Jessica Mathews /

An upcoming gala will benefit a local non-profit that’s celebrating five years in providing support and transitional housing for women struggling with substance abuse.

The Amber Reineck House, a local non-profit, is hosting its 5th annual fundraising gala this weekend and celebrating its five-year anniversary.

President Courtney Atsalakis of Pinckney began the organization in memory of her sister Amber Reineck (pictured), who died of fentanyl poisoning on Christmas Eve in December of 2015 at the age of 33.

Their mother, Becky Mayo, says following the traumatic event, Courtney got educated on recovery in communities and realized there was no supportive sober living home for women in Livingston County. She says they established the home for women for the next steps in their recovery to have a supportive environment following treatment. They partnered with Home of New Vision in Ann Arbor on the venture, which has been around for more than 30 years and brings expertise in mental health, addiction, substance use disorder, and alcoholism. Mayo says The Amber Reineck House provides the home and support system, while New Vision does the assessment and in-take to make sure women are ready to move to that next step.

The house in Howell opened in September of 2020 and since then has helped a lot of women. There’s a capacity for six women and there are typically 5 to 6 women living in the house. Mayo says length of stays vary, up to two years. She says they have women who have been sober for over a year now and some 6 months-plus. Mayo said others have the best intentions but the disease is a hard demon to fight and they might leave after a few days. However; she says the way they look at it is any day that they are at the home is time they are off the streets and not using.

The non-profit also focuses on awareness and education efforts, as well as stigma reduction. Mayo emphasized that they’ve had great support from the community, which is what is important for women in recovery, but there’s also a need for more sober-friendly, social activities for people.

Mayo noted that opioid-related deaths have increased while COVID caused an increase in isolation, drug and alcohol addictions, depression, and mental health issues.

Mayo stressed the journey is hard and those struggling need a supportive community, which helps with their self-esteem and a sense of belonging. She said that’s why a big part of their mission is to educate and try to the reduce stigma associated with substance use disorder because there is no stereotype person that that can be afflicted with the disease.

Mayo said part of that stigma prohibits some people from reaching out to get help or admitting they have a problem. She says they want to erode that perception and let people know its ok to have a disease and be supported, while educating others that it is a disease. Mayo said addiction doesn’t discriminate and affects people of all backgrounds, income and education levels – not what people typically might think.

Mayo said a big thank you is owed to the community and everyone who has reached out help – adding “it means so much to their organization, to the legacy of my daughter, and the women who live in the house feel it”.

Saturday’s event will take place from 5:30 to 11pm at Crystal Gardens Banquet Center in Genoa Township.

After a two-year hiatus due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the gala is returning. Supporters have an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the organization and learn about future Amber Reineck House initiatives. Tickets are still available.

The event will feature dinner, a night of entertainment with live music by The Sanctuary Band, chances to win one of 40+ themed raffle baskets, and a chance at winning cash prizes. Guests will also hear moving testimonies and inspiring words from community members.

Atsalakis said “we can’t believe it’s been five years already since the Amber Reineck House vision became a reality. The support of the community has been the catalyst for our success and the gala is a night for us to come together to celebrate where we’ve been and build excitement around where we’re going.”

More information about the gala is available in the link and attachment. The full interview with Mayo was featured on WHMI’s Viewpoint Program on Sunday and can be accessed the podcast section of our website.