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Walk for a sobering cause

Jeanne McAlister is celebrating 65 years of sobriety this year, and in the past 44 years, has built the largest alcohol and drug treatment providing systems in the county, with locations and programs in El Cajon, Lemon Grove, Chula Vista and National City.

As the founder and CEO of McAlister Institute, she said that although things changed a bit in the way of working with clients during the pandemic, that it never stopped serving them, still providing services for more than 1,100 people a month. But she said she is happy that things seem to be settling down and excited in bringing back its largest celebration and fundraiser of the year, McAlister Institute’s 9th Annual Walk for Sobriety at NTC Park at Liberty Station on Sept. 25.

In tandem with the walk, the Institute is also having a shoe drive for gently used shoes. McAlister said that they need at least 100 bags of 25 pairs of shoes.

“It is an obvious marriage because it is Walk for Sobriety and shoes are a big part of walking,” she said. “Any kind of shoes are acceptable. High heels sandals, sneakers, boots, children, anything. The only thing is that the shoes cannot have any holes.”

McAlister said that these donations will help create jobs for people in the U.S., and in turn, help the environment by keeping them out of the landfills. They will also help with microenterprises across the world, with most of the shoes being shipped to microenterprises in Haiti, Peru, Morocco, Columbia, Costa Rica, Zambia and El Salvador.

“The shoes are sold to promote commerce for small business owners,” she said. “Shoes not sold are used in things like insulation in homes, stuffing for cars, or even furniture.”

Shoes can be dropped off at any McAlister Institute in the county.

McAlister said COVID was a “horrendous period of time,” especially with her staff.

“One person would get exposed, then we would have to quarantine the rest,” she said. “We took all the precautions. Anyone sick went home. I am so glad that it has calmed down, but I am hoping that there is not a spike. I wear a mask outside in public all the time. First, because I have not gotten COVID, even though I have now been vaccinated. Secondly, I have not had a cold either. That is amazing. Every year I get a cold. I like the mask. It protects me in many other ways.”

McAlister said during COVID, they were fortunate, things could have been much worse, and during the pandemic, many clients needed help more than ever with the lockdowns.

“We had very few clients that contacted COVID, but we had many staff,” she said. “So, it was a constant balancing of staff and providing services and keeping the programs glued together. We have more than 27 different programs. Our clients were not coming in for in-person services because we were doing Telehealth, our residents were cloistered, so we had very few cases with clients.”

For more information about McAlister Institute’s Walk for Sobriety, programs and locations, visit

Walk for a sobering cause

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Source: East County Californian

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