The Unity Center in Wheeling, WV is a club where recovering addicts meet. It is owned by Ohio Valley Recovery, Inc. which, “seeks to serve the community of recovering addicted persons by providing a venue that fosters fellowship and supports group meetings of a program-oriented or social nature. We will offer a secure setting for entertainment and recreation, serve as a center for communication of information concerning events in the recovering community and to host various retail enterprises targeted to the recovering community,” according to its Facebook page.
The Unity Center kicked off operations in 2006, and expanded very quickly. In just eight years it has gone from offering zero meetings a week to about twenty, serving more than four hundred Ohio Valley residents. None of this could have happened without a man named Scott Pinter.
About three months after the opening of the Unity Center, Pinter, along with handfuls of volunteers, took an abandoned church and turned it into something that is saving lives.
“My inspiration was to transform a church that was abandoned into something useful and to create a model for recovery from addictions of all kinds. Thus, instead of one day of services a week, it became seven days a week. I made sure food was given out during all holidays to people who couldnt afford it (namely addicts). The longer I stayed, the more involved I became,” Pinter told AATTP.
Through Pinter’s vision, the center expanded even further. In 2007, the center added Rebo’s Coffee Shop (‘Sober’ spelled backwards). Pinter secured donations of tables, chairs, and other furniture, computers, TVs, coffee makers, fish tanks, and other items that make the center a great place for those recovering from addiction.
In 2010, a storage barn was added, and in 2012 a food stand was built in memory of a member who passed away. The Unity Center also features a game room, outdoor stage, coffee shop, food stand, and several meeting rooms which can accommodate dozens to several hundred people.
As the Unity center grew, it became “the” place for local halfway houses and treatment centers to bring their clients.
During his time at the Unity Center, Pinter dedicated over 30,000 hours of unpaid volunteer work helping recovering Ohio Valley residents.
HERE COMES TROUBLE
Ohio Valley Recovery’s first board of directors was almost immediately incapacitated by problems. Pinter served in the capacity of executive director unofficially for about five years, from 2007-2012.
Around 2011, a group of five people led by former board President Susan Oglinsky and her husband Donald Cookman unsuccessfully attempted to have Pinter removed from his position. One former board member who was attempting to remove Pinter, Donald Cookman, has been charged with forgery and embezzlement in matters unrelated to the Unity Center.
Pinter found his lack of religion to be at the center of the reason for the attempts to remove him, alongside unsubstantiated claims on the part of a few people whose interests lie more in religious purity and lining their own pockets than the good of those they served.
In 2012, a new board was elected. Pinter was elected to the board and officially made executive director, but he found himself marginalized without explanation.
Suddenly, despite having built the Unity Center into an amazing refuge for recovery, Scott Pinter found himself fighting for the basics: the renovation of the coffee shop, bringing the building up to code, installing a privacy fence and security cameras to ensure patrons privacy and safety.
The new board consisted of Phil Hammond, Jeff Davis, Valery Staskey-Roeder, Paula Surgent, Dennis Calvert, John Alonso, Rick Davis, and John Turak–every single one of whom were highly religious sorts and did not approve of Scott’s lack of faith. The board viciously opposed every effort and suggestion Pinter made — as if to intentionally cause the center to fail so they could lay the blame at Scott’s feet.
While the OVRI bylaws specifically prohibit board members from receiving compensation for their service on the board, the new leadership found a way to reward one of its members, Hammond, with payment. But there are problems here too. Hammond has no proper ID, no food handlers card, and many questions still remain about his true identity, his past, and his claims in and around the recovery community.
Hammond, was conscripted to run the food stand–and was paid 25% of the money the food stand brought in. Pinter had been doing this work and more and had never received a dime for his efforts. Concerns arose over Hammond’s personal hygiene and Scott removed him from the food stand. But the unethical board quickly restored him to his position as the sole paid employee.
Sparks flew at OVRI board meetings in which the board of directors, impotent and dysfunctional, managed to organize against Scott. An anonymous tipster provided AATTP a recording of a recent OVRI board meeting. In this excerpt Pinter can be heard advocating for a privacy fence to be built. Listen to how the board members react to Pinter, and to the Unity Center’s neighbors.
Under the new board the center’s insurance went unpaid leading to a loss of coverage for the center. Consequently, the organization lost its 501(c)(3) status.
OVRI’s board of directors changed its bylaws to adopt an “Alcoholics Anonymous” approach under the new board–and began to push a faith in God as part of official policy.
There are twenty different meetings from different twelve-step programs weekly but, as a matter of policy, the board converted the Center into a religious organization with the incorporation into the OVRI bylaws of the Twelve steps and traditions from AA.
The twelve steps are:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of
God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the
exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to
make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when
to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong
promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious
contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of
His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we
tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in
all our affairs.
The second tradition officially establishes a religious focus for OVRI: “For our group purpose there is but one authority — a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.”
WHAT HAPPENS NOW
The Board of Directors is dysfunctional, to say the least–bordering on potentially criminal behavior.
Dennis Calvert, the treasurer, “lost” three checks. Two checks in the amount of $500 and one in the amount of $1,000–ended up in the hands of two people–one of them was a known male prostitute, according to Pinter.
Pinter repeatedly attempted to keep things going with a board that has been allowing the Unity Center to spiral out of control but was eventually terminated from his position after having put tens of thousands of hours into it. The trumped-up reason was a dispute over a deep fryer, and the OVRI board accepting a cash loan, straight from the pocket of another board member.
The deep fryer in question was given to Pinter, who planned to allow the Unity Center to use it for events–however, after the board opted to take money from a member rather than secure a loan from the bank to build a display for a local event Scott simply decided to take it home. Pinter did not want his name or his equipment to be associated with such unethical behavior.
Pinter insisted that the board follow proper procedure and obtain money properly from the bank rather than accept cash from a board member’s pocket.
Pinter noticed Phil Hammond attempting to load Scott’s deep fryer onto a truck without his authorization. Hammond threatened to “call the board” if Scott didn’t let Hammond take it. Scott, in an effort to de-escalate the situation, called the police .
After officers arrived and ownership of the deep fryer was determined, Scott was allowed to take his property home. This displeased the board.
In the board meeting that decided Pinter’s termination, this dedicated nonbeliever is told that he is being terminated because of the deep fryer incident and “probably some other reasons.” It was noted in the meeting that the board was upset that Pinter called the police in exactly the situation in which police should be called.
The board, of course, seized on the opportunity to get rid of Pinter:
Immediately following his firing, Pinter began to receive messages of support from those he has served.
“Im sorry about what happened last night and I think it sucks. I wanted to grab you and hug you but I didn’t. I want you to know how much you helped me and so many other people and how much I saw unity change and grow better in the few years I’ve been around. I always have appreciated what you did and do. If you need me for anything, don’t hesitate to ask,” one person told him on Facebook.
“U don’t just facilitate a recovery club. It’s truly a community center. U are the one that gave it that kind of feel. Represents a beacon of hope to families as well.” another person said.
Unfortunately, because of his lack of belief in a flying, bearded faerie and his insistence that the Unity Center be run in a manner that benefits those who are struggling with addiction, the community lost its “beacon of hope.” We support Scott Pinter and suggest that the Unity Center members do whatever it can to get rid of this current board of directors and elect a new board that will put the recovery first. Scott Pinter should immediately be reinstated to his position without condition. More on this story as it develops.