Serenity Inns March 2016 Newsletter

Beauty at Serenity Inns

This past Wednesday Dixie and I brought the meal for the residents of the Inn. The conversation at the table was once more a witness to the ‘plus’ that many of the residents experience as part of Serenity Inn’s approach to recovery. Sitting beside me one of the men said, “This is my thirteenth time in a recovery program. There is not another like this.” Another said, “I have never lived in a more beautiful spot. This is great.”

As we enter our 12th year in providing opportunities for men to begin meaningful recovery, I am drawn to rehearse again the values and principles that have invited us to this work.

They continue to guide our decisions. Of all the wonderful insights that Samaritan Inns [in Washington, D.C.] shared with us in the early days, the rarest and least understood yet important has to do with ‘Beauty.’

Rick Deines

Rick Deines

We regard the men as ‘beautiful’ in the midst of their human struggle. We employ staff who embody ‘beauty’ in their personal style. The staff develops programs that depend on the role of ‘beauty’ in one’s life, therefore the ‘spiritual growth’ emphasis. The men witness over and over to the ‘beautiful’ people that daily come and provide a meal.

Serenity Inn is a facility that is so much more than a place to lay one’s head. The hands that built it from scratch 14 years ago chose the colors, the room arrangements, the architectural touches so a living space could be part of the healing process, a process emphasizing the role of ‘beauty’ in life. With Bill Buehler’s dedicated work to ‘maintenance’ along with other volunteers working on the landscaping, gardening and the tasks, ‘beauty’ is sustained. The yearly celebration at the Italian Community Center is an event of beauty, as are the stories that the men share. Add the summer picnic hosted by the residents, the alumni Christmas celebration and the whole emphasis on beauty becomes essential to how men recover.

When that ‘beauty’ is absent, unnecessary struggle ensues. We lose our focus. Less important values move beauty aside.

It is with that backdrop that I read “When Beauty Strikes” by David Brooks in this morning’s NYTimes (1/15/2016). I share it with the hope that as we plan expansion and provide more and more services, we will always emphasize the necessity of ‘beauty’ being primary in our work. This, I believe, is central to our ‘spiritual growth’ as the board.


(The 24th in a series of Interviews with Alumni)
by Lorraine Buehler

Romell Brown’s path to drugs started the way it does for many teenagers today— in high school where he wanted to fit in. His entry drugs were marijuana and alcohol; they led to heroin, dropping out his sophomore year (1989), and hanging out on the streets. What followed was arrest and jail time in Illinois for doing drugs, selling drugs and stealing cars.

After prison–with family in Milwaukee,–Romell moved here and got his first job ever with the Milwaukee Community Service Core where he trained for 6 or 7 months rehabbing houses, eventually moving on to a program with the Wisconsin Conservation Core. Things went well until he found drugs in Milwaukee as well.

Romell Brown

Romell Brown

Romell’s wake-up call out of his addiction came with the death of his mother from lung cancer in 2003 when she was 55. The sadness and regret of his realization that his mother died while he was in his addiction made him decide, “I’m done.” He found recovery at Amani House at 39th and Keefe in Milwaukee, a transitional living facility run by the state for African American men. At Amani, he found a father figure in the Executive Director. After 90 days at Amani, he was hired as a house manager and worked third shift and lived in recovery for 8 years.

The death of Amani’s Executive Director (Romell’s father figure)–along with Romell’s health issues, including a collapsed lung–led to a prescription for oxycodone… and relapse.

Romell found Serenity Inns in May of 2015 and a Recovery Program that has given him the tools to stay on the Recovery Road this time. He credits the journal topics in the curriculum with giving him the opportunity to let out things he had bottled up. He reads the journal entries now (“Who am I?” “Do I forgive myself?” “Do I think I still want to use?”) as reminders of where he’s been.

He speaks of the “love” he felt at Serenity Inns—from the individuals and families who bring dinner each night. He felt their sincerity in the hope that he and the other residents would be successful in their recovery.

Romell is grateful for what he learned in Money Management, how to live on $30 per week while at the Inn. Today he is saving money and makes sure his bills are paid.

In August, 2015 while at SI, Romell found a job he loves, working with young people with disabilities. He credits the trials and tribulations of his drug use with making him a strong counselor and role model for this position.

His primary goal is to stay clean, and, long term, he dreams of owning/managing his own transitional living facility to give others the chance to live independently and to be productive members of society.

While in prison, Romell involved himself with prison ministry and when asked what he wanted to do when he got out, he said, “All I want to do is tell people how God changed my life.” He continues to find his balance in life with God and Narcotics Anonymous, acknowledging that he has “to keep God first.”

Venzel Owens, the new intern, introduces himself:

I’m 52 years old, the father of 2 girls, and a student at M.A.T.C in my final semester, about to receive my Associates of Arts Degree in Human Services with an A.O.D.A certification.

I have had dealings with Serenity Inns for the past 7 1⁄2 years because I came through the Narcotics Anonymous fellowship, participating in Hospital and Institutions, a sub- committee of Narcotics Anonymous which visits treatment centers and carries the message of recovery to people who can’t yet attend meetings. Through my visits at Serenity Inns I met Jason who attended and graduated from the same Human Service program that I am now about to complete, and he helped me get the internship.

Venzel Owens

Venzel Owens

As for my learning experiences here at Serenity Inns, I have done nothing but learn, exactly what I wanted my internship experience to be. We take classes that are built on theory; I wanted my internship to be about practicing the theories that I have learned and that’s exactly what’s happening. The staff has been welcoming and is showing me everything I need to know, the right and proper way of doing things. We take classes on interviewing people. Here, I had to observe and learn how to interview and hone my listening skills by watching Mr. Clay. I also have been shown how to document the right way and its level of importance to the wellbeing of the facility and its funding. Everything has to be documented. If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen. There are so many other things to learn and my mind will remain open to learning all that I can.

I just want to personally thank Ellen Blathers, Lionel Clay, and my friend Jason for allowing me the privilege of coming aboard and learning from them. These people are the epitome of professionalism. I will be forever grateful to them, and what I have learned from them I will keep for the rest of my career. My experience here at Serenity Inns has exceeded my expectations.

Serenity Inns 6th Celebration of Recovery Dinner and Fundraiser

More than 385—that’s the number of men—former alcoholics and drug addicts—who have been given the tools to find new paths in life at Serenity Inns since its founding 12 years ago. The first resident was admitted on April 12, 2004, and each year has brought new success stories like those you will hear about at our Anniversary Celebration.

Please join us in marking the 6th Celebration of Recovery fundraiser on Thursday, April 21, 2016 at the Italian Community Center. The evening will begin with fellowship and a silent auction at 5 p.m. followed by dinner and will include a brief message from the Honorable Carl Ashley, current Drug Court judge, and messages from a graduate and a resident as well as recognition of a valuable community partner. Last year’s event was a great success! It promises to be a great evening!

Do you want to be part of it?

  • The cost is $65/person or $1000 to sponsor a table that seats 8 (includes special sponsor recognition).
  • Buy a dinner for a resident or graduate – just $65!
  • Donate an item for the Silent Auction. (We welcome theme baskets, gift cards from area businesses, unique experiences such as a plane ride or tickets to a sporting event. Maybe you were gifted a special treasure that you never use? If you have a special talent, consider making something: jewelry table runner, afghan, or quilt.)
    charles woodson helmet

    Charles Woodson’s autographed helment from last years auction.

To offer an auction item or to sponsor a table, contact
Lorraine Buehler by April 1. To attend, contact Lorraine last year’s auction by April 10 (414-964-8933,

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