Celebrating public and personal milestones at Interim House

On Thursday, Interim House, a residential addiction recovery center for women in Germantown, celebrated its 40th anniversary at it’s campus on Upsal Street. Kathy Wellbank, Interim House’s program director, said the day was about celebrating the house’s diverse programs and the women that are its success stories.

About twenty women – volunteers, visitors and patients – crammed into a room to knit and chat around cupcakes decorated with the number ’40’. The knitting group was started by Kathy Duffy, the house’s Vocational and Volunteer Coordinator, in 2004, when she learned to knit. Many of the women at the house asked her to knit for them. Duffy told them, “I won’t make it for you, but I will teach you!” Tanya Reece, who’s been an inpatient for a month and half, said knitting is good for her nerves and that Duffy and the other staff members have been very supportive.

After refreshments, visitors, patients and staff gathered in the yard for the award ceremony. After brief thank yous and introductions, Virginia Williams, a graduate and now a staff member at Interim House, took the podium. In a lilting voice, she recalled when she first arrived at Interim House and how she has changed, “Those shackles will never ever touch my hands again.”

Toni Montier, recipient of the 2011 Distinguished Alumna Award at the ceremony, also chose to work in non-profit recovery services. She refered to program director Kathy Wellbank and the staff at Interim House as the “Interim Angels.”

Temple University grad Kristen Gavin is known around Interim House as “the bike lady”.  In 2007 Gavin offered her services three times a week to work on fitness with the house’s women. Gavin was inspired by the patients to start “Gearing Up”, a non-profit organization that provides recovering women with cycling skills, for exercise, transportation and personal growth. Over 100 of the house’s women have participated.  She received the 2011 Community Partner Award, presented by Lisa Nutter.

Last to be recognized was program director Wellbank herself whose vision has been a vital part of the Interim community for the past eighteen years. Staff members presented her with a statue by a Kenyan artist while everyone stood to cheer her.

With few dry eyes, Sheila Zagar, who teaches dance to the women, took the podium. “This is a community, complete, body, mind, spirit and soul,” she said. Zagar then turned on “Step by Step,” a song performed by Whitney Houston and the women of Interim House performed a dance and invited all attendees to join.

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