The Nicest Place in Kansas: Cedar House in Abilene
NICEST PLACES IN AMERICA 2019 FINALIST
"It Starts Out As a Women's Sober Living Environment And Then Becomes Family"
When this town helped women struggling with addiction get back on their feet, they repaid the favor.
In 2012, Patti O’Malley and her son were going through recovery for opioid addiction together when her son relapsed and drove his car off a bridge just five miles from their home in Abilene, Kansas. When she lost him, she knew she had to do something.
“I began reaching out to other women, saying, ‘Let’s talk about addiction,’” O’Malley says. She opened her home to groups of women suffering with substance abuse themselves. Then she did the unimaginable: She gave her home to the women in her group. They needed a place to stay after completing 30-day rehab programs.
“The only place they know to go back to after rehab is where they’ve come from,” O’Malley says. “Now we take them door-to-door, from rehab to the Cedar House.”
O’Malley built herself a new home while turning what would become Cedar House into a six-bed facility that focuses on hope, healing ,and giving back to the surrounding community of Abilene, a rural cattle-yard town of some 7,000, famous for being the childhood home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Cedar House now boasts a local food bank and a micro-farm with a greenhouse, which delights locals with its exotic flora.
“They have brought things to Kansas that most have never tried to grow,” says resident Loressa Nordgren. “They grow banana plants and loofahs that you use when you shower.”
And they’re growing one more thing there, to the delight of all: puppies!
Cedar House has started breeding Leonbergers, a rare, giant breed of dog that looks like a Saint Bernard crossed with a lion. They’re known for being affectionate, and the litters are being turned into therapy dogs for other women’s service organizations. One of the puppies was recently presented to Thistle Farms in Nashville, an organization that provides safe housing and employment for women involved in prostitution, trafficking, and addiction.
“The whole organization is amazing,” says Danni Moore, a Cedar House resident. “When I started here a year and a half ago I didn’t have a voice. I didn’t know what my purpose was on earth. Patti listens to everything and she’s such a strong woman. Love heals.”
This is a community for women who started as a place to gain strength while trying to stay sober, but over their short life they have become so much more.
Patti O’Malley had a family circumstance that showed her why women need support when it comes to addiction. A few years ago she founded the Cedar house were women can come and stay for a year, but many end up staying longer. In our small community we see this “family” of people everywhere. They are always coming up with new ideas, from painting, to a wonderful greenhouse, to their latest thing—PUPPIES!
They got a very rare bread of dog—Leonburger—and the momma had nine puppies so they are planning on donating all of these puppies to nonprofits that can use them as therapy dogs! I am so excited to find out one of them is coming to my kids’ school next year. They are giving the puppies away.
I love the greenhouse because they have brought things to Kansas that most have never tried to grow. Banana plants? They have grown the scrubby things you use when you shower. I mean, I never knew anyone in Kansas who has done that before! They have also started their own food bank to help offset some of the missing pieces of that puzzle in our community. They will hand deliver food to anyone who needs it.
Whenever I know a woman is battling addiction I tell them about this place because what I see is many women who even after their year is up stick around and they become a family and support for the new women that come in. They are always so positive and happy and do such great things for women from all over.