The Sober Christmas Project’s boxes of gifts are stacked up so that nearly 200 men and women recovering from addiction and looking to improve their lives will not be forgotten this holiday season.
David Brooks is a clinical supervisor with the Frederick County Health Department, where he encountered the despair of a recovering addict who felt “bypassed” by Christmas, he said.
“My heart literally broke,” Brooks said.
Those heartbreaking words of loneliness inspired Brooks to rally the men he leads at Calvary Assembly of God in Walkersville to create the Sober Christmas Project three years ago. On Saturday, he and dozens of volunteers on this year’s project will prepare to distribute gifts to men and women in recovery programs in Frederick, Carroll and Montgomery counties.
This year, the project is adding homeless women and men to the list of recipients.
Packages may contain blankets, cologne, soap, gloves, hats and scarves. For the homeless, Brooks bought sleeping bags and propane heaters — higher-priced items that are necessary to make a difference in a life lived outside, he said.
His approach to the shopping is to buy nothing he would not like to receive himself.
“Why would I want to give somebody a sleeping bag that won’t even do the job?” he said.
He found it sad that struggling adults might be forgotten as “everybody focuses on children and makes sure that their kids have something.”
“A $5 blanket to someone that has nothing means the world,” he said.
On Christmas, addicts in recovery may feel alone, so the gift with a note of inspiration and care may be the highlight of the day, if no one else remembers them, Brooks said.
“I’m going to make sure I fill in that gap,” Brooks said.
The project has expanded each year to more recovery and treatment centers. This year, there are six: The Frederick Rescue Mission, Gale Recovery Inc., Mountain Manor Treatment Center and Olson House in Frederick; Avery Road Treatment Center in Rockville; and Westminster Rescue Mission in Westminster.
“We’re just kind of building our radius, and building it bigger and bigger,” Brooks said.
The first year, the project raised enough money to buy gifts for 60. Last year, there was enough for 120, and this year for 180.
Words of Christian faith and love are included with the gifts. The packages and notes dispel the idea that no one cares about the person any more, which is what some in recovery have thought, he said.
Next year, Brooks aims to get gifts to 300 people in four counties.
“I would love to be able to open this up,” he said. “My dream is to ultimately go across Maryland, and make sure that every person in a facility gets something. I don’t know how we’re going to do it.”