Author Topic: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY  (Read 10414 times)

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Offline StillStanding

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Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« on: January 28, 2011, 03:54:16 PM »
I keep hearing about Synanon off-shoots, and here in NY, there seem to be 2 main ones associated with it – Phoenix House and Daytop (both of which still operate, albeit with much tamer regiments).

But I’ve never heard of anyone talk about Renaissance (or the Renaissance Project) in Ellenville, NY (not far from Daytop’s Swan Lake facility, tho I don’t know if that's still there).

I was there as a teenager for 2 yrs from 1981-1983.  It was primarily an adult facility – approx 65 adults and about 15 teenagers.  This place, while small, was a direct descendant of Synanon’s.

When I got there, they still shaved heads (men only; they stopped shaving women’s and made them wear stocking caps instead; I was told they changed this after a woman killed herself).  They still gave people costumes: bum outfits, baby outfits (complete with diapers, pacifiers, bibs, etc).  I wore signs, stocking caps, and scrubbed toilets with toothbrushes.  Dishpan, spare parts….we shoveled snow out of the pool in the winter, and “moved” the lake with a tablespoon in the summer.  GI’ed rooms for hours. Attitude runs on the lawn, bent over picking up invisible “attitudes” for hours. Chopping ice on the pathways until 3am.  General meetings called at 4am, dragging us out of bed to scream at us and shave heads, etc.

I was 16 when I was sent there; 18 when I left.  I’m 45 yrs old now and my life has never been the same.

I recently started researching Renaissance and found out they’re still open.  I doubt they have teenagers there anymore, but I read that an addict from there killed a security guard and stabbed a nurse in Oct 2010.  When I googled it, I saw it was still the same buildings on the same property.

Because Renaissance is small, and I don’t think there are any chapters outside of NY, I’ve never heard anything about it.  A recent facebook search turned up 2 people I know from there (both of whom were adults), but I’m afraid to contact either of them.

I still think of the other teenagers I was there with, and often wonder what happened to them.

When I left there at 18, I began using heroin.  And spent the next 20 yrs in and out of rehabs, periods of sobriety and college, but eventually relapsing again.  I’m now clean for 7 yrs.  I live and work in NYC and have a seemingly normal life, though the nightmares have never stopped and I live the damage from that place each and every day in ways that just seem normal to me now, after so many years.

If anyone’s ever heard of Renaissance – especially from the early 1980s – I’d appreciate any info you have.  I remember the staff members names, and even have pictures still of most of them.  Rudimentary online searches yield very little info (I already know Felix Varela died some yrs ago)  Gerry Gerace, the ex-director, is still around.  That’s all I’ve been able to find, but I’d like to find out who actually owns the place  - now and back in the 80s.

Any help or info is appreciated.

Thanks.
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Offline Inculcated

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2011, 11:43:11 PM »
@StillStanding,
I had not heard of this program and I definitely second Auntie Em’s sentiments in her reply to this post on the other thread too.
Quote from: "AuntieEm2"
Afraid I can't offer any information, but I extend my sympathies for what sounds like a horrible experience. No one deserves to be treated this way, no one.

Auntie Em
I’m very sorry that I don’t have much information to offer you at this time. A twenty minute peek around yielded mixed results under the name Renaissance House Project.
A search specific to Ellenville, NY pops up as  http://www.usnodrugs.com/New_York/Ellen ... roject_Inc as well as multiple news stories regarding the October 2010 homicide of the guard by an "inmate"/"patient" that you mentioned.

Here is a site that’s called “Kids Escaping Drugs” and it describes and shows images of their West Seneca campus called Renaissance as well as two others in Buffalo. The site indicates that "Renaissance Campus" [Including] Renaissance House, Stepping Stones and Promise House are all part of ADDS.”
ADDS is http://www.erie.gov/health/mentalhealth ... lcohol.asp
Quote
Description: The Renaissance House campus is the only public inpatient and residential treatment facilities in Western New York for chemically dependent boys and girls ages 12 to 18. Renaissance House is a 30-bed inpatient rehabilitation program. Stepping Stones is a 16-bed aftercare facility for those adolescent who need assistance in re-entering the community upon completion of an inpatient rehabilitation program.
So from this-- this one appears to be a contract agency “owned” by the taxpayers.

