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Family will share Laura Elliott-Engel’s ‘wonderful life’ through tribute

On a personal note, I'd like to share news of an event my family has organized in honor of our mother, Laura Elliott-Engel. I was always so proud of Mom for getting sober at the age of 28 and then spending the rest of her career helping people recover from addictions herself. We are holding a showing of It's A Wonderful Life in the Olean, New York, community where she was the executive director of the Council on Addiction Recovery Services for 13 years. Mom always said that movie's message of redemption helped save her life when she was still drinking.

This is the full text of the article that the local paper ran about the event:

Laura Elliott-Engel loved the message from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” so much that she often told her family that it likely saved her life.

Elliott-Engel’s love of the classic film inspired her children to name an upcoming holiday tribute to their late mother, “It’s A Wonderful Life: Remarks and a Film Showing in Honor of Laura Elliott-Engel.”

The public event, slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday, will be held in Jamestown Community College’s CUTCO Theater at 305 N. Barry St. The event is free, but optional donations will be accepted in support of the Council on Addiction Recovery Services (CAReS), Inc., which provides counseling, intervention and prevention services in Cattaraugus County. Remarks and a film clip about about Elliott-Engel will begin at 6:40 p.m., followed by the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Elliott-Engel, who died in early November after a brief battle with cancer, was best known in the community as executive director of CAReS from 2002 to 2015. During her tenure with CAReS, Elliott-Engel expanded the agency in the county by adding offices in Machias and Gowanda. The agency also increased its homeless housing to include the Solutions to End Homelessness Program with jail-based services. Additionally, CAReS worked to improve the community’s health through Cattaraugus County’s Healthy Livable Communities Consortium.

Elliott-Engel was named a Woman of Distinction for 2002 by the New York State Senate for her contributions to society. She also received the 2009 Good News Award from the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce.

Her daughter, Amaris Elliott-Engel, and her brother Jeremy, arranged the tribute, as their mother’s funeral services were held in her home community of Rochester. Since their mother spent so much of her professional life in Olean helping people in recovery, they wanted to share a celebration of her life with the community.

Amaris Elliott-Engel said her mother was the face of addiction recovery, as she had just celebrated 40 years of sobriety from alcoholism in June.

“The video we’re going to show of her is an interview when she talked about her experience about being in recovery,” Amaris Elliott- Engel said. “She talked about her sobriety and she didn’t keep it a secret, but I talked about it more than she did.”

She said her mother was her hero because of her candidness with her and others about the disease.

“Her alcoholism was so bad that when she was 28, she almost drank herself to death,” her daughter shared. “She came back from that and went on to have this career where she helped so many other people.”

When Laura Elliott-Engel was in the throes of alcoholism she believed “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the holiday classic’s message of hope and redemption saved her life.

“The message of that movie helped her to get sober,” Amaris Elliott-Engel added. “That’s why we want to show it — and she loved watching it every holiday season.”

Laura Elliott-Engel (1/25/47—11/2/2015)

Submitted by Amaris Elliott-Engel on Tue, 11/03/2015 - 14:17

Laura Elliott-Engel (1/25/47—11/2/2015)

My mother took the next step on her spiritual journey Monday morning, passing away at 3:15 a.m. after a diagnosis with late-stage cancer a brief 32 days ago. My brother, Jeremy Elliott-Engel, husband, Jason Rearick, and I were with her, holding her hands as she passed. As we returned to Mom’s home on a valley hillside after she passed, the sun was rising, mist was gathered on the valley floor and light glimmered on the lake below us. All that light was the love she had for us and the world and the love we and the world still have for her.

Laura Elliott-Engel spent her life taking away the shame for people who have addictions.

Laura herself was the face of recovery because she celebrated 40 years of sobriety from alcoholism in June 2015. Not only did Laura get sober, but she turned her struggle with addiction into a career in helping people beat their own addictions. She helped many, many people get sober themselves as a counselor, as a longtime participant in Alcoholics Anonymous and as one of New York State’s leading recovery advocates.

Laura graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with high honors in 1981 with a Bachelors in Science in Social Work. Her first job as an alcoholism counselor was at the Livingston Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Inc. (LCASA)—where she was recruited—in part because of her own recovery—to work with chemically dependent women isolated in the rural countryside. At LCASA, Laura also developed specialized counseling for couples, families and people who were convicted of multiple DWIs. Laura became the executive director of LCASA in 1991 and served as the organization’s leader until 2002.

Laura earned her Masters of Arts in Theology/Pastoral Counseling from Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1994. Her Masters thesis was on Grace and Responsibility: Healing of Chemically Dependent Sexually Abused Women.

