A number of parents and friends have helped in Gilly's House efforts and we want to include their stories in our newsletter. Lenny and Joanne Hensas of Wrentham were the 3rd set of parents to adopt a bedroom to honor their son, Lenny III. Their dear friend, Keith Birchall also helped with decorating the room.
How they found Gilly's House:
Lenny was a goodhearted kid. He had a great personality and was always willing to help others and had to be the jokester of the party. He was diagnosed with Attention Deﬁcit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Though there were many friends, Lenny had difﬁculty ﬁnding the right group of friends. The friends he went with were mischievous. Mischievous such as going thru an abandoned house that was in disarray and getting arrested for breaking and entering into a house with no doors and no windows. But I digress-the group he went with were all good kids who simply went down a curved and bumpy road. Len had many after school activities, playing high school football and various sports, mowing lawns or just helping neighbors shovel their driveways.
His biggest passion was the Boston Bruins Hockey Team. The Bruins were everything to him. Animals, especially dogs, was his second love. Len would help anyone in need. Even in his recovery he would guide others to help them stay on track with their recovery. The sad part of the story like many others is, he would fall to this terrible disease over and over again and have to ﬁght back down that long road to recovery again and again and again. He would not shake this terrible disease for 24 years. He struggled and fought for many years against the addiction of crack cocaine. Then the one time he went to use an opioid was his last. We always prayed for the best. We were there for him when he received his one year coin at AA. We were there for him when he was going from rehab to rehab. I was the worst offender when it came to enabling him. He would call for money from Springﬁeld, Ma. and beg and cry with gunshots in the background. I would run down to the American Express to wire the needed funds. We miss him deeply. Being his Stepmom, Joanne never knew the cute little kid. What we do not miss is the fear when hearing news reporters saying-Have you seen this man who stole or robbed a store or hurt someone for money? We were praying the picture on the TV was not Len.
We ﬁrst learned of Gilly’s House at a Learn to Cope support group meeting in Franklin.
Barbara and David Gillmeister lost their son Steven three months after Lenny passed. Barbara spoke at one of our weekly meetings and spoke of their vision for Gilly’s House. We thought - what a fantastic idea. We heard about families adopting rooms in memory of their sons. We attended the ribbon cutting-and then we were hooked! Our friend Keith Birchall was with us and toured this amazing facility. Upon entering you could feel the warmth and compassion within the walls of this beautiful home. We adopted room 14 in Lenny’s memory! Joanne, Keith and I cleaned, painted walls, put down carpet, bed headboards, window treatments, furniture ( desk, chairs bureaus, night stands) etc., assorted decorations. The decorations were inspirational words, a welcome letter and a bag full of toiletries. Of course the theme had to be The Boston Bruins. Not overly done just enough to let the residents in this room know the spirit helping them with recovery was an avid Bruins fan. We followed suit and put the name plaque on the door “Lenny’s Room”. All plaques were donated by Canton Trophies and Awards and the generosity of Tom Murphy.
What we didn’t know was how involved we would become with this wonderful place and become such an integral part of the Gilly’s Family. A group of people drawn together through tragedy-to help others ﬁnd recovery and peace. We know in our hearts that we will always miss and love him. We also feel if there had been a place like Gilly’s House for Len to recover, things might be different today. The compassion and help for others that pours out of this house is genuine and loving. One last comment, out of the bad sometimes there is a silver lining. At Len’s funeral we met our 13 year old grandson for the very ﬁrst time. Tori, now 15 years old, is now an important addition to our life and visits us frequently. The loss of Len helped us gain a beautiful relationship with our grandson Tori.
May God watch over all who enter the doors at Gilly’s House. Joanne and Lenny Hensas with Keith Birchall