New reading room gives recovering addicts a place to relax with kids

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Meta House client Denise and her son, Timothy, were two of more than 20 people on hand for the opening of a new reading room at the facility that treats women for drug and alcohol addiction. (Photo by Karen Slattery)

Meta House client Denise and her son, Timothy, were two of more than 20 people on hand for the opening of a new reading room at the facility that treats women for drug and alcohol addiction. (Photo by Karen Slattery)

Who doesn’t love a good story?

Now the children of women in recovery for drug and alcohol addictions at Milwaukee’s Meta House will have lots of stories to hear and to read.

The new reading room at Meta House’s transitional facility was a gift to the women and children who live there, created by a group of five volunteers as a class requirement for the Future Milwaukee leadership program.

Future Milwaukee, affiliated with Marquette University’s College of Professional Studies, trains leaders to make change through civic work. Chris Welker said his group had two interests in mind for their project, “childhood literacy and women’s housing.”

Meta House offered a room in the basement of its transitional facility, a large, red brick apartment building. The room was sparsely furnished — tables, chairs and a couch. Women met there to visit or play cards.

Now the walls are decorated with artwork.  Bookcases full of stories, including “Let’s Catch Stars,” “How Do Lions Say I Love You?” and “Joshua’s Song,” line the sides of the room.  Throw pillows, bursting with bright colors, on the couch and beanbag chairs invite mothers and children to sit down and open a book.

Volunteers Michele Watson and Dayanara Sanchez prepare for the celebration of the new reading room created for clients at Meta House. (Photo by Karen Slattery)

Volunteers Michele Watson and Dayanara Sanchez prepare for the celebration of the new reading room created for clients at Meta House. (Photo by Karen Slattery)

Mothers in treatment at Meta House are allowed to live with their children, ages 10 or younger. The private, non-profit organization served 423 women suffering from addiction in its residential, transitional and outpatient facilities last year. According to spokesperson Sarah Pollack, the program offers daycare for children who need attention while their mothers are in group sessions or meetings with counselors.

The reading room project began last fall. Since then, the Future Milwaukee team has collected money, toys, pillows and more than 1,500 books. The team comprised Walker, Marisol Alamo, Sherri Jordan, Chelsea Johnson and Ryan Sawall.

At a recent reception, Meta House President and CEO Amy Lindner thanked the group for transforming the room, which she called “brand new and beautiful.”

Lindner also told mothers that the space will help them repair the physical and emotional relationships damaged by drug and alcohol dependence. She encouraged them to reread a favorite book, help their children with homework and “build warm and lasting memories” in the reading room.

Before the food was gone and the celebration ended, mothers and children had seated themselves on the couch, in the beanbag chairs and on the floor to look at books.

Timothy, age 2, sat on his mother Denise’s lap as they worked their way through a copy of  “I’m a Little Teapot.”  Said Denise, a Meta House client,  “We will be down here a lot more to sit and read.  My children will learn to like reading.”

A toddler named Storm, in a client’s arms, kept herself busy with a book called “Choo, choo.”  Said Storm’s mother, Shelonda, “It is so nice to have more to do with the children.” Added her friend, “All these books at our disposal. This is great, just great.”

Timothy and Storm were both too young to say much about the books that had grabbed their attention, but 5-year-old Gaely, sitting next to her mother, was quick to speak her mind.  Said Gaely enthusiastically, “I love books!”

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