Possibly related or extraneous:
At a glance it seems there are multiple locations in NY State and a quick of skim linking sites seems to imply there are out of state locations including NJ.

This one in KY is listed as substance abuse treatment, but does not indicate age or gender or anything determinate to indicate if it is the same program.

The listing for Renaissance House for women in FL leads to a dead link site called “covermehouseforwomen” described by owner as an “18 month life skills program for battered women”. Also in FL is http://www.caronrenaissance.org/  
A business in VA linked here describes nursing facilities.
Interestingly, this two page PDF shows a place that is also called Renaissance House Project and is in North Carolina. The pages describe a recently launched expansion into a basic care program that includes emergency shelter, support services as well as:
Quote
“Youth Transition Support – to help young people transition into a safe and appropriate alternative living arrangement, including Job Corps, the military, independent living programs, and post-secondary residential environments, when reunification is not the most appropriate option.”

Another brief PDF is a 2007 News Letter of what is the Women's Transition Project, dba Renaissance House in Arizona.

My rudimentary search hasn’t yielded anything conclusive about ‘Renaissance House Project’ operations in New York, either.
Others may bring more to the discussion as you keep posting.
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Offline seamus

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2011, 04:59:45 AM »
Boy does that sound like a hellhole. I went thru similar post program issues after str8 . I know the hplessness that comes along with trodding that path. I got out of my arm in87. no thaanks to the alleged experts.  The only thing I can say ever helped me out was the day I realized that just because some guy tells you the moon is made of cheese ,dont make it so.
 A really cool therapist once told me, that my narcotic use was"all about what YOU give yourself permission to do" in short that I am indee NOT powerless. hey keep after it, it DOES get easier after a point. and hey if people like Steve Earle and Keith Richards can go with out it so can I. Truly best of luck. :nods:
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Offline StillStanding

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2011, 02:57:01 PM »
Inculcated – thanks for your response & info.  I checked your links but don’t think any of those places are related to Renaissance / the Renaissance Project.  I’m almost positive it’s NY-based only.  Part of my frustration is not being able to find any info online – if you check Renaissance’s actual website, you’ll see there’s very little info on it:  http://www.renaissance-project.org/.

In NY in the ‘80s, the most well-known TCs/rehabs were Phoenix House, Daytop, and Renaissance, all of which were run by old school ex-dope fiends.  It was all very hardcore back then.  There was no 12-step anything – in fact, they actively dissuaded meeting attendance.  They thought AA/NA was for people too weak to stay clean on their own.  TCs – at least those 3 – were straight out of Synanon: strict behavior modification kind of shit, but I think that was the beginning of the end of that kind of modality in “addiction treatment.”

I left in ’83.  For the rest of that decade, these places were overrun and overwhelmed by the crack epidemic and by HIV/AIDS.  And perhaps changes in thinking about the 12-steps as well, because I think the late ‘80s and ‘90s saw a significant shift in “treatment”– including a wholesale embrace of the 12-Step movement and the rise & proliferation of the entire for-profit TTI.

I wonder if anyone’s ever done a historical or sociological study of this shift in TCs during this time?

Sorry, I geek out sometimes...

My point being, I don’t know much about the whole Troubled Teen Industry.  It’s only been the last few days that I’ve found out just how pernicious the industry is. I mean, I knew there’d been huge growth in these boot camps and places for teens; I didn’t know how unregulated these facilities were, how little oversight there was.  And I didn’t know anything about Wwasps, or these people who just open up places under new names when they get closed down.  

I mention this for context (and for contrast): Renaissance was run by old school true believers, but unlike Phoenix House and Daytop, Renaissance never became a money-making business; they don’t do any marketing or major fundraising. I mean, just look at their website. Then compare it to PH or Daytop’s.  I guess that’s part of the reason I assumed they closed down – I heard little about them after I left.

