The Meeting Place, Inc.
History of The Meeting Place
club in a small church at 31st and W streets broke up in the mid-1980s. About 18 suddenly homeless A.A. groups banded together
financially to rent space for meetings, briefly on O Street and then behind the waterbed store at 27th and O.
They called themselves
The Meeting Room. Each group contributed 50 cents per head toward rent and coffee under the guidance of a Steering Committee.
Eventually friction with the landlord over the overcrowded parking lot led them to move.
The Meeting Room relocated
to 301 P St., across the viaduct from downtown, in December 1988. The cooperative financial structure continued as before.
For the first time the groups had ample space for dances. But again, problems over smoking, litter and parking led the landlord
to raise the rent repeatedly.
In the spring of 1990,
a church for sale was located at 28th and S streets. The General Service Office of A.A. in New York was consulted to follow
traditions in forming a nonprofit corporation. Investors were found within the A.A. community to raise the money for a down
The purchase was closed
in September 1990, although the church congregration was allowed to stay until December. Volunteers were organized to repair
the leaky roof, improve the wiring, remodel space for Central Office, hang new fire doors, etc. The city granted the new corporation
a special occupancy permit based on the 1907 building’s historic significance.
The Meeting Room’s
22 groups moved from 301 P on Sunday, Dec. 16, 1990, and first meetings were held at The Meeting Place. The Christmas holidays
were a time of great joy and marvel at our huge new building.
The co-op continued as
before with Steering Committee meeting on the last Tuesday of the month. The corporation’s Board of Directors met several
times the first year but after that met only once annually. It designated an Operating Committee of three members to work
with Steering Committee on building management.
The groups continued to
pay rent based on attendance, although the amount was raised to 55 cents and then 60 cents per person to cover increased expenses.
Grants were obtained to pay for the handicapped ramp, four new restrooms and to cover the stained glass windows with Plexiglas.
Several groups began to
pay less than their assessed rent, claiming special circumstances of one kind or another. During the mid-1990s, the corporation
came to depend on special events like garage sales and dances to make ends meet. A snack bar was operated out of the kitchen
in another attempt to raise income.
Diminishing rent income
ran into skyrocketing coffee prices in 1997 and at Christmas the corporation was nearly broke. With only $75 on hand it was
unable to pay its bills. The Board of Directors appealed to the groups and they responded generously. The groups donated large
sums of money from their prudent reserves and agreed to pay rent at 75 cents per head.
The Board of Directors
began meeting monthly during this emergency. During 1998 the board made some hard decisions. Free coffee was discontinued,
beverages becoming a group responsibility. Coffee makers and condiments were still provided out of rent, however.
A census was conducted
and great disparities revealed. Some groups were paying more than a dollar per person while others contributed as little as
a quarter. New rents were assessed at 70 cents per head effective for 1999. Only a few groups objected and all were given
time to adjust to their new obligation.
In 1999, for the first
time The Meeting Place was operating on a sound financial basis with a positive cash flow from group rents. By this time the
original 22 groups had increased to 27, including 24 A.A. groups, two Al-Anon and one Co-Dependents Anonymous.
New air conditioners were
purchased as money became available. In 2000 the lower level received new carpet and fresh paint. In 2001 third floor was
given the same treatment. The attic was insulated as natural gas prices rose.
The board began collecting
estimates on how much it would cost to paint the exterior. It turned out to be expensive because of the difficulty of removing
old paint and extensive masonry repairs were needed.
The board launched a fund
drive early in 2002 to help pay for the exterior restoration project. Authority to borrow money from the city was also obtained.
Grants were received from the J.C. Seacrest Fund, Woods Charitable Fund and Lincoln Community Foundation.
In July, Gagner Restoration
began stripping old paint. The building was repainted in a four-tone brown and beige scheme as approved by the Historic Preservation
Commission. The two east entries were torn off and rebuilt to match the original architecture. The exterior was completed
in November 2002.
Stained glass repairs
continued window by window until completed in 2004. Meanwhile, the board began paying off the $78,000 cost of the project.
Other building improvements
continued. In 2003 the fire alarm system was upgraded and 24-hour monitoring began. The timing was fortunate because a smoldering
butt almost set the third floor on fire just a year later.
The smoking issue was
debated throughout 2004 as the Lincoln City Council tried to write a smoking ordinance. The Meeting Place restricted smoking
to third floor, but in the end the city banned almost all smoking except in private homes. The building became nonsmoking
on Jan. 1, 2005.
Parking problems were
eased by the generous cooperation of the Masonic lodge next door, which allowed Meeting Place patrons to park in its north
lot in exchange for sidewalk snow shoveling.
The Great Hall was put
back into use in 2004 when Sixty Minutes moved there for its Sunday morning speaker meeting. Many were pleased to see the
large hall with its oak pews and dramatic stained glass windows filled with recovering alcoholics. The board spent $12,000
in spring 2005 for plaster repairs and new paint for the entire main floor.
In 2006 new windows were
installed on the lower level. New water service was piped to the building. The building continues to be improved and made
more comfortable for its patrons.
Through the years, The
Meeting Place has provided a home in central Lincoln for twelve-step recovery meetings of all kinds. A.A. groups have been
the backbone of the co-op, but Al-Anon has always been present. Other groups which have met here include Co-Dependents Anonymous,
Gamblers Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous and dual-diagnosis groups.
In January 2007, 45 separate
groups, 38 of them A.A., were holding 66 meetings per week.
The Central Office has
rented space for its bookstore from the beginning. Several A.A. service committees also meet at 28th and S, including District
3, Corrections, and Public Information/Contact with the Professional Community. Spring Fling committee also meets here.
Numerous dances have been
held on the main floor, providing a social life for the recovering community. Workshops are also held, as are weddings, funerals
and other special events. A free Thanksgiving dinner has been served for many years. A Christmas party is also held.
The Meeting Place is a
member of the Hartley Neighborhood Association and the North 27th Street Business and Civic Association.
The Meeting Place is proud
to be a vital part of central Lincoln’s history.