Interview: Jane Halbert & Pat Purvis
Benicia’s Adobe Program
Jane Halbert & Pat Purvis
With a year of tough transitions behind them, the leaders of Adobe are reshaping the organization’s future.
“It feels like we’ve been moving for a year and a half. We’re still trying to get our sea legs,” says Assistant Director Jane Halbert. “We’re trying to get settled in our new surroundings and look at what assistance we can do. It all depends on the economy.”
After decades of providing jobs and housing for men in recovery, Adobe sold its two houses in 2013 to pay off debts on the properties. At its peak, Adobe housed about 25 men at a time in its main and transitional living houses. The men worked at the agency’s thrift store on First Street, did handyman jobs and volunteered with countless local groups. In 1992, Adobe was recognized as the 829th daily Point of Light for its commitment to community service while being self-supporting.
Although the residential program is no longer in operation, Adobe’s thrift store remains open and the group continues to do set-up and clean-up work for Main Street events.
“We would be lost without them. They are so reliable,” says Nancy Martinez, executive director of Benicia Main Street. “We’ve been working with them since 1989. Anytime we have events, we call on them. The 3rd and 4th of July, Farmers Market, Waterfront Festival, chili cook-off, Christmas parade—everything. They are pretty darn amazing.”
Funds continue to benefit those in recovery, say Jane and Executive Director Pat Purvis.
“Adobe will continue to be—although in a very different way—about newcomers who come in, graduate and come back and help newcomers,” Jane says.
The couple have weathered other major changes in Adobe over the years, including the 1989 death of organization founder Kevin McCall. Pat, 60, and Jane, 63, took over leadership when Kevin passed and have devoted their lives to serving men in recovery since then.
When did you join Adobe?
Pat: We both came to group in 1987. I was an alcoholic prior to becoming part of Adobe. I came in on my birthday. It was a 90-day program then. Coming to Adobe gave my life meaning. It made sense. I kept staying around—Kevin kept asking if I was ready to move on and I said no.
Jane: I worked for financial institutions, working on second deeds and things like that. ... We were involved in different community projects with Adobe when Kevin McCall was here and that’s how I became involved. It just evolved from there. It was a natural progression. … We decided to make a life instead of making a living.
How is Adobe helping men in recovery now?
Jane: We can offer assistance to guys in recovery who have had set backs—lost their job or have fewer hours or their car breaks down. We sure bought a lot of gas last year (laughing). …
It depends on what they need. We might help five guys with $20 each for gas, or help one guy with $1,500 to get his car back on the road.
Do you provide ongoing help to some?
Jane: We have some who do warrant some ongoing assistance for a while. For others, it’s just sort of a one-time shot. It’s just that one little teeny boost and they can say, “Oh boy, I made it.”
How did you cope with the big change of selling the houses?
Jane: You go through a grieving process like a death. As long as you’re not in denial, then the process will happen in a fairly good fashion. One of the best ways to work on that process is to realize what’s going to happen and think about what you can do about that.
We began immediately talking about what we could do instead of spending lots and lots of emotional energy on what we couldn’t do. For me, part of the way to cope is realizing this was going on all around us.
For heaven sakes, what happened to us is so minimal compared to what’s happened to so many people. There are tragedies that have been happening to people all over and they’ve been happening since 2008. You just don’t feel sorry for yourself when you get out of it without too much damage. Look at other organizations that can’t make their payments. We didn’t want to be in that position. It was other people’s money. Lucky us that we got to sell these (houses) and pay everyone back.
Pat: The reality is that people cost money and we wanted to be sure that we could take care of people who were in recovery at Adobe. We saw the economy slide, and you still want to stave that off and keep things going and keep a stiff upper lip and hopefully things can turn around for you.
We were concerned about maintaining the house and nobody was there. It was like a monument down there. The time had come when that type of facility was no longer needed to do what we needed to do.
Jane: That was a hard decision. It may seem like the sale of houses was abrupt to an outside observer, but it’s always been like a process to us. You are always looking at the numbers and you realize certain things are going to happen. But we don’t feel bad about what happened because we had that money to spend on services for the men.
What will Adobe programs look like in a year? Five years?
Jane: I would hope the economy will allow us to provide more assistance and do more community service work. I would hope that. I really do. I’m just not willing to be whiney. We’ve downsized to a pea pod but we are still able to provide services and help some guys. I think we are very fortunate. We sold the houses and we’re First Street people now.
What do you do to relax?
Pat: I have all these golf clubs to look at.
Jane: I’m trying to figure out if we like relaxing. We like to have a little movie night on Saturday night.