By Carmen M. Woodson-Wray, Gary Crusader
Serenity House Inc., a well-known sober meeting facility in Gary, began in 1978 as Serenity Club, Inc. Started by two recovering alcoholics, Mozell Haymon and the late Henry J. Johnson, Serenity House Inc. will celebrate its 39th anniversary at a banquet on Saturday April 29. Resurrection House Baptist Church of Northwest Indiana will host the event.
Mozell Haymon had recently been discharged from the Alcoholism Treatment Program at St. Mary’s Medical Center when he decided to embrace his sobriety.
Haymon talked to Johnson, his sponsor, about the need for a place where recovering alcoholics could attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and have recreational activities in a sober environment. He confided in his aftercare counselor, Father Ken Grabner, about his ideas for such a place.
Through his superiors at the Community of Holy Cross, Father Grabner was able to present Haymon and Johnson with a $1,000 check as “seed money” to help start the club. Thus was born The Serenity Club Inc.
Serenity Club was officially opened in April 1978 at 3401 West 25th Avenue in Gary. Although the first location had frozen pipes and unpaved streets, and numerous repairs and other obstacles presented themselves, Haymon and Johnson felt a “Higher Power” was in charge. They forged ahead and the facility thrived.
Although the first year was crucial, many people supported the Club and helped it to remain open by becoming dues paying members, charter members and by volunteering their services. Haymon says the many words of encouragement were also pivotal in the club’s success.
Some of those who contributed included the ATP Staff of St. Mary’s Medical Center, the Helping Hand Club and the organizational members who continually gave their support.
The Club’s first non-paid worker was Charlie Jones. “Mr. Charlie,” as his friends know him, opened, closed and set up for meetings at the Club.
Starting with just three meetings per week, Sunday Night Westside; Wednesday Serenity Farms; and Saturday Night Mustard Seed, the facility soon became a beacon in the community. Asylee (Doll Baby) Haymon, Ben Williams, Malinda Walker, Dolores Wiley, Anne Mitchell, Alethea Haymon and others began the Sunday Breakfast Group. Al Mitchell, who had spare time in the morning began the Morning Eye Opener meetings. From these beginnings Serenity House now has over 18 AA, EA and NA meetings per week.
The need for extended treatment was soon recognized. Many people in recovery had difficulty maintaining their sobriety after only 28 days of primary treatment. The Serenity House, which provided transitional housing for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, opened in August 1980 at 430 Marshall Street in Gary.
A continuum of care following primary treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction is provided at Serenity House. Clients receive room and board, individual and group counseling, parenting and life skills, employment counseling and referrals for up to six months, based upon the needs of each client.
Serenity’s total treatment philosophy follows the 12-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Daily attendance at support group meetings and instructions in Back to Basics (an in-depth approach to the proper use of the Twelve-Step Program) produces a 75 per cent success rate for participants.
The Club went from being open one hour before and one hour after a scheduled meeting, to being open approximately 16 hours per day. Haymon said, “However, at the end of 1985 we lost our lease at the 25th Avenue location. Again, we turned to our “Higher Power” who then directed us to find a suitable location at 3825 Broadway in Gary.”
According to Haymon, “The lack of funding to purchase the building was yet another obstacle that would stand in our way. Once again, our “Higher Power” gave us a helping hand by touching the hearts and minds of 27 members and friends, who gave the Club a three-year loan to secure the purchase. In the fall of 1989, we burned the mortgage in recognition of repaying the loan in full, plus interest!”
Haymon said an expansion of services and staff required a larger center and Serenity relocated to its current Halfway House location. As always, Haymon says, they leaned on God who had given them guidance through many other obstacles.
On September 1, 1989, Serenity House relocated to a nine-acre facility at 5157 Harrison Street in Gary, Indiana. Originally, they provided services for up to eight male clients, but expanded to service an additional eight female clients from November 1990 through February 2001.
In 2009, says Haymon, the roof of the Club collapsed. All 18 meetings are now being held at the halfway house located at 5157 Harrison Street. They currently provide services for up to 12 males and are in the process of developing a Women with Children Program.
“Knowing that God is our leader, we will continue to help others better help themselves” says Haymon. “As with any organization, we urge you to keep the legacy of recovery alive! While many founding members have passed on, it’s up to those that are still here to insure the future for every alcoholic and addict, yet to come.”
Serenity House plans to build a 21-unit housing complex to house recovering persons and families soon.
The Serenity House 39th Anniversary Banquet will be held at the Resurrection House Baptist Church of Northwest Indiana at 1968 W. 11th Avenue on April 29.