Westchester County AA History
Steps! 90 in 90! AA Round-Ups! Unity Breakfasts! Group Inventory Meetings! Anniversaries! BIG Anniversaries!
That is what Westchester AA is all about today. Just like Alcoholics Anonymous in New York and Ohio, and then throughout the nation, we grew to this joyful work by the sometimes-hard road of experience.
In a warm and witty account of AA in Westchester, one member wrote of our birthing from New York City and Greenwich CT. Soon after Bill W. finished writing the “12 Steps” with the approval from the several score of sober members, five thousand copies of the Big Book were printed. Sr. Ignatia and Dr. Bob were treating thousands of alcoholics in St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio. It was then that John D. Rockefeller and 75 wealthy dinner guests cemented into place for us our tradition of self-support, and Vesey Street in New York City became the first AA Headquarters.
Bill W. wasted no time in “carrying the message” and two solid groups appeared, one in Greenwich, CT and one in Manhattan. The White Plains Group, still going strong at Memorial United Methodist Church came into being on May 17, 1941 from the folks in Connecticut where fellowship and caring was strong. From here sprouted the Peekskill Group and New Rochelle Group in 1944, and the first of the Yonkers groups in 1945.
The Mount Vernon Group came out of the people from Bill W.’s old hometown of Brooklyn in 1943, while he and Lois were making their first cross-country tour to visit the recovered miracles of our century. The “city people” brought with them the structure and the sharing of experience, strength and hope with one another. All the groups supported one another discussing ways and means of living the sober life and coming together on a daily basis. Bronxville, with twelve groups today, absorbed Fleetwood, and sent out many to the East and West. One member wrote, “It is often observed, with the partial accuracy of most “old wives’ tales, that there is a ‘terrific turnover’ in Alcoholics Anonymous. And yet, of the many who discovered sobriety that vintage year of 1948, there are some known to most of us who have never flown far or fatally from the White Plains nest.”
Meanwhile, White Plains and Mount Vernon continued to produce offshoots. All and all nineteen groups were formed: Bronxville, Chappaqua, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, three groups in Mt. Vernon, New Rochelle, Pelham, Pleasantville, Port Chester, Rye, Scarsdale, Tarrytown, White Plains, Yonkers, and Yonkers North. By 1959, eight more came together, including the Bedford Hills Group where Bill eventually landed after first “protecting his anonymity” in Chappaqua.
By 1970, there were 30 groups in Westchester. The Old Purdys Group formed in 1969 out of the Cops and Robbers Group in Mount Vernon, began to carry the message North and West. One member of that group visited the Big Book Group in London and invited the members to visit any time they were in America. Soon after, a young man came, three years sober, and led a step meeting using the Big Book as a reference. His joy and peace were so awesome to behold that after that night the elders said, “We’ll have to have ‘Book Meetings’ if that’s what happens in a person’s life form studying it!” As a result, many groups such as It’s Guaranteed, Maryknoll, Katonah, Crow Hill, Patterson, Putnam Lake, Plug in the Jug, and several “Step” named groups in Putnam County forming during the 1970s and 1980s took with them a Big Book meeting as well as the Step and Open meetings.
Besides the parent group, White Plains now boasts sixteen AA groups, Yonkers has fourteen, Bronxville has twelve. New Rochelle and Rye have eight each, while Mt. Kisco, Ossining, and Yorktown Heights each have seven groups. Altogether, there are well over 175 groups today.
Bravely touted as the First Annual Round-Up, the Westchester County-Wide Service Get Together was held in 1979 at the Westchester Community College. A couple of years along saw us move to the County Center. Today, the Round-Ups are held, fittingly perhaps, at the Memorial Church on Bryant Avenue, home of the original Westchester Group.
Putnam County has “come of age” and has left the service cluster after learning the ropes to sponsor its own Share-A-Day. Topics, workshops, red-ball meetings, special speakers, not to mention free lunch, are all part of the day of recovery and fellowship.
While Round-Ups stayed an important part of Westchester AA life, the 1980s saw a surge of interest in Unity Breakfasts, originally arranged so that all the groups of the county could come together in love, fellowship, and recovery while enjoying a great speaker and those scrambled eggs. Today these events are set for both spring and fall and are often a newcomer’s early recognition that life can be fun, even while sober.
In 1998 or there about, a decision was made in the Westchester GSO to change the name of The Westchester Share-A-Day. Early in 2005, after many recent years of falling attendance at the Share-A-Day, a decision was made to try a Share-An-Evening, starting at 3:00 PM instead of 8:00 AM. This change brought a drastic increase in overall attendance. In addition, there was a great improvement in participation and enthusiasm. We are now in the formative stage of our Fourth Annual Share-An-Evening.