The Ammon Foundation Helps People in Recovery Get Back on Track

The Linden-based organization offers scholarships and life-skills training.

Erin McGonigle, center, and her daughters on the day she received her Ammon Foundation scholarship. Courtesy of Jeremy Timberman

Erin McGonigle finally realized she had to break the cycle of her addiction. In 2016, McGonigle, a single mom, faced the possibility of losing custody of her two kids. She was at Wawa when an employee suspected McGonigle was using drugs in a bathroom stall, in the company of her young daughters. She was later arrested when police found heroin and a needle in her purse.

“I love my children more than I love myself,” says McGonigle, 30. “I had to really find it deep within myself to get control of what was controlling me for so long.”

McGonigle’s stepmother moved into her South Jersey home and cared for her kids for six months while McGonigle attended Narcotics Anonymous and enrolled in an outpatient program at the John Brooks Recovery Center in Atlantic City. It was there that the waitress, who is now also a student, discovered she wasn’t alone. McGonigle found comfort in talking with other people who had similar struggles. “Most of them suffered the same issues,” she says.

After completing the program, McGonigle met one of the directors of the Linden-based Ammon Foundation, which offers scholarships and life-skills training to people in recovery from addiction. McGonigle received a scholarship to attend Atlantic Cape Community College, where she’s working on a degree in psychosocial rehabilitation and addictions counseling.

Stephen Haupt, in recovery from alcoholism, launched the Ammon Foundation in 2016, after recognizing a gap between treatment and post-treatment support. He noticed most people in treatment didn’t stay longer than 28 days and cycled through the program. In 1998, Haupt had founded Ammon Labs, a commercial toxicology lab. After seeking treatment himself in 2016, the Ammon Foundation followed.

Last year, the foundation provided 85 scholarships, averaging $1,000-$2,000 each, to 62 individuals. Its life-skills program focuses on skills such as self care, budgeting, time management, study skills, interviewing skills and résumé writing.

“Nationally, out of every 10 people that go to treatment, seven of them are re-engaging with drug use within the first two years,” says Mariel Hufnagel, executive director of the Ammon Foundation. “But of those who pursued education, seven out of 10 stayed sober.”

For McGonigle, the Ammon Foundation has provided the opportunity to work toward her goals. “I just want to help people to the best of my ability. I want to continue to be the best mom I can be,” McGonigle says, “and just live a normal life.”

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