A few years ago, when Woodstock’s Material Things started selling glass pendants and other items dedicated to addiction recovery efforts, owner Ken West had no idea the kind of impact it would have on his customers.
“We didn’t really know how it was going to go over,” West said. “… The stories were just amazing. There were all kinds.”
Some customers were simply impressed with the pretty designs, West said. But countless others, recognizing an opportunity to open up, told shop employees of their own struggles with drugs or alcohol, or explained how they were impacted by a loved one’s addiction.
For about three years, Material Things, 103 E. Van Buren St., has run a program called Recovery Glass. The collection includes glass art produced by Material Things employees, as well as by people who are recovering from addictions to drugs or alcohol. In that time, West said, the store has used proceeds from the sale of Recovery Glass art to raise about $3,000 to $4,000 for New Directions Addiction Recovery Services, a Crystal Lake-based nonprofit which helps people recovering from substance abuse. The organization operates a sober living house in Crystal Lake and also runs The Other Side, a sober bar where people in recovery can hang out.
Now, Material Things is launching a new Recovery Glass collection of jewelry pendants featuring encouraging sayings inspired by the recovery movement. About 60 percent of the $24 price for each pendant will go to NDARS, West said.
“Everything I try to do, if I have an opportunity to help others, I do it,” West said.
August Potje works at Material Things. Like West, he doesn’t have any direct experience with addiction, but he’s seen the toll substance abuse has taken on the community. Deadly drug overdoses have spiked throughout the county in recent years, according to the McHenry County Coroner’s Office, rising from 21 in 2011 to 56 in 2016. Opioids accounted for 46 of those deaths last year.
“It’s a problem everywhere in McHenry County,” Potje said.
For now, the colorful Recovery Glass pendants on sale at Material Things were made by West and Potje. But people from from NDARS are due to contribute to the project, and West hopes to get local youth organizations involved, too. West said he hasn’t set a firm fundraising goal, but he hopes to raise enough to make a difference.
“Addiction isn’t a result of only people with difficult financial situations, or necessarily from homes that are lesser functioning,” West said. “It cuts across all of society.”