WATERTOWN, S.D (KELO) — All this month we are shining a spotlight on women who are making a difference in KELOLAND. We go to Watertown for our first nominee.

Deb Hamer isn’t one to brag about herself, but she admits she has a passion for helping others.

“I’m a caretaker. So once I started that, I knew I wanted to continue with that,” Hamer said.

Hamer has been a coordinator at Serenity Hills in Watertown for the last 20 years.

“Working with clients who have addictions, substance use disorders, and mental health issues,” Hamer said.

Hamer’s drive to help clients stems from her own past with addiction.

“I have a family history of addiction,” Hamer said. “I struggled with addiction myself when I was a teenager and a young adult.”

After she became sober, she worked to get her license in addiction counseling, which she now uses to provide others who come to Serenity Hills with a second chance.

“What keeps me going is the people that call, or walk in the door, or write letters that say ‘thank you. You or your staff saved my life,” Hamer said.

Hamer says helping others with their recovery helped her continue forward when she lost her husband, Ken, in 2005.

“Work kind of helped me to have a diversion and stay busy and helped me get through that,” Hamer said.

And when she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in 2007.

“It just kind of kept me going, the people I worked with and the people, mostly the employees that I worked with,” Hamer said.

Hamer is now cancer free.

She and her staff at Serenity Hills continue to fight the stigmas of addiction and mental health with their halfway housing, detoxing, occupational therapy, mental health services, and addiction treatments.

“I’m always very proud of our staff. And the fact that we do that. There’s not very many places that do that in the state. At least in this area,” Hamer said.

Work is underway on a new facility. It will provide more space and will bring in more employees. It will also allow them to help even more people turn their lives around.

“Seeing the difference in them, from the time they walk in the door, til they leave is amazing,” Hamer said.

Hamer says they plan to open the new facility by the end of the month.