Since 1969, the Washtenaw Alano Club (WAC) has fulfilled its mission “to provide a facility and environment conducive to spiritual growth for recovery from addictive behavior” by hosting a variety of 12-step recovery groups and offering social, educational, and recreational activities.
WAC currently serves 1,500 visitors each week over the course of 72 meetings covering eighteen distinct 12-step programs. Among these are: Al-Alanon, ACOA, AlaTeen, Narcotics Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and Artists Recovering Through the Twelve Steps.
History & Founders
WAC was founded in 1969 through the efforts of a group of people in recovery who decided Ann Arbor needed its own Alano Club. WAC is currently one of numerous Clubs nationwide that host regular meetings and other social events for people in recovery. Some of the early community leaders and members who played a role in establishing WAC are: Leo H. Evans, Grace J. Yesley, Allen L. Rendel, Richard Hammerstein, Judge Sandy J. Elden, James H. Fondren, Rev. Robert C. Grigereit, Ronald D. Rinker, Dr. Margaret Clay, Mrs. Robert Harris, James W. Henderson, Dr. Russell F. Smith, Patricia O'Sullivan, Gerald H. Voice, Ed L. Clark, Margaret E. Brooks, Patricia Goulet, Paul Clark, Elaine Ambrose, Barry Kistner, Steve Carr, and Dr. George S. Fischmann.
WAC filed articles of incorporation on October 27, 1969, and first began meeting at an older house on North Main Street. However, this location's cramped quarters and lack of parking weren't ideal and by March 1970, business meetings were being held once a month at the Calvary Methodist Church at 1415 Miller Avenue. On July 1, 1971, the Club drafted its first By-Laws, and on April 6, 1973, WAC was officially granted 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Meanwhile, original charter member, Leo H. Evans, initiated fundraising efforts to find a more suitable meeting space and in September 1975, WAC signed a lease for its first home in the Fourth Avenue Arcade at 212 South Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. They moved in on November 23.
After three years, the reputation of this particular block of Fourth Avenue, which at the time included both liquor stores and adult bookstores, encouraged the group to begin scouting for a new location. For a short period, beginning in August 1978, this location would be an office building at 2500 Packard Rd, Suite 204; then, on November 4, 1980, WAC moved to 2761 South State Street. During the seven years at the State Street location, the Club expanded services to include additional activities and social events such as volleyball and softball teams.
995 North Maple Road
Late in the summer of 1986, WAC was notified its lease would not be renewed and the State Street building would be sold. With only 60 days to vacate, members scrambled to find a new location. At this time, they learned that the Ann Arbor Public School Board was selling property at 995 North Maple Road - the former Fritz School building - which had served as both an elementary school and alternative school within the Ann Arbor Public School system. Although WAC was not the highest bidder for the property, it was granted the bid of $127,500, due in part to members on the School Board who supported the Club’s mission to serve the community. The Ann Arbor City Council also approved a rezoning request to permit WAC to use the building.
WAC now owns the building at 995 North Maple. Set on a large parcel of oak woods with picnic areas, parking, and a rain garden, its interior space consists of meeting rooms, a lounge, and a concession area. Its first major project was to build a parking lot, and a 1992 fundraising drive helped to replace the aging roof. The work of several Board committees has contributed to other improvements to both interior and exterior spaces over the years.
On May 21, 2013, as part of an effort to rebrand the Club and fulfill a strategic plan to attract more members, the Board of Directors revised Club bylaws to cancel the collection of member dues and changed the name of the Club to Maple Rock. But these efforts were not universally embraced and were challenged by some long-time members. In December of 2015, county judge Archie Brown ruled that the Club was indeed a Membership Non-Profit and, in February 2016, authorized an election to choose new Board members. The Club's name also reverted to the Washtenaw Alano Club.
Events & Activities
Over the course of its history, WAC has sponsored numerous events and fundraisers, including monthly dances held at off-site locations such as Saint Francis of Assisi Church on East Stadium Boulevard. Other annual events include picnics, Christmas tree sales, and free holiday meals. Social activities include potlucks, movie nights, games nights, and sports.
Learn More about the Washtenaw Alano Club:
Alano Club Members Inside New Space In The Fourth Avenue Arcade, November 21, 1975 Photographer: Robert Chase
Ann Arbor News, November 21, 1975
"You can't just take the bottle away from an alcoholic and give him nothing else in return, nowhere else to go than a bar, " says Flo St. Onge, at right above. Providing a social meeting place for sober alcoholics has been a seven-year dream for the local Alano Club, and it will come true with a grand opening for the public on Sunday at the Fourth Street Arcade site where St. Onge, Lance Ervin, left, and Jan Connelly were still busy with refurbishing at midweek.
Alano Club Members Meet Inside New Space In The Fourth Avenue Arcade, November 21, 1975 Photographer: Robert Chase
Ann Arbor News, December 8, 1984
Alano Club officers Chet Bradley, Christine and Teresa Murphy update a club membership list.
Teresa Murphy, Manager At The Alano Club, In Front Of Cup Board, April 30, 1995 Photographer: Doug Elliard
Ann Arbor News, April 30, 1995
Coffee is very popular at the Alano Club, and the cup board, shown behind club manager Teresa Murphy, is a place to park the necessary coffee cups when they're not in use.