House donated by late Mayo doctor to be converted into an addiction recovery center
For decades, Dr. David Donald worked as a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, helping to save countless lives from heart trouble.
Now, fourteen years after his passing and three years after beginning their journey, father-and-daughter team Rick and Tori Utley have received the green light to use Dr. Donald’s former home as a pathway to rehabilitating more people in need.
This past week, the Utleys’ plan to establish Doc’s Recovery House — a short-term addiction recovery center meant for those who need help but sit on waiting lists for other centers — was approved by Olmsted County officials. The house, located in Byron’s Oxbow Park, will provide support and programming for up to 16 recovery patients at a time.
“We see ourselves as collaborating with the existing system of addiction recovery resources,” Doc’s House co-founder Tori Utley said. “We want to serve the same population but instead of saying ‘someone’s on your waiting list,’ we’re gonna support them in that two weeks until their spot is open.”
The decision to open a recovery support center was a personal one for the Utleys. As Tori explained, “my father [Rick Utley, the other co-founder of Doc’s House] has been in recovery for eight years … his story has really impacted my passion and my family’s overall story," she said. “When you’re going through it, it’s difficult and heartbreaking, but having the blessing of getting through it is the reason why we decided to do this together.”
While patients will stay overnight at a residential campus in nearby Rochester, Doc’s House will provide day programming and other non-clinical recovery support to help people stay engaged in the recovery process as they wait for a treatment bed. A typical day at the house, according to Utley, will include group outings in the natural areas around the house and community service opportunities through Olmsted County.
It is with so much gratitude that I get to share this update today. As of this morning, Doc's Recovery House was given the green light. ITS HAPPENING! . . This month will mark 3 years that my Dad and I have been working on securing this very special property, the home of Dr. David Donald, a man with an incredible legacy to be remembered and shared. . . Located in Oxbow Park, this serene space will be our flagship location and the site of our day programs offered to men and women waiting to get into residential treatment. The window of willingness and opportunity can be brief for many, and unfortunately, many are placed on a waiting list and don’t end up making it to treatment at all — or sit in jail until their bed is available. In this massive gap, people die, families are town apart, or the motivation dissolves, allowing addiction to progress and worsen in the valued lives of friends, family and community members. . . We believe there is a better, more therapeutic way, and in addition to our programming site in Byron, we’ll have a housing campus in Rochester to keep men and women safe, sober and engaged in the recovery process from the first minute they decide to get help. . . We will partner with treatment centers, long-term sober living homes and area nonprofits to make this a reality. Put simply, our only goal is to get people where they need to go, and to fill the gaps people have been falling through for far too long. . . So honored and blessed to be on this journey at all, but especially to be doing it alongside my Dad. For us, this is personal. It is another way our family’s story has been redeemed yet again, through the real, tangible hope of recovery. . . We are so excited about what the future holds and for the stories of recovery that will start here. 💕 . . A massive thank you to our incredible board, visionary donors and to our many friends at Olmsted County who have stuck by this dream for the last 3 years. So excited to say today...ITS HAPPENING! 🙌🏻
The dual-generation duo of Rick and Tori started working on their plan in 2015. After months of searching for a venue for their idea, they visited the former home of Dr. Donald and immediately knew it was the right fit.
“We could just see the entire vision come to life the second we set foot in the house,” said Tori. “It’s serene, it’s quiet, it’s beautiful, it’s everything that people think about when they think about recovery.”
The same could be said for the late Dr. Donald, who lived in the house with his wife Geraldine. The family decided to donate the house to Oxbow Park after they passed, with the hopes that it would make a difference in the community.
More than a decade later, the house is set to make a difference for those facing serious struggles — but in the care of those who have seen the whole journey of recovery work.
“The journey is not easy, and a lot of work needs to go into recovery, but recovery is so rewarding — to the person, to their family, to the community. It’s worth it. They’re doing the right thing,” Tori said.
The Utleys, who are leasing the house from the county, hope to have the facility up and running by the fall.
Isaac Jahns is a 2015 graduate of Mayo High School and a current journalism student at the University of Missouri. His main passions are writing music and telling people’s stories. Follow Isaac on Twitter.