In addition to their residential facility in Ellenville, they always had a number of smaller out-patient sites throughout Westchester County.  It looks like their main office is still in New Rochelle, NY; they used to have outpatient programs in Portchester, Yonkers, and a couple of other towns outside of NYC but that was the extent of their presence.
The only other thing I learned recently about Renaissance is that the most recent Director of the Ellenville facility was a guy named Jim Colarell, who died last summer.  I knew Jim…he was older than me and ahead of me in the program, but I remember him.  Which lends more credence to my theory that Renaissance has remained small and off-the-grid, with the same kind of true believer ex-addicts still running it.  That and its lack of marketing/fundraising make it different than what Daytop and PH have become.

Sorry for such a long rambling missive.  I should probably explain: the reason I’m suddenly interested in this is because I recently found out about the Family School Foundation for Truth – a group trying to expose the abuses at that facility.  I know The Argiros family well - I was there in the early days, in 1984, before they became a school. I know the founders and their kids (who now run it). It was a rough gig for sure, but nothing like the stories I’ve read about it lately.  

At some point in the past 15-20 yrs,The Family School Foundation seems to have become much more of a money-making venture (like so many other places, save Renaissance) and apparently much more abusive. I couldn’t believe some of the stories I read – they took me right back to my own adolescent nightmare.  And apparently awakened my own demons - I’ve spent the last few days obsessively looking for any info I can find on Renaissance.  I suspect I’ll have to dig for company records or filings from them and probably go to their New Rochelle facility in person for answers.

Sorry to geek out again, but I’ve got a theory – maybe others here who are well-versed in this world can offer some insight?  It seems to me there are basically 2 types of these “treatment” places today:  those that are run by money-grubbers like WWasp and others for whom this is strictly about $$ and who have little to no regard for the kids; and then there are (seemingly fewer) places run by the “true believers,” who still really believe that behavior modification & the TC model actually work – places like Renaissance, who apparently still labor in relative obscurity and with little fanfare.  And what The Family used to be before it morphed into the $60K/yr “school” modality (Tony & Betty were true believers; their kids, a little less so).

Then again, maybe not.  Maybe I’ve just spent too many hours this week reading up on all this stuff and am a little punchy now!

Thanks again for your reply.
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Offline StillStanding

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2011, 03:18:10 PM »
Hi seamus – thanks for your post.  “Out of the arm” – wow, I haven’t heard that expression in years!  I don’t go to meetings, I don’t hang out with recovering addicts, so I’m a little out of the loop.  I finally gave up the needle for good 7 yrs ago, after od’ing in my office (seriously).  I woke up strapped to a gurney outside my office on 3rd Ave as the EMT’s  rolled me in the ambulance.  At the hospital, I was promptly arrested (and fired from my job).  I was 38 yrs old and all I could think was, “holy fuck, not AGAIN.”  My next thought was, “jesus christ, I am too old for this shit....”  

I’ve been clean since then and can honestly say, I don’t get a lot of urges or think about getting high very much.  I’ve been way more obsessed with trying to salvage whatever I can out of my life at this point, my career, my family, etc.  I don’t usually use 12-step terminology, but I'm much more haunted by the “wreckage of my past” than I am with urges to get high.

It does get easier, in some ways.  But such a long and illustrious drug career takes its toll in many other ways…

I'm glad you found your peace - so many people never get there or just die trying.   But I like that you use Keith Richards as a benchmark!

Cheers :-)
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Offline seamus

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2011, 03:48:40 PM »
Seems like im haunted as hell too, in a fashion. I personally dont do 12 step either. I just know what I dont want. And when I crash and burn, ill do anything BUT use. Maybe Ill drink to excess for a while ,maybe not.But no narcotics.None.Then Im not sure if salvage is as accurate but I say kind of RE-invent myself...and move on.The fuck ups ive made are legion,and some of biblical proportion, but I keep getting up again. Some times my regrets are too much to bear...but so what. Dont worry about the alledged experts, They mostly serve only themselves.
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Offline StillStanding

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2011, 04:14:08 PM »
I think that’s the thing….you NEVER stop being haunted.  After a point, when you’ve been away from dope long enough and feel sure you’ll never use again (even if it’s just cuz your veins are pretty wasted), there are always demons - and regrets - to fight.

