GREENFIELD — As Chantil Herring suffered through years of an abusive relationship, her son, Eric Cisneros, grew up as a witness.
What he saw weighed on his young mind, Herring said. Even years later, when they found themselves in a better situation, Cisneros seemed to have an “I don’t care” attitude when it came to just about everything, Herring said. He wasn’t happy, had a hard time expressing himself and never seemed to be passionate about anything.
All children that come into The Landing carry with them tales like Cisneros’ — tales creators of the teen safe haven address with support and programming aimed at getting them back on track. Many of the clients have been bullied, judged and mistreated by themselves and others. And they have struggled more in their short lives than people give them credit for, said Linda Ostewig.
As director of the program, Ostewig knows the story behind each student who comes into the center. She counsels them in times of need, helps them maneuver paths to recovery and she meets them right where they are, no matter how downtrodden that might be, she said.
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The Landing, a teen recovery center in Greenfield, opened nearly two years ago and has been growing steadily ever since. Ten students showed up at the first meeting in October 2013, Ostewig said. The place now welcomes an average of 50 teens each week.
Making a move
Earlier this year, the group moved into a larger building, leaving behind a little coffee shop in the shadow of the Hancock County Courthouse for a remodeled facility at 18 South St. With the new building came an extended lineup of programs for the teens, and Ostewig said she is nearing the number of adult volunteers needed to expand the center’s former once weekly schedule to three nights of programming per week.
For the parents of children who utilize the facility, the expansion solidifies The Landing as a resource for all of Hancock County, a place where anyone facing hardship can come to feel safe, organizers said.
Herring has seen a complete change in Cisneros since he started visiting the center a year ago. He goes to The Landing to be with friends and to seek guidance, and he is finally living with hope, Herring said.
“He’s not that shy little kid with a broken heart anymore,” Herring said.
The Landing is a yearlong, group-based recovery program trademarked by Celebrate Recovery, an adult, faith-based addiction course utilized in thousands of churches across the world, according to its website. The Landing came to Greenfield in 2013 as a branch of the county’s Life Choices Care Center.
The center’s leaders began renting and remodeling an old print shop in the city in February. The move more than doubled the center’s space and allowed organizers and volunteers to expand The Landing’s offerings to teens, keeping them safe and out of trouble.
Wednesday nights at The Landing feature an open-mic night, dinner, small-group counseling sessions and guest speakers. Recently, volunteers added an art night on Mondays and a Tuesday night meeting for parents of teens and young adults struggling with addiction.
Teens can come to The Landing on art nights to draw, paint and sculpt as a way to healing, to put onto paper what they can’t put into words, Ostewig said. For parents who have utilized the group sessions on Tuesdays, the center becomes a support group where they can share stories and tips and seek help for their children.
When Life Choices first started The Landing, the goal was to provide outreach and mentoring to local teens ages 13 to 18 who were struggling with poor decision-making, said Dr. John Hunt, chairman of the organization’s board of directors. By tailoring The Landing’s teachings to the younger audience and making the 12-step recovery program relatable to young people, the organization was able to create a place to teach teens to better understand the ramifications of their actions and seek help in times when those consequences became too overwhelming.
Hunt bought the building and opened The Harbour, the former coffee and ice cream shop east of the courthouse that doubled as The Landing’s first home.
The Landing started with a weekly Wednesday meeting and about a dozen students. As the groups grew, students were soon cramped, standing shoulder to shoulder.
Students were forced to share one room during the counseling and 12-step lessons, which in large groups made for a less intimate session where teens could feel comfortable, Hunt said.
The new space gave each age group the opportunity to have its own, private room.
‘Be who they really are’
The new facility and its new programs were all made possible by a growing number of volunteers, many of whom come to The Landing once, saw the support it provides the county’s teens and wanted to do more to help that effort, Ostewig said.
Pat Norton came to The Landing hoping he could influence young people to take control of their addictions before it’s too late.
Norton is a paramedic in Indianapolis. Too many times, he said, he’s seen people lose their lives to drugs or poor decision-making. In the year since he started helping out at The Landing, he said he’s seem the center change dozens of teens’ lives. That’s exactly what he was hoping to help do.
“I’m the guy that has to pronounce people dead, and I was doing that too often,” he said. “I wanted to come here and see what I could do on the other side, to prevent that from happening.”
People often assume the teens at the Landing are there because they are delinquents, but that isn’t the case, Ostewig said. Instead, the Landing is a place for the misplaced, she said, somewhere for young people who feel like they don’t belong to come and have a chance at a healthy childhood.
At the Landing, stereotypes melt away, Ostewig said.
“And then they get to be who they really are. And that’s freeing.”
“You can’t get well without relationships and community (support); that’s what we do here at The Landing,”
Linda Ostewig, director of The Landing