CCAR 20 Strong
By Paula Figueroa-Vega
Director of Scholarship Programs
The Ammon Foundation

I attended CCAR’s 20-Year Strong celebration on March 7th, 2019 in Cromwell, Connecticut, which included celebrating Phil Valentine’s contribution and work within the organization.  He did an exceptional job of highlighting the successes of the organization giving recognition to a dedicated group of staff and volunteers.  I drove with Sheilah from NJ, slightly over 2 hours, to listen and celebrate. Although I could argue that the ride was too long for a 2-hour event, the message I heard and the energy I felt was worth it.  I think Sheilah would agree.

CCAR stands for the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery. According to its website, “CCAR is a centralized resource in CT for all things recovery. Whether you are contemplating a life in recovery, are new to recovery or are in long term recovery, CCAR is here to help you to navigate the recovery community, by connecting you with others in recovery and providing access to area support services.”  They “envision a world where the power, hope and healing of recovery from alcohol and other drug addiction is thoroughly understood and embraced.”

Having spent a week in Connecticut last December participating in the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© taught by Phil Valentine and Michael Askew, I welcomed the opportunity to celebrate the great work they do.  The event provided me another chance to hear them again and to learn from them. In early 2018, I was introduced to CCAR via The Ammon Foundation.  The Foundation was able to provide scholarships to 5 individuals attending the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy©.  We worked closely with Stacy Charpentier and Chenay Powell on that initiative.

Phil peaked my interest when he relayed the question his Executive Coach asked him after he returned from 8-months of treatment for cancer.

What type of environment do you want to work in?

Phil talked about the philosophy that drives CCAR’s culture where everyone is encouraged to “conduct themselves RIGHT” – which stands for the following values.

ŸRespect    ŸIntegrity  Ÿ Gratitude   ŸHonesty   ŸTransparency

The lady next to me muttered the words as Phil presented, showing a clear understanding and deeply ingrained philosophy.  While Phil was talking, she actually took a Telephone Recovery Support call to offer someone support.

There were numerous messages of gratitude and various examples of how CCAR has been a positive organization that has impacted the lives of so many people that I decided to take notes. I don’t want to keep those notes to myself, so here are some, some taken word for word, some slightly changed due to the nature of note-taking.

  • People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • We need to remain humble in our service.
  • Treat people as the best resource on their own lives.
  • Sow seeds of hope.
  • Build people for leadership.
  • Believe in people.
  • We all stand on the shoulders of those who paved the roads before us.
  • Foster connection, it is vital to recovery. Connection is important to recovery.
  • Our life experience has tremendous power.
  • It’s ok to care deeply … And be deeply cared for

When it came to CCAR’s focus on training, they do so with these cornerstone philosophies in mind.

  • They aim to “enhance one’s ability to care”.
  • They reaffirm the notion “how you care for people is uniquely you”.
  • “We want you to be you!”
  • They want you to “develop your art.”

While there are plenty of scientific pieces of training, they want the people they train to hone in on the caring aspect.

Phil’s presentation also included his take on organizational management.  He emphasized the importance of a flattened organizational chart.  He stated,

“My Executive Director role is to elevate the staff. We work together as a team.I lift them up.I don’t hold them up. The board of director lifts me up. My #1 goal is to create other leaders.”

And after Phil’s acknowledgment of the great work CCAR has accomplished in 20 years, he ended by saying,

“The best is yet to come … continue.”

I was truly inspired. I hope that the nuggets of information I captured will serve me as a reminder of how to continue to live, work and give intentionally.

Paula became the first Director of Scholarship Programs at the Ammon Foundation in January 2018. During her time, she has created the blueprints for the Ammon Recovery Scholars, the Recover Out-Loud Leadership Academy, and the Community Engagement Initiative. She also was instrumental in helping draft the Core Value Partnership Initiative. A native of New Jersey, with Puerto Rican roots, she has served as a counselor, mentor, advisor, and administrator tackling some of the most pressing issues of social justice in the community for over 20 years. Her experience has been primarily in non-profit organizations and higher education. Paula earned her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Rutgers University. Paula loves to write and has been journaling most of her life. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and near her sister and mother; they are the cornerstone of her life.

Phil "Right Click" Valentine

Phil "Right Click" Valentine

In 2015, I finished a thruhike of the entire Appalachian Trail, a trek of 2,189.2 miles. It took 189 days and 6 pairs of boots. During that sacred time, my purpose in life became more precisely defined. I am, simply, to coach recovery. Recovery saved me from an early demise and brought purpose to my tattered life. I have learned that I’m a coach to my very core. I am blessed to put the two together. I started work at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) in January 1999. I became the Executive Director of this recovery community organization in 2004. I have trained the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© dozens of times and have a hand in modifying, improving and adapting various recovery coach curricula. I’m old enough now to start considering my legacy. This is one way for me to share lessons learned in my recovery, in my role as Executive Director and a trainer. When I engage with others, I present the same messages repeatedly. It’s time to write them down.


  • Dina says:

    Beautiful commentary. Thank you.

  • Ruth Riddick, CARC-RCP says:

    Great precis, Paula – thank you for your enthusiasm and energy! It was a fabulous occasion, truly celebratory, an honor to attend. What’s it all about? It’s all about RECOVERY!

  • Efrain E. Mendoza says:

    Thank You Paula- Sorry I couldn’t be there. Its always a pleasure reading inspiration written by you.
    I’m sure Phil appreciated very much you attending and going out your way to celebrate with him.
    You make me very proud of being Puerto Rican, hope to maybe see you around at some other event,
    Stay in touch.+

    Warm Regards: Efrain E. Mendoza RCP

  • Marcie Chase says:

    I love the comments So transparent and written with zeal to share information.Phil should be proud

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