In 1959, Santa Barbara resident Mildred Pinheiro opened the doors of her home on Bath Street to women battling alcoholism in the area. In the 50 years since, the site has continued to operate as a residential treatment home, helping more than 6,000 women in the recovery process. This Saturday, August 15, Casa Serena will kick off its 50th anniversary celebration with an old-fashioned rummage sale at the Main House, 1515 Bath Street, from 9 a.m. till noon.
Casa Serena is the only licensed residential facility for women in all of Santa Barbara County, according to Jesse Stone, the organization’s developmental director. It provides recovery services to women over the age of 18 in three different houses.
Stone hopes the rummage sale, besides serving as an important fundraiser for Casa Serena’s projects for women and children, will also attract attention to the organization’s goals. “Casa Serena is a quiet organization,” Stone said. “There are a lot of people who don’t even know we’re here. Since it’s our 50th, we think it’s time to make a splash in the community and show everyone the wonderful work we’ve been doing in Santa Barbara all these years.”
Women start the program in the Main House, Pinheiro’s original establishment on Bath Street. There, they participate in a structured 90-day program that includes working with a personal counselor, group counseling, peer support groups, 12-step meetings, and meditation. Counselors and house administrators place a strong emphasis on fostering self-supportive women. After two weeks of intensive recovery counseling, women are required to seek employment or volunteer during the next 10 weeks.
Upon completion of the Main House program, women are encouraged to continue their recovery at the Graduate House. Recovering women may live in the house for up to nine months, during which time they are required to work, volunteer, or attend school at least 30 hours per week.
Women with children may choose to continue treatment in the Oliver House, which is designed to reunite mothers with their children in “a safe and nurturing environment,” said Stone. The Oliver House program focuses especially on the unique issues faced by single mothers recovering from addiction. Women in the Oliver House are also required to work, volunteer, or attend school 20 to 30 hours per week.
Stone also commented that the organization has seen immense growth in the last few years. The new executive director, Craig Belknap, enacted a new program, “Helping Women Recover,” that is more gender specific than previous programming. Along with that, staff members and counselors have developed multiple smaller groups such as body image therapy, crisis counseling, and domestic violence counseling at all three houses.
In addition to the rummage sale, Casa Serena is planning an anniversary luncheon on October 3. Stone expects a strong alumni presence at the event, as well as community members who have devoted time, donations, and energy to the organization over the years.
“Casa Serena couldn’t survive without donations,” Stone said. “What we charge for the program, $1,500, is less than half of the actual cost. We have to do the fundraising to make up the balance.”
For information about volunteering with Casa Serena or the organization in general, visit www.casaserena.org or call Jessie Stone at (805) 564-8701.