Women’s History Month: Celebrating Café Leaders

by Michael Schut, Communications Manager

March is Women’s History Month. We talked with four women from across the Network, and asked them to share a bit of their story and to talk about women who have inspired their lives and work.

Thank you to Becky, Kristina, Sade, and Diana for sharing your stories with us. Just like the women who have inspired you, your gifts and presence and generosity inspire all of us.

Becky Gonzales serves as Operations Manager at Recovery Café Clark County (Vancouver, Washington). Becky’s father and husband both struggled with substance use disorders; she recalls a gathering where her two-year-old son was accidentally passed a pipe. Seeing that, she said, “That’s it. We’re not passing this on to the next generation.”

That moment inspired Becky to get involved with the recovery movement. She has been with the Recovery Café in Clark County since it began in 2018. Starting as their cook, Becky now manages operations. The love and connections she experiences in the Café inspire her every day. She sees how the Recovery Café Model supports Members in rediscovering the gifts and inherent worth within them.

Left to right: mother-in-law Barb; Becky Gonzales; mother Dorothy; niece Ashley; daughter Moriah

When asked about women from history that have inspired her, Becky looks close to home, to her mother, mother-in-law, and daughter. From her mother she learned how to love her own family. Her mother-in-law taught her how to use her voice, to not give up, and to know that change can and does happen. And she draws on her daughter’s peaceful presence daily as she seeks to listen deeply to all those she encounters.

Kristina Garcia serves as Recovery Café Longmont’s (Colorado) Bilingual Peer Support Specialist. She is a gifted storyteller and easily connects to others.

Kristina first learned about the Café from a poster she saw while sitting under the tree where she sometimes went to drink. Not long after, while in the county jail, Kristina read a feature about the Café in the local paper. When she got out, she decided to visit—but left quickly. She wasn’t sure she belonged in a place where people were so kind to her.

Kristina Garcia of Recovery Café Longmont

As Kristina gained stability, housing, and a job, she began to spend more time at the Café, building connections in community. She didn’t really realize that that’s what she needed, didn’t at first recognize the healing happening inside of her, but her body and soul seemed to know what she needed before her mind did.

When asked about women from history that have inspired her, Kristina got a little teary. She highlighted the women she works with on staff at the Café, and then picked up a book titled The Ladies of Seneca Falls: The Birth of the Women’s Rights Movement which examines each of the movement’s founders—Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and others.

Kristina read that book in March of 2020, while in jail. Four years later she is serving her community through her work at the Recovery Café; her job recently had her joining with other Latina and Latino advocates at Colorado’s capitol—which reminded her of the advocacy work of those early leaders of the women’s rights movement.

Sade Carrasquillo’s perseverance, determination, and grit are as evident as her care and compassion. The root of her passion for social justice is her biracial—mixed black and white—ethnicity. She experienced racism from both sides, and remembers being told in second grade to choose one or the other; she picked both in protest!

Coming out of addiction, trauma, and incarceration, Sade founded For the Love of the Arts in 2015 to help youth develop life skills. Later, in 2023, Sade felt called to launch SHINE Recovery Café after hearing about the model while working on a harm reduction street outreach team and visiting Liberty House Recovery Café (also located in Lake County, Indiana).

The Recovery Café Model resonates with Sade’s belief that we all carry love at our core and that there are many diverse pathways to recovery. She also loves to feed people!

Sade, left, and her grandma, Mabel Sullivan, as a World War II navy nurse

When asked about women from history that have inspired her, Sade lovingly and respectfully speaks of her grandma, Mabel Sullivan, who lived to 97. Mabel was an orphan, served as a navy nurse in World War II, and was a single mother of seven children. She never gave up and always sided with the marginalized.

Sade credits her faith in God as the one thing that changed her life and keeps her going in the tough moments.

Diana Teel’s enthusiasm and energy are infectious—even as she carries the loss of her son, Ray, to an overdose four years ago. She shares both her tears and her laughter, and we are all the better for it.

Diana, a registered nurse, is one of the cofounders of the recently established Ray of Light Recovery Café in Haverhill, Massachusetts. (She is working closely with those at Recovery Café Lowell, a sister Café just 30 minutes south.)

Diana Teel with her son, Ray

Twenty-three years sober, Diana discovered the Recovery Café Network while researching a paper on recovery and the opioid crisis. “Community is what people need,” she says. She especially appreciates that the Recovery Café Model welcomes people where they are, loves those who are so often not, and helps bring dignity back into people’s lives.

When asked about women from history that have inspired her, Diana points to Mother Teresa, who found joy in helping others and did not prioritize the pursuit of material things. Diana, though she sometimes feels uncomfortable raising funds or being a face of recovery in her community, continues to be buoyed by her son’s life, her own faith and journey, and Mother Teresa’s example.