Crane manufacturer gives lift to women recovering from drug abuse

Echo Pilot

The women living in a restored bungalow in Hagerstown share more than a home. Each has graduated from substance abuse treatment through the local Brooke’s House program and is now taking the first steps to independence with full-time careers at Manitowoc Cranes in Shady Grove.

On Thursday, Feb. 9, the home’s residents, joined by Brooke’s House founders Kevin and Dana Simmers and Manitowoc representatives, dedicated the property as “The Manitowoc House.”

The name reflects the crane manufacturer’s commitment to providing opportunities to Brooke’s House residents, many of whom have uneven work histories, lack of skills and confidence issues to successfully make the transition from addiction to recovery, according to a company news release.

On the road to recovery:Check out these photos from the Manitowoc dedication of a residence for Brooke's House

See more photos:Brooke's House Coffee and Chocolates

Founded in 2019, Brooke’s House provides a community-based, safe, stable and emotionally supportive living environment for adult women in the early stages of substance abuse recovery.Manitowoc has been a corporate sponsor of Brooke’s House since its founding. In 2022, the company stepped up its commitment by providing job training and employment in welding and assembly operations for women who have graduated from the in-treatment portion of the Brooke’s House program, the news release said.

Brooke's House Executive Director, Kevin Simmers speaks as people gathered outside the Manitowoc House on Knotty Pine Drive in Hagerstown for a dedication ceremony Thursday morning.

Brooke's House Executive Director, Kevin Simmers speaks as people gathered outside the Manitowoc House on Knotty Pine Drive in Hagerstown for a dedication ceremony Feb. 9.

“We feel the three key pieces to success for women in recovery are to equip them with social skills, job training, and a purpose. We were looking for area employers that would give our graduates a chance, and Manitowoc stepped up to the plate. We never asked for preferential treatment for our residents, just the opportunity,” said Kevin Simmers.

In 2015, Kevin and Dana Simmers lost their daughter, Brooke, to a heroin overdose after several failed efforts at in-house rehabs. The centers were often located in drug-ridden neighborhoods with a stark, hospital-like feel.“That's when we decided that we wanted to really fulfill her dream to have a treatment house that treated women with dignity and respect, and gives them an honest chance of recovery,” Kevin Simmers said.

Since July, 10 women have been trained by Manitowoc in welding and assembly operations, and are now helping build mobile hydraulic cranes, crawler cranes and boom trucks under the company’s Manitowoc, Grove, National Crane, and Shuttlelift brands.

Manitowoc House in Hagerstown was dedicated by residents in recovery, Brooke's House founders Kevin and Dana Simmers and representatives of Manitowoc Cranes on Feb. 9.

“The Manitowoc House” in Hagerstown serves as the employees’ transitional home before they advance to fully independent living. The home was purchased by Brooke’s House and underwent significant renovations, largely through community donations. It is one of three residences operated by the program in addition to the main in-treatment house, also located in Hagerstown.“Manitowoc believes in the mission of Brooke’s House and we recognize the challenges these women face as they re-enter the workforce. As one of the region’s leading manufacturers, we want to be part of the solution by providing them with training and jobs that offer not only a sustainable income but boundless potential,” said Dave Hull, general manager for North America, Manitowoc Cranes.For example, one resident, after years of substance abuse, graduated from treatment and enrolled in Manitowoc’s six-week welding school.

“It’s fulfilling to put something together with your own hands and to be so well-accepted into this heavy-manufacturing environment by everyone at Manitowoc, being that I am a female and with my background,” said the resident. “I want to build a career here and eventually be reunited with my two children. I want to just set up a nice life for us and give them everything that I didn’t have.”