By Judee Cosentino; May 6, 2018; The Sun Chronicle
The sprawling, 8,000-square-foot house on 1022 West St., created by a mother’s love to become a sober house, is still three weeks away from officially opening, but it is already drawing attention from the local community.
More than 100 members of the community, including family and friends of David and Barbara Gillmeister, who lost their son Steven to an opioid overdose, turned out Sunday to tour the house and offer their best wishes to the parents who gave new life to the former Sheldonville Nursing Home.
Built in 1849, the prominent house contains 12 bedrooms, two public and one private community room, five half-bathrooms, four full bathrooms, a renovated kitchen, as well as “thousands of closets,” according to David Gillmeister.
As the guests toured the winding upstairs hallways with a ceiling close enough to touch, or checked out the semi-furnished redecorated bedrooms, the homey atmosphere was palpable to all who walked through the door.
“The love is painted on the walls,” one visitor observed as she viewed a bedroom with Diane McDonald, a member of the SAFE (Support for Addicts and Families through Empowerment) Coalition.
“So much TLC went into this house,” McDonald said in agreement.
Rooms were dedicated to those who lost their battle with addiction, and that was what Bill and Paula Rollins of Wrentham did for their son Matthew. In that particular bedroom, a fishing rod hung on the wall to honor Matthew’s love for the sport.
“All this was done with love, and that makes all the difference,” Paula Rollins said of the sober house. “God is good, and He’s working through this tragedy.”
It was a donation made to SAFE in Steven Gillmeister’s name last year that prompted the coalition, along with Gillmeister’s probation officer, who approached his parents with ideas about what to do with the money. The result became “Gilly’s House,” in a nod to Steven’s nickname.
Interestingly, when Gillmeister was young, he and his childhood friend, Kyle Willis of Wrentham, used to walk by the property and imagine what they could do with the house if it were theirs.
One idea, Willis said, was a giant roller-skating rink.
“It’s absolutely amazing to see everything that’s been done,” Willis said. “I walked in the door and I just wanted to cry. It’s exactly what this community needs.”
Also present was Gillmeister’s girlfriend, Jamie Desilets of North Attleboro, who remembered Steven for his sense of humor and warm smile.
“What’s happening here is just amazing,” Desilets said. “He would be really happy.”
Gillmeister, who died in October 2016, would have celebrated his 27th birthday on Monday.
“It has truly become a house of healing for the community,” Barbara Gillmeister said just before the ribbon was officially cut to mark the opening of the sober house. “(Steven) believed everyone deserved a chance.”
State Representatives Jeff Roy, D-Norfolk, and Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, presented the Gillmeisters with a citation from the House of Representatives. Dooley praised not only the efforts of the Gillmeisters, but also the community for coming together to face the opioid epidemic.
Also present at the ribbon cutting was Chabad Rabbi Mendy Kivman of Chabad House Jewish Center in Milford who gave his blessing to the house, as well as to the Gillmeisters, through a shema prayer.
For more information, visit gillyshouse.com or email the house director, Chris Sachs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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