I wish I took solace in the drink but it’s never offered me much comfort.  Sometimes a little weed here and there.   At the very least, it calms me down.  It's been years since I've slept without a xanax or a clonapin.

You're definitely not alone with your List of Fuck Ups of Legion & Biblical Proportions.  It takes years of work and dedication to fucking one’s self up to compile a *truly* respectable List (assuming you survive the process).  I could fill a couple of library shelves with mine…

And I don’t worry about the alleged “experts.”  Fuck ‘em.  I don’t believe anything anyone tells me about anything.  I’ve always had to find things out for myself, firsthand.  Which, ya know, has been a blessing and a curse  ;-)
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Offline StillStanding

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2011, 04:21:19 PM »
One more thing.... learning how to NOT "crash and burn" is a skill that seems on par with...I don't know, becoming a virtuouso pianist or a brain surgeon.  At least for me.  How do regular people (non ex addicts) learn that shit?  Seriously.  I know it sounds retarded, but I look at people around me - regular people with average skills and abilities - and LIFE comes so naturally to them.  They get jobs, get married, maintain relationships.....and it all seems so easy.  There's little to no crash-and-burn factor for them.  I'm eternally in awe, and more than a little jealous....
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Offline seamus

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2011, 06:30:31 PM »
yep I seem to limp trhu life from disaster to disaster, bounce off a this ,into that. Cant ever really be a "team player" according to some. but then again I always hated "joiners".  Dont do well with relationships(just ask an x) been xcomunicated from the bulk of my family,for sundry reasons. The only thing I really know is that Ill get by. :nods:
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Offline newsgirl

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2011, 02:57:11 AM »
I was at Renaissance with you, I think. I wish I knew who you are! I came around Nov 1980 and left in Jan 1982. I was a bit older than you, 20. I was an unusual resident because I didn't really have a drug problem just a really bad behavior problem. My mom was a psychologist who believed i tough love and she convinced me to go. All these years later, the whole thing seems like a bad dream. For me, it managed to act as a wake call on some positive levels, but it was also profoundly unsophisticated and caused plenty of damage. The counselors were ham-fisted and completely out of their depth. They didn't have a clue what I was about and because I came from a fancy family, the mocked me like a bunch of street-y nuckleheads. The place gave me a way to start over, to reassess all the horrible choices I'd made in late adolescence, to reconnect with my family, but no one there had any real training and their intimidation and sleep-deprivation techniques often bordered on the dangerous. I remember watching them rank out a teenager who tried to come out as gay. It was really awful and I had to step in, though I had no standing and they tried to drown me out. I was sad to hear Collerell had died; what of? He was weird but well intentioned. I came in at the same time as he. I am still friendly with a guy named Nick Miele who became a counselor in the late 1980s. He now lives in South Beach.
For what it's worth, my life has turned out very well. I don't look back on Renaissance with fondness but as I said, it was the beginning of me turning my life around.
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Offline snertking

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2011, 09:58:47 PM »
hey  StillStanding -

I was at Renaissance in 1992-1994. I came there from East Ridge (if you know the FFS, then you know of East Ridge)

I think Renaissance has chilled out some over the years - they still shaved heads, did stocking caps, signs, etc, but it, at least to me, seemed therapeutic. Some of the best camaraderie i had there was when i was in spare parts with 2 signs and a bald head sleeping on floor in hallway  (for kicking open the COD's door when I was the BO coordinator and calling the other  coordinators a bunch of "no belly hypocritical motherfuckin' punks" with a lobby full of folks standing for a haircuts, storming back out and then sitting on "the chair" in protest  :P - and frankly they deserved it)

The very next month when Job assignments came out I was Guru :) Seems some staff took heart of my complaints.... I think Jim Colerel (spelling? Jeez how many times did i have to write that name as a expediter, yet now i forget how to spell it?) was one who went to bat for me. He got mad when I did not request my signs off :)

Anyhow, while there i met two different teens that had come there from FFS, and they told me Renaissance was *much* easier to deal with than FFS had been. And having come from East Ridge myself, i felt Renaissance was easier to deal with than East Ridge.

