Renovations continue at the former St. John’s Catholic church in Johnson, as a largely volunteer group turns it into a substance abuse recovery center called Jenna’s House.
The center is named after Jenna Tatro, a Johnson woman who died in February from an overdose of fentanyl, following years struggling with opioid addiction.
Her parents, Greg and Dawn Tatro, set up an organization, Jenna’s Promise, to carry out their daughter’s stated wishes to help other people beat substance addiction.
This Saturday is going to be tough on the family. Jenna would have turned 27 on Aug. 3.
“We thought about doing some kind of a gathering here to clean and touch up everything. I don't know if we can really do it this Saturday,” Greg said. “It’d be a little too much for me.”
Greg, sitting in the church Monday, said he hopes Act 250 review will be wrapped up by the end of August and the center can start offering services in early autumn.
There are plans to hold recovery classes and counseling sessions in the downstairs level, and host larger events like dinners and guest speakers on the main floor, in what used to be the nave.
Tatro said Jenna’s House has decided not to offer sober living housing at the church, which had been considered early on.
“There will be just too much going on to also do that,” Tatro said.
He and his family have been overwhelmed by community support, people lending help at no charge.
That includes Sam Ruggiano, a St. Albans civil engineer who has been working on the project’s Act 250 permit.
Others who have volunteered time and money include:
• Tara MacAskill, a Williston lawyer who worked on transferring the church to the Tatros, and who paid the transfer fees out of her own pocket.
• Marty Cota, a web designer who maintains the Jenna’s Promise website, jennaspromise.org.
• Silver Ridge Design is making wheelchair-accessible additions.
• Local contractor Rich Whittemore is handling all the plumbing.
And a work crew from the Department of Corrections is tackling the exterior walls of the church, grinding down the old stucco and sprucing it up.
“All we’ve got to do is buy supplies,” Tatro said.
In addition to all the in-kind help, Jenna’s Promise has received $60,000 in donations from all over the place.
For more information: jennaspromise.org.