New beginnings for Castro Country Club

  • by Rebecca Prozan and Crispin Hollings
  • Wednesday February 1, 2012
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Founded by the late Steve Harris in April 1983 in the heart of the Castro as a social alternative to the bars for gay men and lesbians, the Castro Country Club quickly became a popular hang-out and an important source of support for those facing not only the life-threatening diseases of alcoholism and addiction but also HIV and AIDS.

The CCC has helped countless people achieve and maintain sobriety by providing a safe refuge for newcomers and old-timers in recovery to help each other. We provide unstructured peer counseling, job training, and skills building, as well as social support and fellowship. For nearly 29 years, we've operated with volunteer support from the LGBT recovery community and without government assistance. The CCC is the only space in the Castro dedicated to people in recovery and their supporters.

Today, we are celebrating a new beginning. After much struggle, we are confident that we will be able to continue to serve this important role for many years to come.

In 2009, upon the death of the longtime landlord, the Victorian building that houses the club was put up for sale, leaving us with an unstable tenancy and future. Supporters of the club launched the Keep the Steps in the Castro campaign with the purpose of raising funds "to purchase, secure a long-term lease, and/or modify space to suit the needs of the club." As it has done so many times in the past, the community has met adversity with strength, turning lemons into lemonade. Dozens of events were organized – from garage sales to drag shows to galas – to advocate on behalf of maintaining and strengthening this clean and sober space in the Castro. Many generous supporters have stepped up to give between $10 and $100 monthly. Despite the bad economy and no organizational experience with fundraising, the incredible outpouring of support and goodwill from the community has put the club on much more solid footing than it was at the start of the campaign. Working together, we have raised a significant amount of money and remain committed to reserving these funds for their stated purpose.

With our profile increasing due to the building sale and the fundraising campaign, we realized another level of management was necessary. During this time, an advisory board was formed to oversee the operations of the club and to administer the Keep the Steps in the Castro fund.

Recently, we achieved our first step: the building we call home has been sold to a local businessman who intends to keep the club in the building. This is great news for both the Castro Country Club as well as the LGBT recovery community.

While originally the Keep the Steps in the Castro campaign was created to address the threat of losing our space, through this campaign we've come to realize that securing a long-term lease is just one of several steps needed to achieve the larger goal of financial stability and a solid foundation for the Castro Country Club.

First, we need to identify a new fiscal agent. Since the early 1990s, we have had a fiscal relationship with the nonprofit Baker Places, which provides residential treatment services to people in recovery, as well as people with HIV/AIDS and mental health diagnoses. Baker Places has been instrumental in allowing us to maintain and expand our services, but the CCC is clearly outside its core programs and we have agreed to separate at the end of June. 

Currently, with timely support from the Horizons Foundation's new Intentional Change Fund, the CCC is beginning a deliberate process of evaluating our options, including identifying a new fiscal sponsor or establishing ourselves as an independent nonprofit.

Another step will be operational funding. Over the last few years, CCC programs have expanded dramatically. The number of 12-step groups meeting at the club every week has more than tripled. We now have a full-service Peet's espresso bar, fully staffed by able volunteers and open to the public from early morning until late at night. The club hosts social events and parties every week. Still, additional revenue is needed and our goal is to achieve and sustain long-term financial health. We are working diligently to cultivate relationships, identify potential funders, and procure necessary funding to keep our doors open for future generations.

Progress is being made on both fronts and we hope to provide detailed information about these efforts at a special community meeting scheduled for Sunday, February 5.

We do this work because we keep our mission statement in mind: It is estimated that approximately 45 percent of the LGBT community abuses alcohol. (2009, Drug Abuse Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study). Addictions to alcohol, crystal meth, and other substances and behaviors continue to destroy lives and the health of our community. By offering an alcohol - and drug-free space, the Castro Country Club has become a refuge and a community center for people seeking recovery in San Francisco. People need us.

While we have come a long way since 1983 – and since 2009 – we have a long way to go. Our path has had some potholes, and some fits and starts along the way, but we believe we are on solid footing to achieve our next steps. We urge all of you to join us on February 5 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, 100 Diamond Street, for the Castro Country Club community meeting.

We have called this meeting to update people on our progress, to elect one of our advisory board members, and to invite new participation in the next level of development for the club. We hope to see you there! For more information, please visit our website at

Rebecca Prozan and Crispin Hollings are members of the Castro Country Club's advisory board. The other board members – Christopher Altman, Mike Marshall, and Mike Shriver – co-wrote this piece.