2017 Prize Winner
Tony is the driving force behind the youth recovery center. He is an exemplary leader and has unbelievable clarity regarding their responsibility to provide a safe environment for young addicts to get clean and sober.
Eric Martin, policy and legislative liaison for the Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon
Before youre up in the morning, Tony Vezina has already been to the gym.
Vezina is executive director of the 4th Dimension Recovery Center. His organization helps young people overcome drug and alcohol addiction through social communities and peer mentoring services.
4Ds spacea safe, sober place for young people to gather for support during recoveryhosts Xbox Live sessions, pingpong tournaments and monthly dances with DJs who are also in recovery.
When the space is not a dance hall, 12-step group meetings fill the calendar. Inclusive, equitable programming is Vezinas focus, and is something he learned as student body president at Portland Community College-Cascade. He completed his bachelors degree there in 2016 and received PCCs inaugural Equity and Inclusion Award.
For Vezina, 32, the road from an abusive childhood to tweaked-out junkie in Idaho to clean student body leader to nonprofit director has been nearly two decades long.
I decided that I wanted to give back, Vezina says. At PCC, I was taught that I have a voice through leadership development and mentoring, and that I could create change. I worked with the most diverse people on the planet and had to unpack a lot of stuff. I never thought I was privileged. I thought I had it so bad. I learned a lot.
Since then, Vezina has taken 4D from just a concept to a sustainable, functioning nonprofit with two and a half paid staffers and seven certified peer mentors.
As with most small, new nonprofits, the executive director has broad responsibilities. Besides serving as the public face of the organization, development director, bookkeeper and web master, he is also the driver of the legendary 4D 16-passenger van.
I just decked it out with bumps and lights in it, and its dope, he says, adding that the van is used to pick up clients and transport volunteers to events. Its got the limousine tint in it. Were getting a bigger speaker so it bumps louder.
Bumping louder seems a theme for Vezina, whose bright blue eyes and fast-paced speech pulse with energy, despite his lean-back-in-the-chair body language. His expansion plans for 4D include programming focused on black youth. He also serves on the board of directors for Oregon Recovers, which will lobby for funding and recovery justice at the state level. He dreams of a bigger building with a yoga space and recovery gym.
For now, Vezina is a beacon for those he serves, a positive reminder that long-term sobriety is possible. In the face of a national opioid emergency, hes all too aware of the danger addiction presents.
[This work] is young people helping other young people stay alive through recovery, he says. I would say were saving lives every day.
Bottom Line for Portland
Vezina oversees the operation of 4D Recover Center, helping 600 young people each month get and stay in recovery by providing a safe space, peer mentors and sober programming.
This prize is generously sponsored by Davis Wright Tremaine.