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BLOOMINGTON — Turkey and dressing mixed with statements of gratitude for a court program that has changed and saved lives made for a special Thanksgiving dinner for McLean County Recovery Court participants.

The meal also was important to the Islamic Center of Bloomington-Normal, which hosted the meal earlier this week.

“We wanted to show the community we’re part of the community. We want to do social outreach and this is our first major effort,” said Sheheryar Muftee, a member of the center’s board of directors.

The meal was served with the help of McLean County Diversity Project members and counted among its guests the two dozen Recovery Court participants. The team of court and probation staff and counselors who work in the diversion program for people with mental health issues also enjoyed the dinner catered by Times Past Inn in the jury assembly room at the Law and Justice Center in downtown Bloomington.

Sayed Gilani, president of the Islamic Center, opened the dinner with a gratitude list for “a country that welcomed me with open arms and a town that is peaceful and prosperous.”

Tony Hostetler was thankful too because she has put her life back together since joining the first group of defendants in Recovery Court. Hostetler’s relationship with her two teenage children has been restored. She has a job and is getting ready to start college.

“I still remember the first day. I couldn’t even walk up to the front of the courtroom by myself. I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned the skills to function in society,” said Hostetler, who is set to graduate Dec. 5 from the program.

Cornelius Abraham was thankful for the stability Recovery Court has brought to his life.

“Recovery Court is showing me how to do day-to-day living. It helps keep me from drinking and helps me out with my medications,” said Abraham, who is on probation for aggravated battery. In June, he ended four years of bouncing from place to place and, with the help of the mental health court team, moved into his own apartment.

The dinner was a social exchange among unlikely partners and an expression of community support that did not go unnoticed.

“To have people from the community do the work and do something special just for them really resonated with the Recovery Court participants,” said Jeff Schwartz, founder of the Diversity Project and a member of the Recovery Court’s advisory board.

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