The bright, well–maintained, two–story brick home near the corner of Madison Avenue and Linden Street in Bethlehem, Pa., could be mistaken for a typical family residence or even a college fraternity house. However, the men living in the Lyell M. Rader Jr., Memorial Lodge aren’t bound by blood or fraternal life. The bonds they create and the lessons they learn help them walk a path to recovery from addiction and return to normal life.
Men in recovery can live at the Rader Lodge for up to a year as they search for a permanent place to live. They are trusted with their own rooms, TV, and internet access. They can enjoy books, video games, and exercise equipment. In turn, every man shares the responsibility of doing chores and maintaining the lodge. They do monthly prayer breakfasts together, community service, and on Sundays attend the Salvation Army’s corps in Bethlehem for church services.
The Rader Lodge is not a recovery clinic; it does not have the staff nor the medical supplies to treat a substance misuser. But what it does provide for someone in recovery is brotherhood, stability, a sense of structure, and an opportunity to return to God. “Those are crucial to someone in recovery,” says Derek Pascavage, director of the lodge. “An addict feels like he has none of those things in his life.”
Pascavage came to Pennsylvania in 2000 from New Jersey. For years, he had battled addiction and experienced subsequent incarceration. When he was later paroled, the conflicting rules of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania parole boards kept him from ever being able to return to his home state. “Today, I can look back and say that being stuck in Pennsylvania turned out to be a blessing,” says Derek.
Pascavage rebuilt his life and even became a single father of two sons, all while going through addiction rehabilitation. In 2015, after a parole violation resulted in his return to jail, he was sent to a work release program in Lehigh County. He was one of 20 inmates who qualified, but the program lacked the funds necessary to reintroduce these men to society.
“The city had no way to help us find work or get us around. We were basically told to go walking and just see what we could find or maybe visit a church,” says Derek.
The church that Derek came across was the Salvation Army’s Bethlehem Corps. Corps Officer Major Fran Rader offered him a meal, and afterwards, supplied him with bus passes, a cell phone, and work boots. Feeling indebted for the opportunity to start fresh, he offered to do repairs, landscaping, and other work around the corps. He went to Sunday services there and learned about Faith/Works, the corps’ house for men in recovery.
“It sounded better than any work release program,” remembers Pascavage. “I stayed at Faith/Works for seven months. Six months later, Major Fran asked me to come back and be one of two new resident directors of the lodge.”
Savings and rules
As director, Derek noticed that two other men in the house had not been able to move on as well as he had; they were now past their allowed limit and had not saved any money. “We allowed them to stay extra time without paying the mandatory contribution, and encouraged them to just save their money,” says Derek.
To avoid this happening to future occupants, Derek and Jeff Kulls, the second resident director, focused on making personal finance management a requirement of staying in the house. Under the new rules, a third of the men’s monthly contributions to the house would go into a savings account, which is returned to them when they move out. Residents would also be encouraged to open a bank account and present proof of financial planning. Derek and Jeff wrote and rewrote the house’s handbook with ideas to make the home different than any halfway house or rehab clinic.
Derek, now the sole director of the newly renamed Lyell M. Rader Jr. Memorial Lodge, says, “I’ve been in rehab centers where 50 men were cramped in a space the size of our dining room. Everyone is angry in there, yelling and frustrated from always bumping into each other. You can’t focus on your rehabilitation like that. How do you expect to heal? How can you open yourself to God if you’re so angry?”
The Rader Lodge allows its residents to maintain a level of personal space and privacy, as long as they follow the rules, which include random breathalyzer and drug tests, shower and laundry schedules, and a mutual respect for each other.
“The structure of the lodge is based on consideration for everyone’s space, situation, and individual schedule. I don’t want to be anyone’s warden or parole officer. Just because I’m the director, it doesn’t mean I’m different than anyone else here. I pay the same fees, work from the same chores chart, and follow the same rules and curfews. I’m also in recovery, like anyone else in here,” says Derek. “It’s not me telling them what to do. It’s us telling ourselves what to do.”
Recovery of the spirit
Michael C., a current resident of the lodge, says that although living with other people does bring up occasional issues, such as bathroom sharing, it teaches everyone to work together and to look out for one another.
“Going to meetings, volunteering, doing chores, and praying together creates a bond. That bond is based on our similar pasts as addicts and the work we are doing today in recovery,” says Michael.
“When I first arrived, I wasn’t very religious, but I was open to the idea of God in my life,” says Michael. “The focus on developing a close relationship with the Lord became one of my favorite things about being here. The ‘recovery’ is more than just from addiction; there’s also recovery of the spirit.”
Mario R. heard about the Rader Lodge in 2019 while in rehab as he fought an addiction to meth. He now lives at the lodge but still attends rehab as an outpatient.
“My worst year was 2019. So many times, I felt like my life was about to end,” says Mario. “But even through my addiction, I prayed to God. He was always the best thing in my life, and He’s the best thing about being here. I have a lot of responsibilities now, such as finding a job, focusing on my recovery, and giving back to the community. But God will lead me through it.”
For Pascavage, rehabilitation was a puzzle that The Salvation Army helped him finally solve. Working as the director of the Rader Lodge has been key to fighting his own addiction.
“My true recovery came from being in service to The Salvation Army and to God. I’ve been sober for five years. Before I came to the Army, I had never even been sober for five months,” says Derek. “The more I’m involved in helping others, the less I want to ever fall back into addiction. There’s simply no time for it.”
Maintaining Lyell’s House
Derek and the residents of the Rader Lodge keep the house looking as clean as any house in the neighborhood. The grass is always mowed and the snow is quickly shoveled after a storm.
“I always tell the men here: no loud music; don’t be a disturbance,” says Derek. “I’m happy that I only need to say it once and never again. Learning how to be a good neighbor is also part of being accepted back into a normal life.”
“The house is under an occupancy permit, and the city knows that we are men in recovery living here,” says Derek. “It wouldn’t take too much for someone at a city council meeting to say that they don’t want us here anymore. But the neighbors have all been great; they know the type of work that goes on in here.”
If the outside of the lodge is intended to blend in with every other home on the block, the inside of the lodge is designed to showcase its unique spiritual mission, with inspiring words and Scripture on the walls.
Derek likes two writings posted in the lodge, both in the living room. The first is, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Says Derek, “For many years, I didn’t know which voice to listen to. Today, communication with Christ is the only way I get the right answers in my life.”
The second phrase is inspired by the Book of Luke, “Faith does not make things easy; it makes them possible.” “It’s a great message for this house,” says Derek. “Is staying clean and living a normal life going to be easy? No, but have faith in God that He’ll work with you to make it possible.”
A portrait of the late Lt. Colonel Lyell M. Rader Jr. also adorns the lodge’s living room. The love and open communication that Lyell Rader had for everyone is what Derek strives to emulate as lodge director.
“Lt. Colonel Rader never passed judgement on anyone, and he could never turn a person away. He was a mentor to so many people in The Salvation Army, and that’s why we named the lodge in his honor,” says Derek. “When we had the memorial service for him here in the lodge, everyone who came in said the same thing; ‘This is definitely Lyell’s house.’”
by Hugo Bravo