Ya, they still did blow aways, haircuts, signs, costumes, shaved heads, etc etc, still got our asses woken up at 4am for GM's, but things followed a certain logic and consistent rules that seemed to be lacking at East Ridge and FFS. Haircuts, blowaways, etc could no longer be done on "general principal" as I hear they had been in the past.

For most the environment would seem abusive. From where *I* had come from, it was a freakin' vacation.

They discouraged teenagers from coming there, but would still take pretty much anyone who "sat on the chair" and screamed for help loud enough in their interview :) So there were maybe 3-4 teenagers out of 100 or so folks when i was there. Not one of the teens graduated when I was there - all left before phasing out.

It is definitely a New York only program. Westchester mostly really. Some folks there from the Bronx, manhattan, brooklyn, but most were Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Yonkers folks. They still have their storefronts in those cities, and the adminsitrative offices are still on center street in new rochelle.
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Offline TCB ALL THE TIME

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2013, 06:22:20 PM »
I was at Renaissance with you, I think. I wish I knew who you are! I came around Nov 1980 and left in Jan 1982. I was a bit older than you, 20. I was an unusual resident because I didn't really have a drug problem just a really bad behavior problem. My mom was a psychologist who believed i tough love and she convinced me to go. All these years later, the whole thing seems like a bad dream. For me, it managed to act as a wake call on some positive levels, but it was also profoundly unsophisticated and caused plenty of damage. The counselors were ham-fisted and completely out of their depth. They didn't have a clue what I was about and because I came from a fancy family, the mocked me like a bunch of street-y nuckleheads. The place gave me a way to start over, to reassess all the horrible choices I'd made in late adolescence, to reconnect with my family, but no one there had any real training and their intimidation and sleep-deprivation techniques often bordered on the dangerous. I remember watching them rank out a teenager who tried to come out as gay. It was really awful and I had to step in, though I had no standing and they tried to drown me out. I was sad to hear Collerell had died; what of? He was weird but well intentioned. I came in at the same time as he. I am still friendly with a guy named Nick Miele who became a counselor in the late 1980s. He now lives in South Beach.
For what it's worth, my life has turned out very well. I don't look back on Renaissance with fondness but as I said, it was the beginning of me turning my life around.

Is this Suzanne? I kind of forget years. I went through the house twice. The first time the only thing I remember is that the Son of Sam Kiler was loose one Summer that I was there. That was 1977. I went back for a 2nd time, but I dont remember the year. I remember a cool little blond chick who was like every bodies little sister named Suzanne. I dont think she had a drug problem so it sounds like you. I actually remember going through the house with Jimmy Colorell (sp). We were on the softball team together that played against Daytop, Samaritan etc.

Offline TCB ALL THE TIME

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Re: Renaissance or Renaissance Project - Ellenville, NY
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2013, 12:55:53 PM »
I keep hearing about Synanon off-shoots, and here in NY, there seem to be 2 main ones associated with it – Phoenix House and Daytop (both of which still operate, albeit with much tamer regiments).

But I’ve never heard of anyone talk about Renaissance (or the Renaissance Project) in Ellenville, NY (not far from Daytop’s Swan Lake facility, tho I don’t know if that's still there).

I was there as a teenager for 2 yrs from 1981-1983.  It was primarily an adult facility – approx 65 adults and about 15 teenagers.  This place, while small, was a direct descendant of Synanon’s.

When I got there, they still shaved heads (men only; they stopped shaving women’s and made them wear stocking caps instead; I was told they changed this after a woman killed herself).  They still gave people costumes: bum outfits, baby outfits (complete with diapers, pacifiers, bibs, etc).  I wore signs, stocking caps, and scrubbed toilets with toothbrushes.  Dishpan, spare parts….we shoveled snow out of the pool in the winter, and “moved” the lake with a tablespoon in the summer.  GI’ed rooms for hours. Attitude runs on the lawn, bent over picking up invisible “attitudes” for hours. Chopping ice on the pathways until 3am.  General meetings called at 4am, dragging us out of bed to scream at us and shave heads, etc.

