Today, approximately 200 recovery meetings are held in the facility each month. These meetings support a range of needs in the overall recovery community for affected by substance abuse and for those struggling to deal with problems from gambling, overeating, depression, and anxiety.
In 2016, approximately 24,000 persons attended meetings at Westminster House. We provide the largest number of meetings at a single, non-institutional facility in Delaware.
AA Expands to Newark, DE
In 1957, members of Alcoholics Anonymous who had been traveling to meetings in Wilmington, DE decided to expand meetings into the Newark area. In the early days, these meetings were held in the homes of individual members, once a week on Saturday evenings. Within a few years the meetings transitioned to the Baptist Church on Delaware Avenue before settling in 1961 to the Carriage house of the Wright estate at on the grounds of the First Presbyterian Church, also known as the Westminster House.
Westminster House Recovery Support Grows Rapidly
The number and types of recovery meetings at Westminster House expanded quickly. In 1963, a second meeting started at Westminster on Wednesday evenings. Late that year a third meeting was added and followed by a new Al-Anon group aid and support family members of the recovering alcoholics. Soon after evening “candle-light” meetings were added, as well as Beginners’ meetings, Women’s meetings Men’s meetings Young People’s meetings and Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings.
By the end of 1979, Westminster welcomed Al-Ateen, the teenagers’ self-help vehicle of recovery and hosted the first Alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration. The event, well before the “Just Say No” era, was attended by over 300 recovering alcoholics and their family members.
In 1980 a new tradition began at Westminster House: a 24-hour Alkathon beginning at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve and ending with the 8 p.m. meeting on Christmas night. The Alkathon consisted of meetings every other hour with food and fellowship in the hour between each meeting. This tradition continued to provide help to recovering alcoholics and their family members as the alcoholics try to remain sober—often for the first time in many years—throughout the Christmas holidays.
By 1988, thirty-nine different meeting were being held at Westminster House: 26 AA meetings, 9 Al-Anon meetings 2 Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings and 2 Al-Ateen meetings. Some 2000 people attended each week.
Westminster House was the Genesis of many Recovery Groups
People who had gotten the help they needed at Westminster House were active evangelists who went out into the community to set up new recover groups at other area churches. These groups include the Hudson State Service Center (where daycare is provided at the morning meetings), the Wilson Community Center, the outreach offices of treatment centers and on campus at the University of Delaware.
Fire Causes a Setback for Westminster House
At the end of 1988 an electrical fire destroyed the interior of Westminster House, rendering the building unusable and displacing all the meetings. Meetings were rescheduled at various venues throughout Newark with the majority being rescheduled at the church.
The recovery community and First Presbyterian Church came together to discuss options for maintaining meetings and options for reconstruction. After many discussions, it was decided that repairing the old Carriage house was not feasible. A new building would be needed to meet the growing needs of the recovery community. Thus, Westminster Management was formed as a collaborative non-profit (501-c3) organization comprised of members of the recovery and faith communities to fundraise and build a new facility.
The New Westminster House
Westminster Management quickly organized and began outreach. The outpouring from the community was overwhelming. Companies, foundations and individuals donated over $200,000 in capital and hundreds of thousands of dollars in time, services and materials to support the planning and development of the new building. The new Westminster House hosted the annual Christmas Alkathon on December 24th and 25th in 1991 and was officially dedicated and opened for meetings in January 1992.
Today, thousands of Newark- area residents have found sobriety, serenity and recovery from addiction within the walls of Westminster House. The outreach has expanded to support various groups such as: Overeaters Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, mental health support groups and those individuals coping with the loss of a loved one to drugs. There are approximately 50 meetings each month serving an estimated 500 people in the recovery community.
Westminster Management continues to provide oversight for the facility. Its board continues to be a successful collaboration between the recovery and faith communities. Our goal is to provide an exciting and inspiring environment where people feel welcome and safe during their recovery journey.