Exclusive Lake Wales retreat sees second life as faith-based rehabilitation center for recovering addicts
LAKE WALES, Fla. - Chalet Suzanne, once an exclusive hideaway for the rich and famous, has re-opened with a completely new mission.
For decades, it offered a secluded vacation of golf, tennis, swimming and fine dining to Hollywood types such as Burt Reynolds, Johnny Carson, Don Johnson, and Ruth Buzzy.
It got worldwide recognition when Apollo 15 and 16 astronauts brought its soups to the moon.
It is now known as "Refuge on the Ridge," a program for recovering addicts.
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"I showed up hopeless, and now I have hope," resident Bobby Lamp of Babson Park told FOX 13. "I showed up broken, and now I love life."
Refuge on the Ridge is a faith-based rehabilitation program where residents can stay for up to three years. Pastor Andy Blair heads it up.
"When you see a light go on in a man’s eyes, or you see a child with their dad, or when you see a marriage reconciled, there is nothing better in the world for me. It is better than any high I ever got," Blair, who is in recovery himself, said.
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The Chalet, which was founded in the 1930s, was closed seven years ago by its owners, Eric and Dee Hinshaw, who still live on the 100-acre property. It sat vacant until recently.
The Hinshaw's always wanted to find a new use for it, some way for it to serve the community.
An idea came to them after their son completed a drug rehabilitation program in South Florida. They decided to open a program modeled after the one that had radically helped their son.
When they met Pastor Andy Blair, all the pieces started to come together. Along with attending classes, and taking part in group sessions, residents are working on launching a business to bring in income. The Hinshaw's are thrilled with the new direction.
"It is an incredibly powerful and effective future for Chalet Suzanne," commented Eric Hinshaw.