Last month marked Recovery Month and was highlighted locally at a friendly gathering of 180 supporters at the historic Santa Barbara Club for the fourth annual “Celebrating Recovery!” luncheon and silent auction, marking Casa Serena’s 53rd year helping women recover from alcohol and drug addiction.
The goal of Recovery Month and the day’s event was to celebrate people in recovery while promoting the benefits of prevention, treatment and recovery for mental and substance use disorders.
An opening performance on guitar by Unity Shoppe Executive Director Tom Reed showcased the positive message that recovery in all its forms is possible, capturing the heart and spirit of the event and the organization with the aptly titled song, “I Won’t Let Go.”
Wait staff dressed in classic white shirts and matching slacks and ties served appetizers and offered glasses of chilled beverages to further quench the thirst on this bright fall day. Matching blue tablecloths adorned with flower print table runners complemented nicely with the white china set before guests for the luncheon.
Guests surveyed an assortment of silent auction items on display across long tables set up inside the elegant club, including a chauffeured limousine service in a vintage English 1938 Rolls Royce to dinner for six at a charming Eastside cottage, an opportunity to pilot a military jet, and colorful contemporary Native American art by Mitchell Robles.
Robles’ designs complemented nicely with the bright, beautiful floral centerpieces generously donated by Everbloom that were joined by hanging floral arrangements set below the blue star-patterned outdoor tent.
Many guests stayed within the shaded tent on the warm autumn day, but some brave souls could be seen exploring the grounds adjacent to the estate building that were lush with vegetation and foliage.
“We’ve got everything exactly right except the temperature,” Executive Director Craig Belknap said in his opening remarks. “I just couldn’t the thermostat any cooler today.”
Emcee Ginger Woolf introduced Belknap, who has been with the organization for more than five years, bringing more than 30 years of experience in working with alcoholics and addicts to the programs of Casa Serena.
“I was thinking about this prior to coming up here, and this is more like a family reunion like we used to have back home,” Belknap said. “When I stand up here, and this is the fourth year I’ve stood here, and look out over here, I see people who’ve been doing for Casa long before I got here and will be doing for Casa after I’m gone. But now we can all get together on one day with a wonderful meal and some entertainment and get to visit with each other and do what we’re really here for, and that’s to support Casa in any way you can.”
Salad and entrees accompanied the closing of the silent auction before the main event of the day as dessert was served before an awards ceremony.
The presentation honored two individuals within the community who demonstrate the same commitment, dedication and compassion for women in recovery, as did Casa founder Mildred Pinheiro.
Pinheiro founded Casa Serena in 1959, and in 1973 the organization became an independent nonprofit with a mission to provide effective treatment services and a safe, sober living environment for women suffering from alcoholism or who are addicted to alcohol and other drugs using the 12-step process and philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Board President Mike Olsen presented the first Mildred Pinhero 2012 Pillar of Strength award of the afternoon to Dick Ellison, recognizing his years of commitment since originally joining the Casa Serena board in 2002.
Ellison credits the current successes of the group to the staff for creating an atmosphere of healing and avenues for women to flourish.
“In my family of origin, there have been women who have never gotten into recovery,” Ellison said. “If something like Casa Serena would’ve existed, their lives would’ve been different. I cherish the opportunity to be involved in a program that enables women to change their lives.”
Next, program director Nancy Belknap shared words of gratitude for Ron Labrum’s solid contributions to the brick and mortar of the organization before presenting him with the second Mildred Pinhero 2012 Pillar of Strength award of the day.
Labrum joined the organization in 2004, with the challenging task of maintaining the facilities of Casa Serena, including a total makeover for the upstairs bedrooms in the Main House as part of the Fresh Start project.
“It is such a gift to see them rebuild their lives, get their kids back, return to the community with renewed hope and faith in a better way of life,” Labrum said. “Casa Serena is a place where miracles happen.”
Casa Serena operates three homes for women in various stages of recovery, including the Main House with a structured 90-day program and the Graduate House that offers long-term care up to nine months, plus the Oliver House, whose primary mission is to assist pregnant women and those with children.
Casa Serena has served more than 10,000 and is the only women’s treatment facility in Santa Barbara County that is licensed by the State of California.
Later, Woolf introduced keynote speaker and alumna Martha Murray, who graduated from the Main House in spring 2007 and continued at the Grad House until early fall of that year. Murray has been a resident adviser since late 2009.
Established in 1892, the Santa Barbara Club, at 1105 Chapala St., remains one of the oldest private clubs in California and an urban oasis for members with old world charm and a rich Santa Barbara history.
Development Director Marcia Reed was appointed this year after many years at the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce and couldn’t be happier to be a dedicated part of the Casa Serena staff after serving on the board for five years. Reed was also delighted to be back at the Santa Barbara Club for the fourth year running.
“We’ve always had it here at the Santa Barbara Club. They are so gracious to us, so we love having our event here,” Reed said. “It’s a beautiful spot, it’s a great location, the people are gracious and loving and it’s just wonderful. And it’s interesting because in all of my years at the chamber I never did an event here. This is kind of a well-kept secret here in Santa Barbara as far as event planning.”
The luncheon concluded with closing remarks from Reed with acknowledgement of the board, staff and sponsors before a closing number by local favorite, Leslie Lembo, singing “What a Light” in her distinctive vocal style influenced by Aretha Franklin and James Taylor.
Casa Serena offers special thanks to the wonderful “Celebrate Recovery!” sponsors:
» 24 Karat Gold Sponsors: Judy Garrison, S&S Seeds, John Daly (in memory of Erin Elizabeth MacElhenny) and the Volentine Family Foundation
» 14 Karat Gold Sponsors: Robbin Rimmer Behrens, Elizabeth Rice Grossman, Citrix Online, Alison Daniels, John and Dinah Mason, Meredith McKittrick-Taylor, Sybil Rosen, Robert Steele, Venoco Inc., Elizabeth Vogt and Maryann Schall