was released from prison 15 years ago with a determination to use her life experience to help others, especially formerly incarcerated addicts. She opened a small painting company and started Port Recovery. She eventually became a general contractor. Her firm, Patterson Park Construction Company, rehabilitated all of the houses, which are located in older neighborhoods throughout Baltimore.

Proceeds from her company, rent from clients and private donations are the sources of funding for Port Recovery. She employs several clients including Eddie Rybolt, who once owned his own construction company.

Rybolt now manages his house in East Baltimore. His responsibilities include mentoring and monitoring residents, making sure the house is in order, planning activities and reporting to Granruth and staff.

“Eddie is one of my success stories,” Granruth said.

He is one nine staff and residents of various Port Recovery houses Granruth charged with initiating The Ragpicker, Inc., to provide “wrap-around,” services to addicts coming out of the prison, who without immediate, comprehensive and long-term support can easily end up back in the system.

“It's a one-stop-shop to break the cycle,” Bonnar said.

He explained with non-profit status Ragpicker is eligible to receive tax-deductible donations, apply for government funding and work in partnership with agencies to better assist clients with finding employment, medical assistance, rent and other needs. Granruth said she believes this will enable clients to stay at Port Recovery as long as they need to successfully transition back into society.

“People can't change in just three to six months, and I can't support what we want to do here with just my little company,” she said.

Ultimately, Granruth hopes to work the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MDPSCS) to have clients referred from pre-release programs, like Second Chances Farm in Sykesville.

Mark A. Vernarelli, director of public information for MDPSCS, stated by e-mail, dated Sept. 27, that Secretary Gary D. Maynard will have his staff look into Port Recovery and that, “[Maynard] is committed to at least investigating anything and everything that could potentially slow down the revolving door of recidivism and help aid in the often difficult re-entry process.”

Meanwhile, Granruth is compiling a list of politicians and community leaders to drum up support and is pursuing sources of corporate funding. Rybolt, as church liaison, is seeking assistance from the church community.

At a Narcotics Anonymous meeting at nearby Church of the Messiah two months ago, he met Father Tim Grayson, Rector, who sometimes helps residents financially in exchange for grounds maintenance duties at the church, and holds prayer meetings at Rybolt's house. Impressed by Rybolt's humility and understanding of the needs of recovering addicts, Grayson said he believes his congregation and residents can benefit through learning from one another.

“We are very interested in developing a ministry partnership with Port Recovery and Ragpicker,” Grayson said.

Rybolt said he is looking forward to the challenges of getting The Ragpicker, Inc. off the ground. He is grateful for the support he received at Second Chances farm, and would like to return there to mentor others as soon as he meets the terms of his parole. Most of all he looks forward to visiting his beloved horses.

“I really miss my babies,” he said.