A few years ago, three Alcoholics, who were trying to practice the suggested Program of AA, were in McDonald’s in Flour Bluff, a suburb of Corpus Christi, Texas. The three ex-tipplers were discussing the Twelfth step of the Program dealing with the main essence of AA – one Alcoholic helping another Alcoholic. During their conversation, a hapless drunk fell headlong from the curb across the parking lot from where the three were sitting.
Without saying a word,. The three jumped up and hurried to the poor fellow’s rescue. Someone, who evidently observed the man’s plunge onto the concrete, called 911. While the three members of AA were trying to assist the chap, a fire truck and a police car arrived on the scene, and evidently assuming the man to be in good hands, did not bother to stop. Then the manager of McDonald’s got into the act and ran out onto the parking lot with a cup of hot coffee and A Big Mac. With the aid of the hot coffee and a few bites of the Big Mac, the inebriant regained enough consciousness to explain that he was trying to get drunk enough to get into one of the local de-tox facilities. He told the three that there was a waiting time of several days, and he was trying to HANG ON until there was an opening.
That unpleasant experience motivated the three to think, and start talking about the seriousness of the short supply of adequate facilities for de-toxing drunks in the Corpus Christi area. With this idea fresh in their minds, they began discussing the problem with other members of AA, and soon found a member with a building who was willing to rent it for such a facility. It just so happened that one of the three needed an apartment and was willing to foot most of the rent.
Other members of AA were solicited for financial assistance, and soon the building was up and running. To the chagrin of the original three, however, the building was never used as a de-tox facility as such, but, as providence would have it, became a half-way house instead. And, though several drunks did get sober there at the site, it was never an official de-tox facility.
Ironically, after several months operating as a half-way house, the new establishment became so successful that it was obvious that a larger and more conducive location was needed.
Once again, through serendipity or chance, it just so happened that an old church building became available in Flour Bluff.
Soon, the abandoned church building was rented by supporting members of AA, who, by this time, had formed a Board of Directors. The first house was closed, and new facility in Flour Bluff was opened. The name Safe-Place was the name given to the first house and was carried over to the second building in Flour Bluff.
Though the church building was much larger, and more efficient, the Board members were informed that the area had not been zoned for such a facility, and there was legal trouble ahead if they remained in the building. Once again, that unknown Phenomenon intervened, and one of the original three got wind of another building, located closer to downtown Corpus Christi, which was for rent or for sale. The manager of the Catholic Worker House–( a small house on Carrizo Street maintained to assist homeless alcoholics in recovery) informed one of the original three that Ms Janet Wenholz owned a building on Tenth Street. She was eager to dispose of the building, since it had become a burden to her.
One board member of the Safe-Place facility and one of the first three were given a key and permission to inspect the Wenholz building to see if it might be adequate or could be used at all since it had been abandoned and had fallen into disrepair. The board member, who was in the construction business and had a very good general idea of what it would cost to make the building livable, liked the place in spite of the work needed. He suggested that the building be brought to the attention of all the board members, and, as an incentive, offered the first thousand dollars to jump start the proposal.
A Board meeting was called, the building discussed, a proposal for purchase was considered, and the Board decided to make the proposal known to Janet Wenholz, the owner of the building. She accepted the proposal and the project was underway.
Meanwhile, the church building in Flour Bluff was in the hands of a manager who had been appointed by the Board, and that manager decided to stay with that building and operate independently from the new facility. His decision proved to be a wind-fall for the new project, since the Board was freed from any further involvement with the church building and was then able to concentrate totally upon the new Wenholz building.
Construction was begun immediately by the Howard Roofing Co. and within a space of only a few days, alcoholics needing assistance began to move into the new facility. The Board offered the manager’s position to Lou Cuneo, who proved to be a man of extraordinary ability, and with his expertise, the house soon became a model for such establishments. A man of equal expertise, Bruce Armstrong, was hired as the first cook, and with his work and the work of Lou Cuneo, the broken down, trashed out, drug infested building became a home for the suffering alcoholic that has proven to be a boon to the community where it is located. Though it is not the de-tox center the first three envisioned, many a suffering alcoholic has found sobriety there and TAKEN UP HIS BED AND WALKED.
Everyone involved in the project will testify to the many miracles that have taken place at the Wenholz House. One such event happened as a consequence of a rummage sale designed to raise the much needed cash, at the onset of the venture. Members and friends of Alcoholics Anonymous donated goods and services to the fund raiser. There was even live entertainment, hosted by the late Sam Neely, a popular local entertainer, who donated his time and talent to the worthy endeavor. One lady, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, donated an old, unattractive painting to the sale, which did not sell, by the way, not even for the fifty cent price tag placed on it. After the sale, Lou Cuneo, the new manager and director, decided, out of curiosity, to check out the artist’s name, who had signed his work. It so happened, the artist was rather famous, and the painting was sold at a Houston Auction for Nineteen Thousand Dollars. The lady, who donated the painting declined any of the money, consequently, the Wenholz House became the sole recipient of the largesse.
That was only one of the many small miracles that have become a part of the Wenholz House story. The Sisters of the Incarnate Word were one of the first to donate five thousand dollars refurbish one of the dorms, not to mention countless others who have donated time, money, materials, food and supplies on a daily basis.
Who gets the real credit? The drunk who had fallen head first off a curb started it all, and so it has been since the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous; one person’s tragedy has become another person’s life line to recovery. May the Spirit behind the legend of A.A. not be forgotten, nor should the countless thousands, who have given their lives that others may live.