FORT WALTON BEACH — Beyond the doors of 52 Beal Parkway N.W. are 45 years of hope and healing.
The unassuming building is home to the Alano Club, a nonprofit organization designated to providing a "safe and supportive meeting place" for people in alcohol and addiction recovery, according to its website.
With the building going up for sale, the club must either buy the building at an asking price of $190,000 or relocate. Board members aren't so worried about relocating the meetings, but the longtime history of the clubhouse known simply as "52 Beal" will be hard to replace.
"What's important is knowing the building will be available long after us," said Ken, one of the Alano Club board members. "It's been a safe haven for the last 40-plus years. We're looking to protect it not just for the immediate future, but beyond."
The Alano Club is separate from Alcoholics Anonymous and the other 12-step programs that meet at 52 Beal. The club, which has locations across the United States, hosts regular meetings for AA, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and other recovery groups.
Inside are a stand full of pamphlets and white boards wishing a "Happy Birthday" to members. A poster of the AA 12 steps hangs on one of the walls. The room smells like freshly brewed coffee.
There is no cost to visit a meeting, but the organization collects donations to cover expenses.
"It's literally dollars in baskets," said Joe P., another Alano Club board member.
According to the Okaloosa County Property Appraiser's website, 52 Beal Parkway N.W. is owned by a Gary Lee. Mike, the Alano Club's board president, said the Lee family has been very gracious to the club by renting the building on a month-to-month basis for less than $300. Mike said they were given notice a few months ago that the property was going up for sale.
"He's been very generous and offered very low rent," he said. "But now he's liquidating assets."
The Alano Club is looking to raise the $190,00 plus another $60,000 to improve the building, which was built in 1956, and set aside reserve funds. So far the club has raised more than $13,000. Mike said the club has 10 months to raise the money. If it misses the deadline, any money raised will be used to buy another building.
After more than four decades, 52 Beal has become known as the hub for recovery meetings. And for people in recovery, it's comforting to know that the meetings have stayed in the same space.
"It's like your favorite chair," Joe P. said. "A lot of special things happened here. There's a lot of fear when people walk through that door for the first time. This is a good, central location."
Vacationers in Fort Walton Beach even consider the space a home away from home, said Mike. "Tourists, snowbirds ... they know 52 Beal," he said.
Joe F. has been going to meetings at the clubhouse since 1977. He said the building is a landmark to him. No matter if members are court-ordered there or stop in out of curiosity, many walk out of meetings a different person.
"It was home base," he said. "I was here because I didn't trust myself any place else. It gave value to my life other than drugs and alcohol."
The recovery meetings were the basis of his social time. He also went to Halloween, Christmas and New Year's Eve parties. If the meetings move, Joe F. will move with them, but "it wouldn't be the same." he said.
"We've been here long enough. People know this place."