On solid ground

By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — Ten years ago, a nonprofit was launched in Durham to help drug addicts and alcoholics get back on their feet.

With startup funds of less than $20,000 from the Triangle Community Foundation and other donors, what is now Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers initially put a handful of addicts to work peeling potatoes in return for meals, a bed and therapeutic assistance.

On October 8, TROSA marks its birthday with a party celebrating what is now a $7.5 million-a-year enterprise that serves 300 residents and more than 100 graduates.

“One of our greatest assets is that we’re entrepreneurial,” says Kevin McDonald, a recovering addict who as president and CEO oversees a staff of 40 that has nearly doubled in three years.

TROSA, which operates a handful of businesses, including a moving company with a fleet of 30 vehicles that is licensed to do business in 48 states, also has raised $1 million in a $6 million capital drive that will last another three years.

More than 350 men and women have completed the two-year program at TROSA, which each quarter graduates 20 to 30 people who live and work on or near its 13-acre campus, a former dairy the nonprofit bought seven years ago for $90,000.

TROSA already has completed $2.5 million worth of work in current efforts to improve the campus, including new water, sewer and electrical systems, and construction of one single-family home and four apartment buildings, each with four units of three bedrooms each.

In the works are three more single-family homes, two dormitories that will house 70 people each, three townhouses of two units each, and two more apartment buildings, each with four units of three bedrooms each.

TROSA’s businesses, including lawn care, Christmas-tree sales and temporary contract labor, generate just over half its annual budget, which also counts on roughly $3 million in in-kind contributions such as food, clothing and construction materials.

The organization, which handles most of its own construction and renovation work, provides its residents with food, clothing, transportation and personal items.

After 18 months in the program, residents take courses on topics such as financial management, resume-writing and job-interview techniques and, three months later, get jobs in the community.

They save money from those jobs and, on graduating after two years in the program, can move into fully furnished TROSA housing, with TROSA paying for all utilities and basic phone service.

TROSA also has given more than 300 refurbished cars to its graduates, who pay only the cost of new parts, and provides stipends for courses at community colleges.

Working with psychiatry interns from Duke Medical Center, TROSA also provides mental-health services to residents.

And it plans to launch a smoking-reduction program and create a school to teach people from other communities how to start similar organizations.

As part of its fund drive, TROSA is building its board, chaired by Rich West, former CEO of TriVirix International in Chapel Hill.

Working with West to recruit business leaders for the board is Jeff Clark, a general partner at Aurora Funds in Durham.

TROSA recently received $135,000 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Mich., that will be used mainly to acquire treatment-oriented software, strengthen the organization’s policies and guidelines, and provide ongoing training of staff and residential leaders in therapeutic procedures.

TROSA also has received $400,000 from the Stewards Fund in Raleigh that it secured by raising another $400,000, plus $75,000 each from the Wachovia Foundation and Central Carolina Bank, and $25,000 from an anonymous donor making a contribution through the Triangle Community Foundation.

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