Wolfe Street's History
What happened to the old Wolfe Street building?
So many people had life-changing experiences at "the old Wolfe Street" that they inevitably ask - what happened to the old two-story building where we used to meet? After long, faithful service as the headquarters for the recovery community in Arkansas, the old Wolfe Street Center was demolished along with the rest of the block to make room for the growing Arkansas Children's Hospital campus.
Today, the Clark Center for Safe and Healthy Children occupies the "old block" - but you can still see pieces of old Wolfe Street history around our current facility! Next time you're visiting, see if you can spot some of the things we just couldn't let go.
Furniture and fixtures, by the way, aren't the only "Wolfe Street relics" hanging around! You'll find many people meeting and volunteering at the Wolfe Street Foundation remember the "old days" - and we are endlessly blessed by their presence, fellowship, and wisdom.
Finding New Lives in an Old Funeral Home
The Wolfe Street Foundation was founded in 1982 to provide meeting space and resources for AA, Al-Anon, and Ala-Teen meetings. Ironically enough, the first building to house the Wolfe Street Foundation - at 1215 Wolfe Street - was the old Reubel Funeral Home. Dr. Joe Martindale and Karen Keller, both working with Central Baptist Hospital's Recover program, saw that "the building seemed to be there waiting" for new life and new purpose.
After having served as housing for student nurses, the building had fallen into disrepair. But when Keller and Martindale connected with recovery legend Joe McQuany and Little Rock businessman Gene Walter, the work began! McQuany, Walter, and another Little Rock businessman formed the Wolfe Street Foundation, and in January of 1983, Central Baptist Hospital handed over the keys. That's when people started finding new lives at the old funeral home!
"The place was overrun with people," said Margaret Barros, the Foundation Board's first secretary-treasurer. "We were bumping into each other, washing walls, hanging paper, making signs, scrubbing windows, painting yellow stripes on the parking lot. It was blood, sweat, and tears - and a lot of fellowship." People in recovery came out of the woodwork to donate their time and professional services to make the Wolfe Street Foundation a reality.
Joe McQuany - who operated the Serenity House, developed Recovery Dynamics, and had become known the world over through the Joe and Charlie tapes - moved his regular educational workshops to the Wolfe Street Center. The AA Central Office, a separate non-governing coordinating body that serves AA throughout the state, moved in to Wolfe Street offices. And hundreds and hundreds of people gathered on an almost daily basis to find fellowship in recovery and new lives through Twelve Step programs.
The community that built itself up around the Wolfe Street Center grew so large that the old funeral home was soon bursting at the seams.
Making the Move to a New Facility
The Wolfe Street Center at 1210 Wolfe Street served the Foundation for almost 30 years! By 2011, our community's needs required more space. The Wolfe Street Foundation cut the ribbon on our new facility in November of 2011. In a Wolfe Street tradition, we brought new life and purpose to the old administrative offices of Heifer International. The current facility, with 12,000 square feet of space and capacity for hundreds of meeting attendees at a time, the new building is more than twice the size of the old Wolfe Street.
Throughout the building, Wolfe Street's history is on display - from artwork and photos on the walls to memorial pews from the old facility. Beside the building, a Serenity Garden pays homage to our origins in a nod to Joe McQuany and his Serenity House. As the years went on, more groups started meeting at the new Wolfe Street Center - more Twelve Step Traditions, faith-based recovery groups, and community-based recovery groups started holding their meetings under our roof. To this day, meeting attendance at the Wolfe Street Center surpasses 15,000 every year.
Our mission has always been - and will always be - to help people find recovery. But we recognize that this work is too big for any one person or organization to tackle alone.
Together with our partners and long-time community members, we are facing the future with determination to help people survive and recover from substance use disorder.
Expanding Programs to Meet an Exploding Need
Today, the Wolfe Street Foundation continues to host dozens of recovery support group meetings every single week. Twelve Step Traditions - like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Medication-Assisted Recovery Anonymous, Codependents Anonymous, Al-Anon, and more - are joined by faith- and community-based recovery support groups representing multiple pathways to recovery and multiple recovery needs. The Wolfe Street Foundation continues to help those struggling with addiction and their families - especially those addicted to alcohol and other substances.
As our community's needs continue to evolve, we have expanded our programming to directly address growing occurrences of addiction to opioids and the deadly effect of fentanyl and other highly addictive synthetic additives. The Wolfe Street Foundation now offers one-to-one peer recovery support services. Through the help of certified peer specialists who share lived experience in addiction and recovery, we are helping people find their own pathways. The Wolfe Street Foundation remains committed to meeting the changing needs of our community, bringing lessons from our long history with open hands and open hearts.
The Wolfe Street Foundation is Arkansas's oldest and largest nonprofit recovery resource - and, now, we are Arkansas's first Recovery Community Organization. Through group support, one-to-one peer recovery support services, community recovery resources, education, and advocacy, we are leading the way with our partners across Arkansas.
About Our Founders
As you've read, thousands of people came together to make the Wolfe Street Foundation a reality. Central Baptist Hospital was helped along in its decision-making to allow us to use the original Wolfe Street Center by Karen Keller. Little Rock businessman Gene Walter and others helped to fund and found the Wolfe Street Foundation. Countless others came together to renovate the building - and countless more have contributed meaningfully to the recovery work that happens here at Wolfe Street every day.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to this community of recovery, and we owe a special debt of gratitude to Joe McQuany and Dr. Joe Martindale. McQuany dedicated his life to helping others find peace and a joyful life through sobriety. He founded Serenity House, now Serenity Park, and developed the Recovery Dynamics curriculum. He founded the Kelly Foundation to make Recovery Dynamics available to other organizations, and he frequently taught, spoke, and attended meetings at the Wolfe Street Center throughout the years. Joe McQuany passed away Thursday, October 25, 2007, at the age of 72, after a life of tremendous impact.
Dr. Joe Martindale practiced medicine for more than 60 years. He led and attended meetings regularly at the Wolfe Street Center after helping form a partnership between the Central Baptist Hospital's Recover program and the nascent Wolfe Street Foundation. Dr. Joe was a kind-hearted physician who sought to help the next alcoholic - and his legacy continues in our work at the modern Wolfe Street Foundation. Dr. Joe died December 11, 2019, at the age of 88.
If you have stories or memories about Wolfe Street's history and impact or about our founders and founding, we'd love to hear them!