More than your average grocer

By Sam Rinderman
UNC Co-Editor
the Durham VOICE

42-year-old Mark Tull from Raleigh battled alcoholism for nearly 25 years.  He tried monthly programs, numerous detoxes and individual counseling.

Tull attempted to quit drinking by using nearly every resource in the Triangle. But nothing worked until he found Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA), he had hope.

Jeff Stern (left), director of special projects at TROSA, and Mark Tull (right), the new manager of TROSA's grocery store at 2104 Angier Ave., show off the store's fresh produce, much of which is grown locally by TROSA personnel. Local food advocates point out that fresh produce is a rarity in NECD and that the TROSA grocery is serving a real need in the community. (Staff photo by Sam Rinderman)

After extensively searching for a cure, he found TROSA, is a multi-year residential program enabling substance abusers to recover using comprehensive treatment through work-based vocational training, education and continuing care, TROSA’s website says.

While watching a show on UNC-TV about alcohol programs in North Carolina, Tull said he found out about TROSA.

“In that program they had a little two or three minute clip about TROSA.  So that’s where I got the name, and then I looked it up on Google,” Tull said.

“I’m from Raleigh, but I had never heard of TROSA for all the many years I lived in Raleigh until I saw the UNC-TV show.”

Tull says TROSA’s two-year program is more intensive than anything else he tried while trying to fight alcoholism.

“I had done a 30-day program, I had done numerous detoxes.  Three day detoxes, individual counseling, but nothing (worked). TROSA is two years. None of those shorter term solutions had worked for me,” he said.

“When I was looking around, there was a 90-day program called Dark Cherry down East Durham.  90 days is just three times longer than the 30-day program, so I knew at my age, coming into TROSA at 42 years old, I needed something.  Because 25 years is a long time.”

Tull says TROSA’s work-based vocational skills set the program apart.

“We work six days a week for a minimum of eight hours a day,” he said.

Tull, who graduated from the program on Sept. 12, was named the new manager of  TROSA’s new grocery store located at  2104 Angier Avenue next to Joe’s Diner.

Jeff Stern, director of special projects at TROSA, says the non-profit organization offers a grocery store, a moving company and a lawn care service.

Other than Los Primos, the TROSA grocery store is a one-of-a-kind store within the Northeast Central Durham community, Stern said.

“There are other sorts of corner stores, which are going to be certainly less than a full grocery.  They probably have minimal or no offering in terms of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats,” he said. “In terms of all of that stuff plus customer service, friendliness, clean atmosphere, yes we are providing something unique to the neighborhood.”

Stern said, “Like with all of TROSA’s businesses, our primary objective and mission is to create a business that is a good vocational training program for residents in TROSA.”  “The grocery store is interesting in that it also has the additional social mission of trying to address some of the food access and equity issues that face this neighborhood.”

After Tull’s two years in TROSA, he says he is now looking to make further progress in improving his livelihood.

“I decided to stay on because TROSA has given me the opportunity to stay on as a scholar of the program.  Which means I stay on past the two years and will be able to finish the college degree I started in the 80s.  So personally it means a lot to me for my recovery,” Tull said.

Tull says he is now working on a degree in psychology at Durham Tech and hopes to transfer to either North Carolina Central University or The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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