Then from 2002 to 2015, Laura went on to serve as executive director of Council on Addiction Recovery Services, Inc. (CAReS), which provides counseling, intervention and prevention services to the Cattaraugus County community. The organization expanded its footprint in the county by adding offices in Machias and Gowanda, expanded its homeless housing efforts to include the Solutions to End Homelessness Program with jail-based services, and improving the health of the local community through the Cattaraugus County’s Healthy Livable Communities Consortium.

Laura was active in New York State public policy about recovery from addictions. She was a member of the Council on Addictions of New York State (CANYS) and the Finger Lakes Consortium on Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services. Laura also was a founding member of Friends of Recovery New York (FOR-NY), a statewide coalition giving a voice to people in recovery from addiction, their families and allies. She served as the group’s president—and essentially as the group’s executive director—from 2009 until shortly before her death. In seven years, the organization grew from an all-volunteer organization to hiring five full-time staff and growing its budget to almost a half million dollars.

Laura was a credentialed counselor for alcoholism, substance abuse, gambling addictions and mental health. Laura also was a certified trainer for recovery coaches who work with people with addictions or in recovery from addiction.

Laura was named a Woman of Distinction for 2002 by the New York State Senate for her contributions to society, and she received the 2009 Good News Award from the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce.

In her youth, Laura was active in the civil rights movement, including as a participant in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and participating in civil rights marches.

Laura was born in Rochester, New York, and at various times in her life also lived in Michigan, Springwater, New York, and Cuba, New York. She is predeceased by her parents, Hugh Elliott and Dorothy (Bush) Elliott, and her former father-in-law, Adam Engel. She is survived by her sisters, Carolyn Peevey, of Greece, N.Y., Ruth Wells, of Rochester, N.Y., and Sharon Elliott, of Rochester, N.Y., as well as nieces and nephews, Sandra Weagley, William Rivera, Cindy Ingerick, Hugh Gaspar, Tim Gaspar, Johnie Peevey, Joanne “Wendy” Cymerman, Ryan Reigelsperger and Jill Reid. She also is survived by several great-nieces and great-nephews, cousins, the father of her children and ex-husband, James P. Engel, former mother-in-law Elizabeth (Didas) Engel and dear friends and colleagues.

Join family and friends for a Celebration of Life on Saturday, November 7, 2015, at the Samuel Colgate Memorial Chapel at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, 1100 South Goodman Street, Rochester, New York 14620. Guests will be welcomed at 9:30 a.m. with the ceremony to follow shortly thereafter and to be concluded by 11 a.m. A Reception/Calling Hours will be held from 12 p.m.-3 p.m. at 1872 Cafe, 431 W. Main St., Rochester, NY. Her ashes will be interred at a later date at White Haven Cemetery, Pittsford, New York. An event in honor of Laura will be held in Olean, NY, sometime this winter.

Condolences can be sent to 9256 Health Camp Road, Cuba, NY 14727. Contributions in lieu of flowers can be made to Friends of Recovery-New York, 1529 Western Avenue, Albany, NY  12203, for a living memorial to advance Laura Ellliott-Engel’s life’s work in addiction recovery. Contributions in lieu of flowers also can be made to Council on Addiction Recovery Services, Inc. (CAReS), P.O. Box 567, 201 S. Union St., Olean, NY 14760.

9th Circuit Rejects Discriminatory Zoning Against Substance-Abuse Treatment Facilities

California has beautiful weather and environs, which has led the growth of destination facilities for people seeking treatment for alcohol and other drug addictions. But that also has led to California localities enacting zoning rules to clamp down on such facilities. Last week, the Ninth Circuit reversed summary judgment in favor of  Newport Beach over that locality's zoning rules designed to inhibit those facilities, the OC Weekly reported. "There is direct or circumstantial evidence that [city officials] acted with a discriminatory purpose and has caused harm to member of a protected class [and] such evidence is sufficient to permit the protected individuals to proceed to trial,"' the OC Weekly reported from the opinion summary.

Treatment Magazine commented: "Last week's ruling should give pause to nearby jurisdictions from Malibu down the coast to neighboring Costa Mesa, many of which have been considering ways to restrict what admittedly has been rampant growth of Six-Bed Model treatment centers, as well as sober living operations, over the last 20 years up and down the California coastline. That growth has made Southern California a close second in size to South Florida as the nation's largest 'destination' addiction treatment services marketplace with clientele descending from all corners." The full piece is here:

(Thanks to Laura Elliott-Engel, my super fabulous mother and president of the board of Friends of Recovery New York to alerting me to the opinion.)

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