Seek and ye shall find
The Lost and Found Club provides a welcoming meeting space for survivors of life’s challenges. Their upcoming dinner theater event will raise funds for a bigger venue and operating costs.
Spiritual, nondenominational and inclusive are words that come up often while discussing the gatherings that take place at the Lost and Found Club.
Located east of downtown Ocala at 616 South Pine Ave., the nonprofit offers a welcoming space for 12-step meetings focused on the recovery process. You don’t have to have a substance-abuse addiction to attend a club meeting; “Even cellphones have become addictive,” said manager Victoria Dice.
Whether someone grew up in a dysfunctional family with a loved one who was an alcoholic or who battled drug addiction or endured PTSD, the Lost and Found Club presents meetings that benefit virtually everyone. When it comes to addiction, Dice said, “All of these things are interrelated.”
The club itself is in recovery. The nonprofit has endured trials and upheavals since it was founded in 1995. The 501 (c)(3) organization occupied a building on Sanchez Avenue and then the old Coca-Cola factory. The club closed for around eight years before reopening on Aug. 1, 2020.
“When the club was disbanded, it had a very small pot of money left over, which the then-board carried over for 10 years,” Dice explained. “This very small group of people sold candy bars in the parking lots of meetings and held car washes to raise money.”
Two years ago, she and an all-new board of directors scoped out the current location at Pine Plaza during the COVID-19 lockdown. The 1,500-square-foot space accommodates a meeting hall decorated with strung lights and rows of long tables and chairs donated by the University of Florida.
“You are not alone now,” reads a wooden sign above the TV and riser.
A salon in its past life, the building was a fixer-upper.
“It was a wreck, full of broken mirrors and glass and stuff all over the walls,” Dice said. We “transformed it.”
“It is as clean as a pin!” chimed in Rita Singer, club supporter and co-director of the upcoming production of “Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” a play about the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Singer works with co-director Kim Sandstrom, and is herself in recovery. She attends meetings at the space and produces shows through her theater company, Unboxed Productions.
Unboxed is staging “Bill W. and Dr. Bob” as a dinner theater presentation on Dec. 10. Billed as a “holiday gift from your recovery community.” The biographical drama follows the founders of AA, and the event’s proceeds will go to the Lost and Found Club. The play can be streamed online, too, by accessing the EventBrite link to purchase tickets. The dinner theater event requests a $25 donation and the live stream costs $15.
“We’ve struggled,” Dice said of the organization’s fiscal challenges. “Especially now with inflation, it’s been very difficult. People are having to put gasoline in their cars and food on their tables, and, yet here we are. Our doors are still open.”
Dice said she’s committed to bringing stability and growth to the nonprofit. As someone who’s been in recovery herself, she said she feels spiritually connected to those who step through the club’s doors. She wants to find a bigger home, so multiple activities can occur at once.
“We are not a glum lot,” says the club’s website. “Recovery is more than going to meetings. It’s about learning how to have fun without our self-defeating behaviors, and substances is scary business. We’re here to support you through that, too.”
In the back of its meeting space, members and visitors access Wi-Fi or purchase chips and a sandwich at the club’s snack bar, or procure pins and literature related to the recovery process in an adjacent shop. On the wall behind the cafe, a whiteboard details a meeting schedule of gatherings titled “Red Eye,” “Step Yoga” and “Saturday Night Live.”
The Church at The Springs live streams a nondenominational service at the club on Sunday mornings and donated the TV that carries the service. The widescreen beauty replaced the much smaller model that previously occupied its spot over the riser.
The Lost and Found Club doesn’t have enough hands on deck to keep doors open at all times. Volunteers can help make that happen, and space can be rented for events for a modest fee.
Those interested in donating can sign up for a monthly or annual membership at the club’s website, landfclub.com. Donations go to the club’s ongoing need to have a safe, substance-free zone for 12-step meetings and fellowship.
And, of course, purchasing tickets for the upcoming dinner-theater extravaganza, “Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” will help, too.
“This fundraiser is the first thing we’ve ever done like this,” Sandstrom said. “So, we’re kind of putting all of our eggs in this basket for Dec. 10 and just praying for a great, big miracle that would really sustain the program and then get us into their building.”
For more information about the Lost and Found Club, visit landfclub.com.