Brian Sabo, director of Change on Main, a recovery support center in the Borough of Northampton, will be stepping down as director to help open a new recovery center in Bethlehem. Sabo made the announcement publicly during the Northampton Borough Council meeting on Thursday, June 18.
Sabo has served as director of Change on Main since it opened in July 2018. Since then, Sabo and his team of volunteers have not only changed the perception of addiction but have helped feed and support countless Northampton County residents through their work in the community garden, their regular park cleanups, and their numerous public events and support groups.
“When I first started [at Change on Main], one of my missions was to break the stigma of addiction,” Sabo said. “What better thing is there than that?”
In 2018, Sabo attended a Council meeting and asked whether his group of volunteers could help clean up borough parks. It was a request that the Council had not been expecting at the time. But soon, park clean ups became a regular event. The center and its volunteers also began planting and caring for a community garden, with all of the fresh produce going directly to the local food bank. Soon, Change on Main became a highly visible volunteer group in the borough.
“It is not unusual that people call and say ‘What can we do for the borough?’” said Borough Manager LeRoy Brobst. “What is unusual is when they call back a second or a third time and want to do more.”
Some on council admitted that they were wary of the center opening in the borough, but their opinions changed almost immediately.
“We were all thinking ‘What is the County shoving on us?’” said Councilwoman Judy Kutzler. “[But] you gave us such great service.” Kutzler has since become a vocal advocate of the center.
“Thank you for coming to our community,” said Councilman Anthony Lopsonzski, Sr. He too was not “in the affirmative” when the center opened, but he quickly realized just how much value the center and its volunteers brought to the borough, he added. He hopes borough residents have had similar changes of heart.
The center will now be run by the County of Northampton. Sabo will still be an active volunteer there, in addition to his duties in Bethlehem. The county runs four recovery centers, including two in Bethlehem and one in Easton. They all collaborate and work together to help county residents and families affected by substance abuse.
Sabo added that nothing will change as far as Change on Main’s programs and activities. Their popular karaoke nights, Super Bowl parties, and holiday events will still move forward. Even during COVID-19, Sabo was organizing several dozen remote meetings and support groups per week so residents could have the support and community they needed to get through these difficult times.
People who have experienced or are experiencing addiction, said Sabo, should always be seen as “people first.” That was his goal in Northampton, a goal he will carry over into Bethlehem when the new center opens in July.
“We saw it come full circle here,” he said, “I hope it continues in Bethlehem.”
More information about Change on Main, its support groups, and its public events can be found at www.changeonmain.org.