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PHOTOS: $22k raised for addiction programs and services in Pahrump

Inaugural fundraisers are always a toss-up, with the organizers never really knowing how the community will receive these events until all is said and done. Sometimes they are a bust but for one local organization, Living Free Health and Fitness, its first-ever public fundraising endeavor has been declared a tremendous success, raking in thousands of dollars to support its addiction recovery programming and services.

Hosted Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Pahrump Nugget Events Center, the Art for Recovery auction saw strong attendance, with an estimated 100-plus people turning out to show their support for Living Free’s mission. Collectively, the large crowd managed to bring in an incredible amount of cash. With the ticket sales, live auction, silent auction and raffles all totaled, Living Free founder Shelley Poerio reported that a total of $22,220 was raised.

“We were so pleased with the turnout and the enthusiasm,” Poerio told the Pahrump Valley Times with evident delight. “It was a wonderful experience and I don’t think it could have gone much better for a first-time effort!”

Aside from the evening’s fundraising activities, the event program included some very emotional and touching testimonies from those who have faced a battle with addiction themselves. These current and former clients of Living Free bravely took to the stage to share their own stories and provide a very real example of just how much of an impact robust addiction recovery programming can have.

Living Free Peer Support Staff and Office Operations Manager Ed Bikle spoke about his struggle with alcoholism, noting that he had been clean for nearly four years and he was very appreciative of the chance to continue working for the organization.

“Shelley has implemented a great program, it’s educational,” Bikle emphasized. “It’s not just one program, it’s a multitude of programming and she explains a lot of what happens to the mind… And you are going to see, from the people who are going to speak, what success is when you are committed. If you reach a time in your life when you are out of control and you decide to surrender, you can make a difference in your life.”

Kim Koehler, another Peer Support Staff member and Parent Child Assistance Program Manager at Living Free, detailed her addiction to heroin, remarking that it had consumed her entire life until she was literally sleeping behind dumpsters and in bushes, caring only about finding her next fix. When her nephew was born, however, her life-view changed and she decided to go into detox.

“Luckily my mom, she did call Shelley and I moved out here in 2019. Living Free is a great program. I have tried all sorts of programs and none of them really stuck. This one, I am so thankful for what she does and everything she says, and thanks to everyone for coming. This is really amazing,” Koehler said.

The event included a secret, special presentation, too, much to the surprise of Ski Censke and Ron Gipson. This professional auctioneering duo have been a regular part of fundraising efforts for all kinds of local nonprofits, donating not only their expertise but many times their own money to the various philanthropic groups striving to make a difference.

For their continued dedication, community activist Dr. Tom Waters and local reporter Deanna O’Donnell bestowed upon the two “Acts of Kindness” awards, which they hand out in memory of the late Butch Harper.

All of the money raised at the Art for Recovery auction will go right back into Living Free’s coffers, to be used to provide intensive outpatient, early intervention and prevention services for adults and adolescents, along with transitional sober living homes for men, women and women with children. Living Free has recently expanded to include a cafe as well, which offers its clients the opportunity to gain valuable work experience.

“We are grateful to everyone who helped make this event a success,” Poerio said. “Thank you’s go to our table sponsors, including: 2nd Amendment Guns and Range; JDE Management and Dina Williamson Erdag; Matt Sadler of Nevada Patriot Podcast; Nevada Realty; Salli Kerr; and our one anonymous table sponsor, as well as our silver sponsors, including: Bolton Vine Management Company; Chad Goins of Farmers Insurance; Pahrump Valley A/C and Heating; Pahrump Valley Auto Plaza; Paul M. Healey and Sons CPA Ltd.; and Tasha Douglas of Nevada Realty. We also had a number of other anonymous donors, as well as out-of-state donors from Arizona, California and New Mexico.

“I’d would also like to send out a special thank-you to Ski Censke and Ron Gipson, Estate Auctions 411, the Pahrump Nugget, St. Martin’s in the Desert Episcopal Church and the Soroptimist of Pahrump Valley, who all did their part in making this event a wonderful time for everyone,” Poerio concluded.

Living Free is located at 2050 N. Highway 160, Suite #400. For more information visit www.LivingFreeHealth.org or call 775-505-1625.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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