The Clubhouse:

More than Dividing up into Units

by Sandy Harris

When I think about the clubhouse in terms of more than dividing up into units, several thoughts come to mind. They are:

1) the overall spirit of the clubhouse

2) the sense of clubhouse as a whole

3) member and staff responsibility for the total house

4) no rivalry among units.

The spirit of the clubhouse is critical to its existence. `Spirit' can be defined as the emotional attitude or frame of mind characteristic of a group of people. The clubhouse must convey a sense of respect and dignity. Work units are important because they provide us with vessels to get the necessary functions of the house completed on a daily basis - thus allowing and encouraging members as they strive to regain self-worth and confidence. However, it is the spirit of members and staff and their relationships with each other that make the units and ultimately the clubhouse function well. This spirit/attitude permeates the entire clubhouse and encourages a clubhouse environment that is more than a sum of its units.

The sense of the clubhouse as a whole simply implies that the community works together to complete various tasks, such as staff hiring, and assumes responsibility for various tasks, special events, advocacy, etc. A sense of wholeness exists when members and staff from all areas of the clubhouse are involved in attaining a common goal. Since members choose the way they relate to the clubhouse, it is only appropriate that a clubhouse that is more than the sum of units allows for choice and flexibility.

Member and staff responsibility for the total house is critical. At Barrett House, members and staff belong to a specific unit . However, they work within the entire clubhouse depending upon the needs of the clubhouse on any particular day. This allows for variety in an individual's work day and for cross-interaction between unit members. The result of assuming responsibility for the entire house manifests itself in the forms of respect, dignity, self confidence, pride in the work being done, and pride in oneself and toward co-workers.

Lastly, because we are so enmeshed with the clubhouse community, it is natural for members and staff to depend on, encourage, and support each other. It is this type of interaction that minimizes rivalry among the units. As a result of having a strong foundation based on dignity, respect and strong natural relationship, each person's contributions to the clubhouse are appreciated and celebrated. The sense of urgency to get things done precedes any problems concerning rivalry. If everyone in the clubhouse shares the same attitude and goals, there can't help but be an environment that is more than its units.

The following are some suggestions that can help create a clubhouse environment that is more that just its units:

¨ Be flexible - allow for movement between units.

¨ Allow members the right to choose.

¨ Encourage functions/activities of the house which would involve all units.( For example, recently Barrett House celebrated its anniversary and memory garden dedication. The Clerical Unit was involved in the PR and program planning. The Food Service/Maintenance Unit assisted with the menu planning, preparation of the garden for planting, and general cleaning prior to the celebration.)

¨ Nurture the relationships that exist between members and staff, staff and staff, members and members.

¨ Educate your community regarding the clubhouse philosophy.

¨ Continue to provide clubhouse education to the membership.

¨ Exercise patience with members whose adjustment to `clubhouse' is slow by constantly encouraging that person to become involved in all aspects of the club.

¨ Allow and encourage open communication between work units.

Sandy Harris is the director of Barrett House is Danbury, Connecticut