On July 5th the Rotary Club of Dartmouth bestowed a Paul Harris fellowship to Joe Gibson the Executive Director of the Freedom Foundation.   The Paul Harris Fellowship Award is one of the highest honors Rotary can bestow upon a person. Recipients are recognized for their outstanding contributions, exemplifying the highest ideal in Rotary in placing “SERVICE ABOVE SELF.”
Joe Gibson certainly exemplifies our ideals.  Through his work with the Foundation Joe has change the life thousands of men who were in need of help.  He has probably saved more lives than anyone our club has honoured in the past.
Freedom Foundation of Nova Scotia is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping men who are recovering from addiction. Their mission is to provide services which foster recovery from addictions and a development of a positive self-image and self-worth in a secure and caring environment
Originally from Cape Breton, Joe spent several years in Lethbridge, working at Southern Alcare Manor, helping people dealing with addictions.  After nine years in Lethbridge, he got a call from that Talbot House (now Alcare Place) on Robie Street in Halifax needed a manager for its safe house.
After a year, Gibson left Talbot House. He wanted to start another safe house in Dartmouth for men in recovery.  The main reason was that there were many men were leaving detox centres and going back to the same environment....continued....
After securing government assistance and local buy-in the Freedom Foundation opened their doors in 1989 and have since treated thousands of men with addition problems.
There are three phases to program. Most come from self-referrals or detox centres. The men must be clean for a week and have not had any criminal convictions for violent or sexual offences for at least two years.
In Phase one, clients receive a medical checkup and meet with a caseworker.  Phase two is the treatment phase, lasting up to six months. It includes addiction services and self-help meetings such as AA or Narcotics Anonymous. Phase three is an education phase; the men pursue education and employment opportunities and look for affordable, safe housing.
Gibson remembers the holidays in the 1970s when he was drinking and living on the streets. One Christmas Eve he stood on the corner on Spring Garden Road waiting for someone to say hello. No one did. He moved to the door of a church, thinking someone would say hello. No one did. He sat on the steps, waiting for people to come out. Still, no one said hello. He found his own recovery and has been sober since.
“That’s where addiction can take a person,” Gibson says. “I understood there are so many out there who want recovery and just don’t have the opportunity… They aren’t bad people trying to become good people. They are sick people trying to become well.
If you would like to know more about the Freedom Foundation or make a donation visit https://freedomfoundation.ca/.
See more photos below.