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Happy to Be Here: A mountain retreat with a mission

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A different kind of family will celebrate Christmas on God’s Mountain. Volunteers from the local church will serve dinner for the women who live there, and their families, making it a home away from home.

The women are committed to staying at the drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, hoping they are finding the way out of addiction.

God’s Mountain Recovery Center, an isolated lodge in Waymart, near the north end of the Pocono Mountains, opened just over a year ago. It was founded by an unlikely couple – an accountant and a nurse, who assumed they were headed for retirement in Florida.

“I hate the mountains. I’m from Brooklyn. We don’t even have trees,” Joe Quinones told a reporter for the Scranton Times Herald when he was interviewed last September. “To come to the mountains and cold when my heart’s desire personally is to be on a beach in 90 degrees, it’s been a culture shock for me.”

But Joe possesses a deep religious faith. The opportunity to operate the recovery center was a calling, tearing him away from his plans. It was a calling too for Sandi, his wife.

Joe, a successful financial planner with an office in Warminster, had the business acumen; he was also an ordained minister and counselor. Sandi, also a minister, had been a nurse and admissions director in a physical rehabilitation center. “Almost the same,” she said, “but a different clientele.”

Joe has a long history of helping people. He’s been involved in social movements and charitable causes in Philadelphia. He has helped to found the Bucks County Learning Academy in Warrington and Lehigh Learning Academy in Nazareth, alternative schools for high school students.

The 22-acre property, which includes the lodge and enclosed swimming pool is a kind of spa for women in recovery. Nancy Espenschade, the center’s nearest neighbor, donated it to the Peckville Assembly of God.

The mountain haven was once known as Farview Picnic Park, a weekend destination for miners and their families. The lodge that has become the addiction recovery center was probably built as a hunting lodge. Later, in the 1970s, known as Oak Tree Lodge, it was a nudist colony.

Lamar, a Carbondale community leader, and Nancy Espenshade bought the property and opened a Christian camp they called God’s Mountain. After Lamar died, in 2010, Nancy continued operating the camp while she tried to sell it. In 2017, she donated it to the Peckville church.

That’s where Joe Quinones became involved. He was the church’s accountant and a friend of the Rev. Terry Drost, the pastor. Joe had been helping the church with special projects, including a day care center and God’s Mountain. He proposed to the church that the lodge could become an addiction rehab center. The congregation agreed and Joe and Sandi Quinones found themselves in a new and unplanned experience but one they wholeheartedly accepted.

“We wanted to make the center gender specific,” Sandi said. Group sessions are focused on struggles that women face, such as body image issues, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, single parenting and financial uncertainty.

“Daily life,” Sandi said, “is typically up at 7 a.m., prayer and breakfast and then over to the counseling center until noon for individual counseling and group sessions, including art therapy, aromatherapy music therapy, Bible study meditation. Back for lunch then back to counseling center till 4. Then there’s dinner, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or church at night. On Saturday, there are chores and downtime.”

There’s an emphasis on Christian faith and the Bible in the recovery plan but the center is non-denominational and church participation is not required. “You can be of any faith or in any stage of your faith or walk of life. We are about meeting people where they are at and providing opportunity for growth in an atmosphere of love and acceptance,” Sandi said.

Pastor Drost and members of the Pecksville church provide religious services and maintain the grounds. A shuttle service is offered for Sunday church.

“We offer a safe, nurturing, and distraction free environment for women to begin on their road to recovery,” the God’s Mountain website says.

The usual stay at a recovery center is 30 days, often not enough for total recovery. “We focus on relapse prevention by helping our clients learn skills and coping strategies that will enable them to begin a new and better future.” Case managers can stay in touch, tracking patients after they leave.

God’s Mountain is a private for-profit facility, licensed by the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs as a partial hospitalization program. Clients pay on their own or with private insurance. Up to 40 women can be housed in the lodge.

Joe and Sandi Quinones have started a foundation to provide scholarships. In Sandi’s words: “We don’t want to turn anyone down.”


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