It was a young boy who led Phyllis Callaway to Wayside House. A therapist working with the child of an alcoholic parent asked him to draw how he felt when his mother drank. The boy drew a picture of himself in the middle of a lake that was made of his tears. She said it was then that she knew this would be her life’s work.
She plunged into that work, serving on the board for 17 years, talking with the women in recovery, leading a meeting or attending anniversary nights. “Mom was at her happiest when she was able to share her recovery with the girls at Wayside,” her children Leslie, Susan, and Bill reminisced.
“She was a very positive, humble woman with sparkly blue eyes that always smiled. Phyllis ran meetings at Wayside House for the clients for years and shared her experience, strength and hope, always willing to be of help to anyone,” said Kathryn Leonard, now president of Wayside House’s board of directors. “She loved Wayside and spent an enormous amount of time making sure women seeking treatment would have a safe loving place to go for help,” she added.
Phyllis was honored for her work with Wayside House and our community receiving a Woman of Grace award from Bethesda Hospital Foundation in 2003. “My work at Wayside House has been the most satisfying work I have done in my life,” she said when accepting the award.
Lisa McWhorter, Wayside House CEO, reminisced about her last visit with Phyllis, “I was honored to see Phyllis in May of this year at the Wayside Posner Career Center first anniversary celebration. I asked her how she thought Wayside was doing. She said ‘marvelous.’” You could imagine my smile! I was humbled by her words. My goal has always been to honor those great women who came before me for they are the ones that put life into Wayside House. Phyllis helped so many women, she is a hero and her spirit will always fill the house.”
Even before Wayside House, Phyllis gave of herself to every community in which she lived. Born February 22, 1936, in South Bend, IN, Phyllis attended John Adams High School and Ball State University. She worked for the market research firm Elrick & Lavidge in Chicago until 1962, when she moved to Seattle to work at the World’s Fair. Moving back to Chicago in 1964, she and Toby were married and in 1968 they settled in Lake Bluff, IL. There Phyllis was active with Planned Parenthood, and served on the Board of the Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest, IL, and on the Woman’s Board of the Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, IL. In 1979 she moved with her family to Delray Beach. Phyllis devoted much of her time to fundraising and served on the boards of Wayside House (1991-2008) and Old School Square (1996 – 2002). She was on the board of trustees of Gulf Stream School (1982 – 1991), where she organized and served as the first president of the Parents’ Auxiliary. Phyllis was a trustee and fellow of the National Tropical Botanical Garden (2004 – 2009), located in Hawaii and Miami, FL. Recently she served on the Massachusetts General Leadership Council for Psychiatry.