Gloria W. first walked into the New Town Alano Club about 25 years ago. She went to meetings, got a sponsor and started school. She eventually chaired meetings, graduated with a second college degree and started her career.
Gloria now works at a major health institution on the South Side of Chicago, "and I am so very gratefulmiracles happen every day at the New Town Alano Club, and I am one of them," she said.
The New Town Alano Club ( NTAC ) is the nation's first Alano club with a specific LGBTQ outreach. It is a not-for-profit corporation that provides meeting space for more than 50 12-step recovery meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous ( AA ), Al-Anon, Co-Dependents Anonymous ( CODA ), Crystal Meth Anonymous ( CMA ), Sexual Compulsives Anonymous ( SCA ), Narcotics Anonymous ( NA ) and more.
NTAC provides such services as educational opportunities regarding the disease of addiction, sober living and sexual health; meeting referrals, recovery literature and information about local drug-and-alcohol recovery services. There also are volunteer opportunities and more.
The New Town Alano Club is anonymous at the press level, and it just uses first name and last initial for all.
"Those who founded NTAC did so because of the lack of a safe place to share their true selves," Gloria said. "In 1980 it was dangerous to be 'out.' We had many members and quickly grew out of our first two locations. Then the AIDS crisis hit. We lost members almost weekly. Many of us became active with Act Up, TPAN, BEHIV, etc. Service work is a cornerstone of any 12-step program. However, our numbers could no longer support our former location, [so alderman] Tom Tunney agreed to rent to us at our current location, 909 W. Belmont Ave. That was 18 years ago this upcoming June.
"New Town Alano Club is very active in trying to meet the needs of our community," Gloria said. "We are still active in HIV prevention and provide HIV testing, in conjunction with the Center on Halsted. In the past we have provided free education services on meditation, mental health, health insurance changes, etc."
The club's paying members are a small fraction of those who utilize the club, she said. Members may pay $10 a month or $100 a year. "We get anonymous contributions and those who attend meetings are encouraged to put $2 in the meeting basket. However, no one is turned away who has a desire to recover."
The majority of the meetings at NTAC are Alcoholics Anonymous. The fastest growing is Crystal Meth Anonymous. It recently added another Underearners Anonymous, Dual Diagnosis Anonymous ( for those recovering from mental illness as well as addiction ) and Sexual Compulsive Anonymous with a focus on porn addiction.
"We have roughly 20,000 encounters a year, based on the number of people attending each individual meeting," Gloria said. "Some people may attend several meetings a day and others once a month, or even less, so it is impossible to know exactly how many individuals come through our door. I am sure that over the years there have been thousands. At least 50 percent of those who come to NTAC are from the LGBT community. And we have a meeting specifically for transgendered people and their supporters."
Gloria said people from all walks of life, from all professions walk into NTAC. "I myself am a licensed medical professional, and we have people coming from the four corners of the earth to see the first Alano Club in the USA with an LGBT outreach. I am honored and humbled to be president," she said.
NTAC works with the Chicago Round Up, another 501( c )( 3 ), which organizes a yearly event of multiple speaker meetings, a play, dinner and dance. "We provide volunteers and attend fundraising events. We also support, and are supported by, the Rec Room, which is another Alano Club with an LGBTQ outreach," she said.
The New Town Alano Club has participated in the annual Chicago Pride Parade over the years "to let people know we exist and are happily, joyfully, sober and gay," she said. "We let our presence and demeanor be the magnet for newcomers. We never tell people what to do, but are available when people seek help."
Gloria said Tunney "has been very supportive."
"When the recession hit [seven or eight years ago], it hit us very hard," she said. "We were often behind in our rent. We owe a lot to Tom. It isn't easy for any not-for-profit to survive [over the past] eight years. Our primary mission is to be available to those in recovery, especially the newcomer. Those in early recovery seldom have employment."
In its efforts to be financially stable, NTAC has downsized the number of rooms it rents and it solely operates with volunteers. "We have added meetings despite the reduction of our physical footprint," she said.
NTAC is part of Amazon Smiles; thus, a portion of each purchase gets earmarked for NTAC, if the buyer identifies NTAC as the organization they wish to support.
"Our short-term goals are to satisfy the needs of the recovering community, provide a safe space for all, provide meetings that are as relevant as they are varied, strengthen the bonds we share with our fellow organizations and become financially sound. To that end we are exploring grant opportunities," Gloria said.
The NTAC's long-term goal is "to be fiscally secure," she said. "There are many changes happening in Boystown and I would like to see NTAC be able to weather any financial storm. After all, another generation is looking for their miracle to happen to them."
For more information, contact the New Town Alano Club by email at email@example.com or by phone at 773-529-0321.