‘Jenna’s House’ looks to be new community safe haven

In June, Greg and Dawn Tatro stood beside Governor Phil Scott as he signed a new bill into law aimed at preventing substance abuse and reducing opioid-related deaths in Vermont.

The Tartros recently founded the nonprofit, Jenna’s Promise. They named the organization after their daughter who died of an overdose in February.

This week the Tatros begin work on a new community center called Jenna’s House. It’s the former St. John the Apostle Church in Johnson.

“It just spoke to us. We had Jenna’s reception here when she passed, and it was just such a healing place. I just feel like it has so much to give,” said Dawn Tatro. She says the old Catholic church is also where they got married and where their daughter was baptized. “It does have the history, and that makes it even more special.”

“Jenna’s life insurance helped pay for this building,” said Greg Tatro.

He says the first step in the transformation is to give the outside of the building a makeover. “The Corrections Department is going to start painting and fixing the stucco on Wednesday. They’re also going to be working on the stairs,” said Greg Tatro.

They also plan to add handicap bathrooms, new floors, enhanced lighting, and a revamped stage. “We think we can have music here. We think we can bring speakers in to talk to people who are suffering from addiction,” he said.

The goal is to put on the first event by September. They envision a safe haven which will offer a plethora of resources. “We’ve had people that want to teach cooking. We have people that want to teach budgeting, gardening, farming, art, meditation, yoga,” said Dawn.

“The church serves as a foundation for everything going forward, we’re still figuring things out, but we know that the church is going to be the centerpiece of Jenna’s Promise and part of a much bigger picture, a much bigger therapeutic community,” said Barry Cohen, the nonprofit’s operations manager.

Jenna’s Promise officials hope another piece of that community will be a future health center on the same property.

“Right now we don’t have a doctor in this town, we don’t have a health center,” said former Lamoille County representative Bernie Juskiewicz.

Right now, Juskiewicz and the Tatros are negotiating with North Central Vermont Recovery Center to change that.

“Once this gets going, we’re going to find out this is going to be a model for other parts of the country on how to develop a program and a facility to take care of people in need,” said Juskiewicz.

The Tatros say they are actively searching for other spaces within Johnson to expand Jenna’s Promise, including property that accommodate recovery housing. ...Read More