Serenity Star and Com­fort Café to ex­pand, in­crease of­fer­ings

Hos­pi­tal author­ity do­nates two build­ings so treat­ment cen­ter can add pa­tients.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Mary Hu­ber mhu­ber@ac­n­news­pa­pers.com

The Serenity Star treat­ment cen­ter and its sis­ter busi­ness, the Com­fort Café, which serves do­na­tion-based break­fast, lunch and din­ner on week­ends, has op­er­ated on First Street in Smithville nearly a decade. In that time, its ever-ex­pand­ing op­er­a­tions have been squeezed onto one small city block de­spite an in­flux of clients seek­ing re­cov­ery from drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion.

Now, af­ter a do­na­tion from the Smithville Hos­pi­tal Author­ity, the cen­ter will have space for an ad­di­tional 40 clients af­ter its women’s and fam­ily pro­grams re­lo­cate to a ranch on Jones Street. The move paves the way for an ex­pan­sion of the Com­fort Café into its ad­join­ing build­ing.

The hos­pi­tal author­ity gave two re­tired metal build­ings — for­merly the pe­di­atric and on­col­ogy units — to the cen­ter, which will now house the cen­ter’s women and fam­ily pro­grams.

The struc­tures will be moved to the 10-acre ranch, where the men’s pro­gram has been housed for six years.

“The women will ac­tu­ally have a home,” cen­ter co-founder Teri Cost­low said. “Right now, they are in what orig­i­nally be­gan as emer­gency hous­ing for women.”

Cur­rently, fam­i­lies who want to live to­gether at Serenity Star while in treat­ment check into a small rental house in town. The women set up in a small build­ing down­town next to the Com­fort Café, along a city block that also in­cludes the treat­ment cen­ter’s do­na­tion-based yoga and med­i­ta­tion cen­ter.

Cost­low said she be­lieves it would be safer to have the women at the ranch, es­pe­cially af­ter an armed in­truder bar­ri­caded him­self in­side the women’s dorm last year, fir­ing sev­eral shots in­side the build­ing and re­fus­ing to come out for sev­eral hours de­spite hostage ne­go­ti­a­tions. He was even­tu­ally ar­rested by po­lice, but af­ter the in­ci­dent, cen­ter staff were even more con­cerned about hous­ing the women down­town.

Soon af­ter, Serenity Star learned of the two build­ings the Smithville hos­pi­tal had avail­able. Its board was hav­ing trou­ble sell­ing them and de­cided to do­nate them to Serenity Star.

“We feel like we are help­ing peo­ple that need help,” Smithville Hos­pi­tal Author­ity board Pres­i­dent Bill Hec­tor said. “They do a lot of good.”

With the added 5,000 square feet of space, the cen­ter will be able to house 100 pa­tients. Cur­rently, it has room for about 60. The build­ings will also save the cen­ter money be­cause the own­ers won’t have to lease a house in town for the fam­ily pro­gram.

With the build­ing on First Street emp­tied out, the cen­ter has room to ex­pand its pop­u­lar café, which is bustling with cus­tomers. Cost­low said staff plan to tear down the walls and open the old women’s dorm as a bak­ery and coffee bar with extra seat­ing for pa­trons.

The new build­ings join the men’s houses, gar­dens and wood shop at the ranch on Jones Street. Cen­ter staff have plans to add a sweat lodge, yoga stu­dio and large com­mu­nity cen­ter in the com­ing months, and Cost­low said she is look­ing for build­ings to ac­com­mo­date more ser­vices.

“It was al­ways the plan to have the whole pro­gram at the ranch,” Cost­low said. “Ev­ery­one is so ex­cited.”

With the added 5,000 square feet of space, the cen­ter will be able to house 100 pa­tients.

MARY HU­BER / SMITHVILLE TIMES

Ali Ben­ham works on the mu­ral lead­ing into Serenity Star Re­cov­ery Cen­ter in Smithville re­cently. The mu­ral is a sym­bolic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a re­cov­er­ing addict’s jour­ney from dark­ness to light.

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