We dedicate this blog to the loving memory of Grace Wood and with love to her friends and family and the thousands of people she helped recover.
In 1985 Freda Harris was hired by the Julien House Society, formerly the governing body of Westminster House, to provide a program to the women’s residence that had, until then, been sober living. Shortly after, Freda admitted a woman named Grace Wood into the humble program that was now a safe home to 16 women. Grace Wood would become the Executive Director in 1986 and remain in that position for 11 years.
Grace was widely recognized for her work in the addiction recovery field. She developed Westminster House’s program based on a holistic, 12-Step model. She provided women with individual and group counselling and guidance on how to stay clean and sober. Her program included relationships, anger management, boundary setting, meeting needs, nutrition, and life skills. There was a lot of peer support and newly formed friendships. The program worked, and because of Grace, it is still the foundation of the program components nearly three decades later.
Grace helped steer the Julien House Society program to recognition as the best in its field in Canada. In October 2000, Grace and her team were flown to Ottawa and presented by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario with The Donner Canadian Foundation Award for Excellence in the Prevention & Treatment of Substance Abuse. Westminster House tied for top honours with an Ontario recovery center, ahead of 322 other applicants.
Under Grace’s leadership, Westminster House again distinguished itself, receiving a one-year accreditation from CARF, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. CARF is an independent commission that accredits programs and services in Behavioral Health, Employment and Community Services and Medical Rehabilitation. Thanks to the work of Grace and her team, Westminster House garnered accreditation after months of rigorous preparatory work and passing a demanding examination by a peer survey team.
Upon her retirement, over 90 people crowded into Westminster House to honour Grace Wood, including former clients she had helped recover. Grace was described as someone who made a difference, providing each person in her care with an impressive array of tools to help them break and stay free from the addictions destroying their lives and families. In addition, she provided homey and personal touches that warmed the broken hearts. Her welcoming signature was a teddy bear that would magically appear on each pillow to welcome a new woman into the center.
We say goodbye to Grace with a heavy heart as she passes over the heavenly gates to a new life. Westminster House is grateful to Grace and all she did in laying the foundation for addiction recovery in Canada.
Our deepest condolences to the family of Grace Ethier (Wood) on their loss and the loss to the thousands of women she helped recover.
Grace Wood / August 3, 1937 – November 20, 2022