Grant Impact Stories

Foundation Grant Helps A.E.D. Foundation, Inc.

Community Foundation Grant Helps Families Struggling with Opioid Addiction 

The launch of the region’s only peer opioid recovery program grew out of a terrible loss for one local family.


The A.E.D. Foundation, Inc. was formed in the memory of Alyssa E. Dunn who lost her life to drug addiction on May 21, 2013, at the age of 20 years old.  

Alyssa’s life started like any “normal” life.  

Raised by two loving, dedicated, intelligent parents she seemed to have it all. Who would have ever thought this beautiful, petite, passionate, intelligent, fun girl would end up on the long, desperate and dangerous road of addiction.  

Who knew this disease would take over her life? After all, she just started off experimenting in her teen years like many others do. What she didn’t know was that addiction is a progressive disease.

A disease, that once has a hold on you, is extremely difficult to break free. Alyssa, like many addicts, fought her disease for years. However, in the end, the disease won. 

In addition to the Foundation being named after her, it also stands for Assist, Educate and Defeat.

The A.E.D. Foundation, Inc. is committed to Assisting individuals on the road to their recovery, as well as their families. Educating the community by bringing awareness of the disease. Finally, Defeating the stigma that is associated with drug addiction.


The organization was run entirely by volunteers until a Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts grant helped fund a part-time peer center coordinator. 

According to Shawn Hayden, Chief Operating Officer for Gaamha, a Gardner nonprofit that provides meeting space to A.E.D, the paid position is a huge help since the coordinator can assist with the scheduling of volunteers and meetings.   

The program is open three nights a week; Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On any given night up to 30 people may show up. Surprisingly, until A.E.D opened, the nearest peer recovery centers for drug addiction were in Greenfield and Worcester.  

According to Hayden, the goal of the program is to help individuals overcome their illness and destigmatize the disease. They have plans to expand their services by rolling out a telephone recovery program, which proactively reaches out to those in recovery.

In addition, they plan on launching an Opioid Chapter in March. 

649 John Fitch Hwy
Fitchburg, MA 01420


Phone: 978-345-8383
Fax: 978-345-1459
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