In the metaphorical coldest winter of my life, amidst the stark challenges and the biting cold of uncertainty, a warm light began to flicker, heralding the dawn of a new chapter not just for me but for an entire community in need. This light was Impact Wisconsin, a beacon of hope for individuals battling substance use disorder, conceived not in boardrooms or strategy retreats, but around the humble setting of our kitchen table.

The air was filled with the kind of resolve that only comes when you’re at the edge, looking over into the abyss of the unknown and deciding to step back and make a difference. My wife, my best friend David, and I gathered around our kitchen, a space that would later transform into our first recovery residence. Without realizing it, we were about to embark on our first strategic planning session, laying the groundwork for what would become a transformative initiative in the realm of substance abuse recovery.

The conversation began tentatively, with each of us sharing our visions and hopes, not just for the organization we were dreaming of but for the people we aimed to serve. We talked about the gaps in current services, the stories of individuals lost in the system, and how we could create a different path, one that offered not just recovery but also dignity, respect, and a community.

As we spoke, something remarkable happened. The weight of the cold winter lifted, replaced by a growing warmth in our hearts. This wasn’t just about starting an organization; it was about igniting a movement, one that recognized the humanity in each person struggling with substance use disorder. Our kitchen, filled with the aroma of coffee and the clutter of everyday life, became a sanctuary of hope and planning.

Looking back, that evening was Impact Wisconsin’s inception—our first strategic planning session, though we didn’t know it at the time. We sketched out ideas on napkins, debated over the best approaches to recovery and support, and, most importantly, we dreamt. We dreamt of a community where recovery was not just an individual journey but a collective effort, supported by love, understanding, and the belief in second chances.

The path from that kitchen table to where Impact Wisconsin stands today was not linear. It was filled with challenges, setbacks, and learning curves. But every step was guided by the light that first sparked in the coldest winter of my life. That light has now grown, illuminating paths for many who thought their darkness was impenetrable.

Our humble beginning around the kitchen table taught us invaluable lessons about leadership, community, and the power of collective vision. It reinforced the belief that great things often start from small beginnings, and that warmth and hope can emerge from the coldest of winters.

Today, as I reflect on Impact Wisconsin’s journey, I am reminded of the importance of those initial, tentative conversations. They were the seeds from which we grew, nurtured by the belief that we could make a difference. The community we serve now shines with a light of hope, resilience, and recovery, a testament to the power of coming together for a cause greater than ourselves.

As we continue to grow and serve, I hold onto the memories of that winter night, a reminder that even in the coldest seasons, new light can begin to shine, bringing warmth and change to the hearts and lives of those around us.