I was 16 when I was sent there; 18 when I left.  I’m 45 yrs old now and my life has never been the same.

I recently started researching Renaissance and found out they’re still open.  I doubt they have teenagers there anymore, but I read that an addict from there killed a security guard and stabbed a nurse in Oct 2010.  When I googled it, I saw it was still the same buildings on the same property.

Because Renaissance is small, and I don’t think there are any chapters outside of NY, I’ve never heard anything about it.  A recent facebook search turned up 2 people I know from there (both of whom were adults), but I’m afraid to contact either of them.

I still think of the other teenagers I was there with, and often wonder what happened to them.

When I left there at 18, I began using heroin.  And spent the next 20 yrs in and out of rehabs, periods of sobriety and college, but eventually relapsing again.  I’m now clean for 7 yrs.  I live and work in NYC and have a seemingly normal life, though the nightmares have never stopped and I live the damage from that place each and every day in ways that just seem normal to me now, after so many years.

If anyone’s ever heard of Renaissance – especially from the early 1980s – I’d appreciate any info you have.  I remember the staff members names, and even have pictures still of most of them.  Rudimentary online searches yield very little info (I already know Felix Varela died some yrs ago)  Gerry Gerace, the ex-director, is still around.  That’s all I’ve been able to find, but I’d like to find out who actually owns the place  - now and back in the 80s.

Any help or info is appreciated.

Thanks.

I went through the house in Ellenville twice. I have no recolection of years. I know he first time Son of Sam was the story of the Summer, and that was 77. Vance Granby was residential director. Staff members Rodney (Papa Doc) Fowlkes, Jeffrey Rubin. I'm not sure if Marty Frano was my 1st or 2nd time. The 2nd time Jerry Gerace was R.D. we had Henry Perez, I'm pretty foggy on my 2nd trip.

I think I got alot from my time in the house. I learned how to deal with my feelings without acting out first. I learned to deal with extreme injustices (2nd time in the house they found a pill in center house, and said it was mine because I was Gi'ing center house. Got a shaved head, sign, spare-parts.

Things were insane in those days. To this day I have nerve damage in my legs from standing in the men's dynamics waiting for inspections (God help you if you leaned back on the wall). The house would get "tight" LOOK OUT you were in for it. Expediters are supposed to have growth right? Two female members of my expediter team ran down the road during a tight house. Things were brutal. I talk mostly about my first trip. The 2nd time things had tamed a little, but not much. Me, I would eat learning experiences for breakfast. The more you threw at me, the stronger I would became. I especially loved getting "shot down" as a high ranking status. I was Shingle, and Cheif Expediter, Guru,Trouble shooter, and a couple of different coordinators. When I got shot down, I would be the most humble thing going. I LOVED the dishpan! My first time, I was good friends with Vance and Rod (staff) we would sit up at night playing spades, and they would have this young lady Phyllis (perm) Thomas go up to the kitchen and cook stuff for us while we played (nice perk). I could tell stories for ever. Like the time my 2nd trip when I got fed up with something and walked down the road. Felix happened to be on the property. He sent somebody out for me. I came back, I was Dept head of the business office at the time. The next day, I was still department head of the business office. I had never before seen someone walk off the property, and get NOTHING! I'm sure Felix reemed some staff member a new a-hole for that one. I could tell stories for days. All in all I cherish both my times in the house. Even with the few ASSHOLES that did me wrong it was still positive, because they are the ones who ultimately taught me how to deal with the injustices you get in this world. I have been working for a major corporation for 25 years now, so I guess I turned out OK. By the way, when  I saw the buildings in the news story about the resident who killed the security gaurd I didnt recognize them at all. We had the Men's dynamics. The woman's dynamics was upstairs in the main house, and the casino where we ate etc. I didnt recognize that big building at all. We never had a security gaurd, just the Night man and Night owl