After searching for volunteer opportunities in her community several years ago, Angie O'Leary couldn't have found a more fulfilling role than becoming a board member with the Wayside Recovery Center in Minneapolis. Now, she's nearing the end of her term with the organization that was recently named one of the best addiction recovery centers in the United States by Newsweek for its community reputation and peer recommendations, quality of care and accreditation.

“At first, I thought I'm never going to have time for this," O'Leary says. “But because it was very heartfelt and personal for me to be involved, I found time to do it even though I'm a very busy person. And I love it."

O'Leary, the head of Wealth Planning at RBC Wealth Management – U.S., is an advocate for volunteerism and community involvement, and in her personal life has seen first-hand the devastating effects of addiction and the co-occurrence of mental health issues on families. Her involvement with the Wayside Recovery Center has given her a different dimension for applying her business background to an organization that aligns with her values of helping women thrive during difficult times.

A holistic approach to serving women and their children

More than 67 years ago, Wayside Recovery Center began with a mission to deliver gender-specific and trauma-informed substance use disorder treatment, in addition to mental health support for women and their children. The holistic approach includes inpatient and outpatient services, with long-term sober housing and family support.

Back in 1954, the founder of the organization was selling cosmetics door-to-door when she noticed a concerning problem in her community of domestic violence, addiction and difficult living conditions for women and their families—or, as she described them, "women left by the wayside."

Today, what began as a shelter for seven women is now serving more than 700 women and 350 children each year. Services support women who don't have health insurance, those who have court-ordered treatment, women from all backgrounds and ethnicities, and women who want to get back on their feet to reunite with their children.

Ruth Richardson, CEO of the Wayside Recovery Center, credits the growth of the organization to the work of the board in which O'Leary is involved.

“One of the most valuable things that Angie brings to our board is her work as chair of what we call our Finance and Risk Management committee," Richardson says. “Her knowledge, experience and expertise have been so instrumental from a financial perspective in terms of helping to support and bring us to new levels."

Teresa Evans, chief advancement officer of the Wayside Recovery Center, says O'Leary is able to strategically pivot and ensure what the organization is adding is sustainable over time so that the services it provides continue to be impactful.

“She's asking these really hard but important questions so that the answers are embedded in our plans moving forward," Evans says.

Recovery is possible

At every meeting, the Wayside Recovery Center board starts by sharing a mission moment, a story from one of the clients. The motivation that comes from hearing those stories is validating and ensures the organization takes a holistic approach to care that is culturally appropriate and impactful.

“The work that we do to help recovering women be successful in their communities again has been incredible," O'Leary says, noting that women supported by Wayside Recovery are prepared to re-enter society with GEDs, financial stability, jobs and housing.

“One of the most compelling things we've heard over the years is when people come back and say, 'Wayside saved my life,'" Richardson adds. “Most of our women come to us with significant histories of trauma, and to be able to hear that statement means that recovery is possible, that there is hope."

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