George Vogel to retire after 4 decades at helm of Berks COCA

'George is both a leader and a visionary'

READING, Pa. - After nearly 40 years of serving as executive director of Berks County's Council on Chemical Abuse (COCA), George Vogel is preparing to step aside.

Vogel will retire as the organization's executive director on September 30, COCA's board of directors announced Thursday.

"It has been an honor to work with George over the years," said Jeff Auman, the board's president. "His visionary leadership and passion have paved the way for continued growth and expansion of necessary services to address the disease of addiction.

Vogel started his career in 1969 as a juvenile probation officer and worked as a counselor at the Bureau of Employment Security before serving as program director of COCA's prison counseling program.

The Berks County commissioners named him COCA's second executive director on January 10, 1978.

"He has established a strong foundation and history of success at COCA," Auman said. "We are sad to see George leave, but we are excited to see the organization continue to grow, thanks to George's commitment and dedication."

Vogel is credited with playing a crucial role in establishing drug and alcohol prevention education programs in Berks County schools, opening doors to allow more people to get addiction treatment, and securing funding and government support to open recovery housing for those in early recovery from addiction.

"George is both a leader and a visionary," said Stanley Papademetriou, drug and alcohol assistant administrator at COCA. "In the late 1980s, he imagined a place where those in early recovery from addiction could help each other while living together in a structured and sober environment. Working with local stakeholders, George secured a grant to establish the first Bridge House in center city Reading."

COCA's funds now help to support nine recovery houses that annual serve more than 300 Berks County residents who are in early recovery from addiction.

"George has been a leader at the forefront of many initiatives to improve outcomes for those in his care," said Berks County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt. "He has a passion for what he does. His staff is a testament to his legacy."

COCA's board has established a search committee to find a new executive director.

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