Attorney helps farm residents on their road to recovery

 by Sheila Pursglove

Legal News
In 22 years as a police officer with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department, Jim Fink saw lives ruined through drinking, domestic violence, drug addiction, and more.
He’s also seen rescue and redemption.
One major force in changing lives is Dawn Farm in Ypsilanti, a residential facility helping addicts and alcoholics achieve long term recovery and rejoin the community.
In 1973, a small program got underway in a rented farm, borrowing ideas from Alcoholics Anonymous and a Quebec residential program. From that little acorn grew the mighty oak Dawn Farm is today. A not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, its accredited programs include Residential Treatment, Sub-Acute Detoxification, Out-
patient Services, Transitional Housing, Street Outreach, Jail Outreach, Women’s Transi-
tional, and Daybreak Adolescent. Dawn Farm also provides regular seminars at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, to help parents and family members.
The organization treats all addictions – alcohol, cocaine, heroin, crystal methamphetamine, prescription drugs and marijuana. It often provides hope for young addicts and alcoholics who are ready to get help, and meets the needs of more than 2,000 addicts and alcoholics each year.
Fink, an attorney with Fink & Valvo in Ann Arbor, has been involved with Dawn Farm since 1997. While still working at the Sheriff’s Department, he was asked by its president, Jim Balmer, to join the board.
“I was familiar with the work of the Farm because of ... knowing addicts and alcoholics who credited the Farm with their sobriety,” says Fink, who has served as chairman of the board since 2008. “No one is turned away for lack of resources. While treatment is expensive and we do everything we can to control the cost, the board and staff are committed to reserving space for individuals who simply cannot afford to pay.”
Fink received a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Eastern Michigan University, where he worked at the EMU Police Department. He earned his law degree from the Detroit College of Law in 1987, studying while he rose up through the ranks of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department, where he worked for almost 22 years. He specializes in real estate, landlord-tenant, small businesses and local government.
Dawn Farm is client-centered, tailoring treatment to the individual client. It aims to serve as a primary barrier remover, helping people enter the recovering community. Significant emphasis is placed on connecting with other recovering addicts and alcoholics.
“We believe recovery is available to individuals regardless of their history of drug abuse, and we don’t consider one addiction more difficult to address than another,” Fink says. “We also emphasize the importance of lifelong recovery – attending 12-step meetings, joining a community, getting a sponsor, service work, and helping others.”
Personal accountability is crucial. Clients are required to take significant responsibility for all areas of their lives and participate in meaningful workincluding the 74-acre farm.
Residents raise hormone-free chicken, pork, and grass-fed beef, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and gather eggs from free-range chickens.
“Residents enjoy the fruits of their labors,” Fink says. “The farm also sells food in the local community, and we donate extra food to a food bank.”
While the Farm has been “earth-friendly” for close to four decades, it’s taking a giant leap forward in its goal to become “the greenest treatment center in the world,” by installing AQUS Water Saving Devices to reuse bathroom sink greywater; utilizing well water for garden and other plantings; and fertilizing with “home grown” manure. Solatube lighting was installed, and a variety of other energy saving strategies adopted. Both the farmhouse and recently constructed “Community Barn” are highly energy efficient and recycling efforts at all sites have been improved.
Dawn Farm offers a free annual workshop Education Series at St. Joseph Mercy Hospi-
tal Education Center in Ann Arbor, providing information about chemical dependency, recovery, family recovery and related issues., to dispel myths, misinformation, secrecy, shame and stigma that prevent people from getting help and getting well. Last year, the series drew record numbers, Fink says.
Each year Dawn Farm holds a “Founder’s Day” to celebrate its birth – its 37th Anniversary Jamboree will be held Sept. 12. Admission and activities are free and include a silent and live auction, award ceremony, live music, a children’s tent with games, face painting, and crafts; a rock climbing wall; button making; food and beverages, and more. Visitors can tour the working farm, pet the animals; ride ponies, take hayrides, and visit the Gift Shop.
The Jamboree is an annual tradition for Fink and his family.
“Wandering through the barns, listening to music, visiting with Farm alumni who come back to volunteer and, without fail, spending money at the live and silent auctions are all things that bring us back year after year,” he says. “This year, I’m looking forward to bringing my granddaughter to her first Jamboree.”
Another fund-raiser, the Dawn Farm Ride for Recovery, is set for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, May 16. Registration includes a “Fun Day at the Farm,” with all rides, jogs, and walks starting and ending at the farm.
Dawn Farm is managed through a series of board committees, with active board and staff communication and collaboration in all areas, and feedback from full- and part-time staff, non-board volunteers, agency clients and the community.
“It’s an honor to serve on the Dawn Farm Board of Trustees,” Fink says.  “I’m one of many attorneys and judges who participate.
“I love the Farm because it works. The staff and volunteers save lives, help restore families and give hope to people that have lost all hope.”