The History of Serenity Group
Serenity was founded in 1982 as a stand-alone group of Alcoholics Anonymous in The Woodlands. The original group was called the Oak Ridge North Group and met at Timberidge Presbyterian Church twice a week (Wednesday and Friday). The group was led by a woman named Willie B., who served as the group’s pioneer for many years. She was an AA circuit and big book speaker at the time. As the ORN group grew in size along with growth in the area, there was a desire to expand the group in terms of schedule as well as space. The group numbered about 20 and they were running out of room. In addition, The Woodlands Methodist church had a Tuesday noon meeting in the area.
There was initially a lot of pushback in starting a new group because various personalities were resistant to change. The ORN group also felt they would lose the spiritual aspect if they left the church and wanted to keep the group intimate. In addition, many of the clubs in the Houston area at the time had a lot of activity going on outside of AA. Card and table games were a common occurrence and Champions had a club fairly close by where many hung out as well. The members eventually had a long meeting (the original group conscience chaired by Gordon S.) and decided through lengthy debate that creating a new club was the only option. It was the only way they could have more meetings, and grow with the new Woodlands community. The meeting wasn’t without the drama typical of a group conscience meeting. Through tears and some anger, and a thrown set of keys, the votes were cast and the decision was made.
In March of 1982 members of the Oak Ridge North Group and the Woodlands Methodist Group, which met on Tuesday in the church kitchen, merged to form Serenity Group of Alcoholics Anonymous, in District 31 in Southeast Texas. The initial group numbered about 25-30 alcoholics, and the group grew with new members over time.
Serenity Group started in a rented tack and saddle shop on a dirt road off of Sawdust Rd. The building was in minor disrepair and Zola H., who was a member and successful real estate agent in S. Montgomery County, helped facilitate the original lease. The first members were very enthusiastic about the new club and spent countless hours fixing it up. The porch was a popular hangout and the group continued to grow throughout the 80’s.
There were a couple of rooms and one served as an Al-Anon room. Jim G. built the coffee bar by hand and it was a memorable part of the room. The porch had chairs and was a popular place to hang out before and after meetings.
Once the lease ran out at the first club location, Serenity was on the move again and went back to Oak Ridge. The new spot was located in a small shopping center on Robinson Road in the corner, which is now a furniture store. The group then moved across the street to the shopping center on the other side of Robinson Rd. These rooms lasted through the early ’90s.
By 1996 Serenity moved to a small shopping center off Rayford that is now under the new Rayford Rd. railroad overpass. It was a fairly large room but we had a lot of issues with parking. The center had a small lot and includes about five or six other stores. The other tenants were constantly complaining about the cars, especially at the weekday noon meetings.
As a result of the parking snafu and lease coming to an end, Serenity was on the move again. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Club leaders another room was found on Sawdust Rd. (on the other side of the tracks, and I-45). The current location at 405 Sawdust Rd has been in place since July of 2014.
A Few of the Original Members
Thanks to Darlene and Jim G., and Ray B. for the history.
Jim G., Darlene G., Jo M., Elsie, Steve S., Uta, Maggie S., Pat D., Bob D., Sid, Earl P., Gordon S., Sheri A., Big Al, David B., Jim C., Jay C., Zola H., Matt F., Ray B., Janet B., Stew, Debbie F., Dick F., Ken T., John W., James H., Sheryl R.
Serenity derived its name from a billboard that at the time existed on Sawdust at the corner of the dirt road and advertised a mattress called the “Serenity” mattress. When giving directions on how to get there, people would say, “turn left at the Serenity sign.” As fate would have it, the name stuck. Serenity has existed under the same name since its founding.
The original Serenity room had no chairs when they rented the house, so they had to find a cheap solution. They stumbled upon a movie theater that had closed and the owner was looking to get rid of their seating. For a small fee, they secured several rows of the movie theater chairs. The original group had movie theater seating in rows. They also had the same table set up you see in the room today.
There were eventually sofas donated to the club and they sat along the walls. What ended up happening was the couches of course attracted “couch surfers” and people looking for a nap or place to crash. The club was willing to help those in need but creating an overnight situation proved too much to deal with and the couches were thrown out.
Within a few months of the new Serenity group, the noon meeting was started. The economy in the area wasn’t the greatest so there were many people out of work or looking for work. The noon group had many of these people, and after the meeting going to lunch was popular. Many of the people would just hang out at the club all afternoon until the six. Some felt it was a distraction for the job seekers because they were more inclined to hang out at the club than look for jobs!
Willie B., the original leader of the Oak Ridge group was opposed to the new Serenity in a location other than the church. She continued in Oak Ridge through the 80’s and early 90’s. Many years later she spoke at the Serenity room behind the railroad tracks. While at the time of formation she was opposed to the new group for previously stated reasons, when she spoke she said she was responsible for the new group forming! In a way, she was even though she was opposed to it. She really started AA in the area. Willie also sponsored many women and men at the time. She helped get a lot of people sober.
Serenity had real issues with smoking. At the time of formation, smoking was allowed and accepted virtually everywhere except maybe churches and hospitals. Up to the early to mid 2000s Serenity battled with the smoking issue, and a few people that were opposed to smoking actually left and started new groups in the area because of it. Safe Harbor is a group that still exists today that was created because of the smoking issue.
The laws were changed in 1997 in the state of Texas to ban smoking in most major public places. Serenity followed suit within a few years and voted to have smoking only outdoors. The smoking issue also caused a change in group conscience, that rules passed had to be in place for at least 6 months before they can be voted on again.
The first Serenity was also a 24-hour club for a short period of time. It ended up becoming a place to sleep for some people that were homeless, yet still following the 3rd tradition. It also became a health and sanitary issue to the 24-hour plan was scrapped. Many people over the years have taken on the responsibility to lock and unlock the rooms.
A popular thing for new AA’s at the time was to find people who were perceived to needing AA and bring them to the club. There were more homeless people in the area at the time because of the economy and the fact that The Woodlands was “country” back then. Chasing down homeless people and asking them if they needed help was something that happened. Tradition 12 was a big deal because the internet didn’t exist and AA wasn’t as well known.