From left: Kristy Laschober, Brandon Orr, and Stephanie Mendenhall. Photo provided by Recovery Café Medford.

How Recovery Café Medford used a podcast to reach community through the pandemic

Brandon Orr, Reclaiming Lives/Recovery Café Medford Manager, has that knack for talking. He is straightforward, laughs a lot, and in everything he says, he communicates compassion.

“Brandon is very outspoken and compelling and people like to be around him,” said Executive Director of RC Medford, Stephanie Mendenhall.

                     

From left: Kristy Laschober, Stephanie Mendenhall, and Brandon Orr record an episode of their podcast “Survivors of Addiction.” Photo provided by Recovery Café Medford.

It’s what makes him great as a podcast host, with dynamic co-host Kristy Laschober, Community Resource Director for RC Medford. It’s also why he’s so good at peer support for the café.

Orr and Mendenhall have very different backgrounds. Mendenhall was working in public health for the county when she started opening her home to community members in recovery. That led to her developing the plan to open RC Medford. Orr came into the work after his release from prison and his experience in a mentorship role in transitional housing.

But they have a shared sense of humor and commitment to community that makes them a complementary team in their work to create and sustain a place of respite for the people of Medford, Oregon.

“With two different stories our hearts are just the same,” Orr said about working with Mendenhall.

RC Medford was fairly grounded when the pandemic hit, but the spread of COVID-19 meant the whole team had to figure out how they could meet the community’s needs safely. Like cafés across the Network, the team wanted to make sure they still could reach people who were isolated at home. In the second week of March 2020, when the impact of COVID-19 was just becoming a reality for people across the U.S., Orr and Mendenhall put up their first Facebook Live video, reaching out to members across the Medford area with an update on their cafe’s plan.

As they rolled out live videos regularly, they saw surprising levels of engagement so leaned in, bringing in guests to interview and garnering steady viewership, with more than 50,000 total views.

Always an ambitious team, Mendenhall saw an opportunity to build partnerships with a local studio and get funding from the state health authority to resource a well-produced podcast.

Orr and Laschober discuss a range of themes and concepts that are a refreshing glimpse into the potential for recovery communities: the concepts of abstinence versus recovery, the function of forgiveness, and the power of community in the process of healing.

In a recent episode, “25 to Life — Hope and Redemption,” Orr, Laschober, and Mendenhall sit down with Will Miskell, an RC Medford Member who recently started leading Recovery Circles. Miskell shared his journey from being a child  who joined a gang, to being incarcerated for 18 years, to his release through the clemency process, and finding forgiveness on the outside.

Subscribe to the Survivors of Addiction podcast and let us know if you have questions about ways you can facilitate your own virtual conversations!