20 Mar 2012
- Written by Diana L. Chapman
MY TURN - Bob Ahl, who encouraged recovering drug and alcohol addicts to understand there is still a good life after becoming sober, stepped down from San Pedro's Alano Club last month after serving as general manager there for four years.
To prove life can be fun after becoming sober, Ahl often focused the non-profit to bring in bands and host drug and alcohol free parties at the facility on Pacific Avenue as well as networking frequently with community leaders.
"I wanted the club to be part of the community and to partner with other organizations," Ahl said. "Four years ago, few knew what the San Pedro Alano Club was. Now, people know who we are."
Since 1984, the club, which has always struggled financially, has offered recovering addicts twelve step meetings, concerts, comedy shows, Bingo and a place to safely share issues. It also remains open 365 days a year from 6 a.m. to 10 pm., according to its site.
Ahl said he was planning to leave, but departed earlier in February when it became more clear that some board members had a different philosophy how the club should be run. For instance, he believed the club should hone in on teens and young adults and designed a program called Kids Against Drugs and Violence after he noticed an upward trend in addictions among youth.
Some board members, however, wanted Alano to focus the organization more toward family. Ahl was replaced by club member Bill Osborn.
Alano president and board chair Jacqueline Klassy said she was impressed with Ahl's vision to make the club reach out and build relationships with the entire community, from police to schools.
"Bob Ahl is the most sincere, loyal, kind and remarkable man that I know," she said. "I worked with him for the past four years . In these years, I saw him to be a very hard working person. He would throw on huge events and most of the time did not have a lot of help. So most of the work just fell on him and he would do a bang up job."
Rex Heuschkel, the vice president of the club's board, said he liked Ahl's vision, but the club wasn't always capable of tapping those due to finances.
"The strength of Bob was his vision," Heuschkel said. "He came in with almost a dream world of making this, the Alano Club, the focus for kids. I really liked it. It was different."
But financially, he said, the club wasn't able to pull it off.
Despite his departure, Ahl, said he believes he steered the board in the right direction and was proud of what he'd achieved during his tenure. He asked for help -- and often received it.
Newly elected Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino said he was surprised that Ahl had left. Ahl had honored the former Los Angeles senior lead officer for his work with teens before he was elected.
"Bob exemplifies the fact that addiction does not have any zip codes," Buscaino said. "He helped many people in this community and he's absolutely right: There is life after overcoming addiction."
LAPD Deputy Chief Pat Gannon, who agreed to give extra patrols to the Alano Club when hosting teen parties, said Ahl's ability to network with the community was "healthy" and added that Ahl was a great asset for the club.
"I know that the club plays an important role in the recovery of people that once had substance abuse problems," Gannon said. " I also believe that it is very easy to isolate the members of a club like this. It is important that both the members and the community interact. It is healthy for everyone.
"Having the police department involved in activities with Alano Club also breaks down stereotypes on both sides."
Ahl said he will seek out another post.
Vol 10 Issue 24
Pub. March 20, 2012