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A century of transformation at William Booth House

William Booth House Manager Claire Clifton, Sydney City Salvos Mission Team Leader Mitchell Evans, Territorial Commander Commissioner Miriam Gluyas and retired officer Major David Twivey at the Celebration of Transformation event in Sydney.

Powerful stories of personal transformation from people who have had contact with The Salvation Army’s work in inner Sydney were shared at a special celebration event at William Booth House recently.

The opening of the now William Booth House building in Sydney, 100 years ago. The building started out as a working men’s hostel and has housed a number of different Salvation Army services, including many years of recovery services.

The Albion Street building in Sydney’s Surrey Hills has been in Salvation Army hands for the past 100 years, originally opening as a hostel for working men. The majority of its use over the years has been to come alongside people experiencing addiction to alcohol or other drugs. At a special celebration event on Saturday 18 February, past and present recovery participants gathered with guests and former and present staff members to share stories of transformation.

Territorial Commander Commissioner Miriam Gluyas spoke about transformation being a whole-of-being experience: “Wholesomeness is about body mind and soul, and it’s an ongoing journey ... [There’s a] God who is with us and for us, no matter what we go through. People who stand with you and for you, no matter what your story is.

“And may we celebrate for hundreds of years to come the day that lives were changed.”

Amazing gift

Guest speaker Dianne Todaro-Wells shared her journey of transformation, saying that her dad drove her to the then-named William Booth Institute when she was in her early 20s, telling her that she was “just going to the doctor’s”.

Dianne Todaro-Wells was the guest speaker at the Celebration of Transformation event to mark 100 years of the Army’s work on the site of William Booth House in Sydney.

“I can remember very clearly the memory of looking at myself in the mirror and saying, ‘just stay here. No matter what, just stay’.”

She did stay and has gone on to become a successful international author, speaker and educator. She says recovery “is the most amazing gift you can ever be given.

“There is nothing like it. No drink, no drug can ever equate. When you’re on purpose with your life. When doors close you have the skills to open them up and find another avenue.”

She encouraged those present who are still on their recovery journey to “just stay, and do the next right thing. That’s my life motto.”

In an open-mic session, many people stood up and shared their own experiences of life transformation as a result of coming into contact with The Salvation Army through the building now known as William Booth House.

One man went through the then ‘Bridge Program’ in the 1960s. Another shared his experiences of going through the program in the 1980s.

Throughout the decades, the building has served as a place of refuge, healing and unconditional love.

Commissioner Miriam Gluyas presents William Booth House Team Leader Traci Wilkins with a certificate marking 20 years of service to The Salvation Army.

“I had the kids and the mortgage and all that, but I turned to ice and lost it all and became homeless on the streets of Sydney. I had enough and in December 2016 I came here and it was the first place that I actually felt loved,” a man called Rod shared.

“I tried and tried and tried and tried and I kept leaving, but I kept coming back, and they just treated me the same ... Father’s Day 2020 is my sobriety date. I do [the recovery work] five days a week, I pray in the morning, and I pray at night, and I go to church on Sundays,” he said, sitting down as the room erupted in applause.

As part of the celebration, Commissioner Miriam presented William Booth House Team Leader Traci Wilkins with a certificate of appreciation for 20 years of employment with The Salvation Army, saying that after that long, she surely qualified for a set of major’s epaulettes!

The celebration lasted well into the afternoon with people continuing to share stories of transformation together over afternoon tea.


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