Sober Home Donation Holds Extra Meaning For Mom Who Lost Son to Addiction

By Kelly Burch 01/26/18
A local Eagle Scout's gift to a grieving mother will be passed on to residents of a new sober home opening this spring.
Steven & Barbara Gillmeister
Steven & Barbara Gillmeister Photo via Gilly’s House

When Barbara Gillmeister’s son Steven was in a sober living home, she knew there was little she could do to comfort him amid the turmoil of addiction and sometimes painful process of recovery. Although she couldn’t take away Steven’s demons, she could provide a small amount of physical comfort by making him a blanket that she hoped would help him feel more at home. 

After Steven died in October 2016 of an overdose, Gillmeister began sleeping with the 25-year-old’s blanket. “He adored it,” Gillmeister told The Sun Chronicle.

To honor her son’s legacy and to try to help other young men in similar situations, Gillmeister decided to open a sober living home. Gilly’s House, named for Steven’s nickname, will open this spring in Wrentham, Massachusetts. 

Recently, a local Eagle Scout named Matthew Stetter approached her and asked if he could donate blankets to the 22 residents who will call Gilly’s House home when it opens this spring. 

Stetter had no idea what his donation would mean to the grieving mother. “He didn’t realize this was a project close to home,” Gillmeister said. 

Shown smiling and surround by the blankets in a recent photo, Gillmeister said that the blankets will send a message of self-worth to the young men that Gilly’s House hopes to help. 

“The young men who will come to live with us, their self-esteem is so low,” she said. “And that’s the thing that’s wonderful about these blankets. We want Gilly’s House to be a beautiful place to come to, where its residents can say, ‘I mean something. I’m worth it.’ I want them to feel proud and feel loved and feel like this is their home.”

She hopes that each blanket will provide someone in recovery with the same comfort that Steven’s blanket brought him, and now brings to his mother. 

“And the one place we all feel the most safe and secure is in our bed,” she said. “These no-sew blankets, they’re fleece—soft and cuddly and warm. It will make them feel hopefully safe and warm and wanted.”

Gillmeister said she will need community support—like the blanket donation—to help the men at Gilly’s house turn their lives around. Despite the odds, she is hopeful that she can make a difference in the lives of young men while honoring her son. 

“After he passed away we wanted to do something to honor his legacy,” she said. “Steven would think this was the greatest thing.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.