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From trauma, great hope

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After experiencing the healing power of addressing underlying trauma, Kelly Whitfield is committed to helping others who are struggling.

Kelly Whitfield is elated.

She just visited a client at a local drug rehab. Two months ago, Whitfield drove her there—wary and reeking of alcohol. Today, though, the young mother looked different. Her eyes were bright, and she’s proud. Hopeful, even.

It’s the same rehab facility where Whitfield began her own climb back from addiction, an irony that’s not lost on her.

“It’s full circle,” she says.

As founder of The Healing Hub in Buffalo, connecting people with the help they need is part of Whitfield’s mission. But it’s not the primary goal.

Helping people address trauma is her true guiding light.

It’s a gap that Whitfield herself experienced for far too long, in a system that she describes as broken.

You can go through detox and addiction treatment, she says, but if the underlying trauma isn’t addressed, the cycle continues. “It’s just a band-aid,” she explains. “Just because you put the drugs down doesn’t mean you’re OK.”

She founded The Healing Hub as a place where people can talk about their experiences—no matter how dark or difficult—without judgment. Her efforts are grassroots, connecting with those who need help mainly through weekly food giveaways in underserved neighborhoods across Buffalo.

“Once people feel safe enough to talk, we can address it,” says Whitfield, who’s known to sit down on a street curb and administer help on the spot.

Trauma may include anything from abuse to abandonment to poverty, all of which can have debilitating long-term psychological effects.

Whitfield’s own experience included all of the above and more.

A model student and high school champion swimmer who silently endured years of sexual abuse, she earned a college scholarship to Iona University. When she came close to dying in a horrific car crash weeks before school began, so did her hopes of escape. It was also when she was first introduced to opiate painkillers, which started a long battle with addiction.

A bleak new path emerged. For the next 20 years she endured more abusive relationships; lost a baby; was misdiagnosed and marginalized by doctors; began doing far more dangerous drugs; and attempted to end her life. She went through multiple rehab programs, none of which helped in the long term.

She said it was only when she began remembering what really happened to her as a child that she started to heal. Her moment came in 2019 when visiting her aunt in the Adirondacks. Years of blocked memories came flooding back.

She confronted her abusers and committed to a new mission of helping others in her shoes.

Why does addressing trauma make the difference?

“You get better by sitting through it—not running, fighting or freezing,” Whitfield says. She explains that if you don’t confront the underlying issues, the unhealthy but familiar cycles of behavior tend only to repeat themselves.

The Healing Hub provides resources to address trauma head-on, including peer-to-peer counseling, family therapy, healing through fitness, music and art therapy, personal finance counseling and more. Whitfield’s community partners offer additional services like housing and addiction treatment.

After decades of ineffective interventions, she says her mission is simple.

“I want to provide everything I never got.”

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