Member Voices: New Stories from Clubhouse Members
We are proud to feature our newest stories — #MemberVoices — from our Clubhouse International network around the world. Hear firsthand from people living with mental illness who demonstrate every day that RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE.
Click on each of the links to drop down to each member’s story!
- Story #1: Catherine’s Story from Genesis Club in Worcester MA, USA
- Story #2: Edward’s Experience with Hope Fort Bend Clubhouse in Richmond TX, USA
- Story #3: Liz: Poem with Two Questions, from Fresh Start Clubhouse, Ann Arbor MI, USA
- Story #4: Lauren’s Story, from Austin Clubhouse, Austin, TX, USA
- Story #5: Member Stories, from Club Nova, Carrboro, NC, USA
- Story #6: Member Stories from Elevation House, Rome, GA, USA
- Story #7: Finding Hope at Magnolia Clubhouse, Cleveland, OH, USA
- Story #8: Meet Mary, Shore House Member, Long Branch, NJ USA
- Story #9: A Young Adult’s Perspective: Hayley’s Story, from Genesis Club in Worcester MA, USA
- Story #10: When Therapeutic Works Better Than Therapy, by Bill from Thunderbird Clubhouse
- Story #11: Finding Fulfillment, by Frank from Vail Uptown Clubhouse
- Story #12: Feeling Great about Supporting Yourself, by Consuelo from TOP Clubhouse
- Story #13: Ongoing Employment Reduces Economic Isolation, by Rhys Fenn from Stepping Stone
- Story #14: Working Makes Me Feel Accomplished, by Theresa Miller from Crossroads Clubhouse
- Story #15: An Employment Tale, by Hermione from Grand Avenue Club
- Story #16: Transitional Employment, by Anthony from Clubhouse Gibraltar
- Story #17: A Transitional Employment for the Records, by Academy at Glengary
- Story #18: Jonny’s Transitional Employment Story, from Progress Place
- Story #19: Transitional Employment Video Story from Casaclub Baires, in Buenos Aires Argentina
Story #19: Transitional Employment Video Story from Casaclub Baires, in Buenos Aires Argentina
Watch this video of one of our employers and Casaclub member Veronica about the effectiveness of the Clubhouse International Transitional Employment programs at our Clubhouse in Buenos Aires Argentina. Veronica says, “I am very thankful and happy with MSU and Casaclub for this chance to insert myself into society and socialize with other people.”
Story #18: Jonny’s Transitional Employment Story, from Progress Place
“Through Progress Place’s Transitional Employment Program in Toronto Canada, I work at Lenczner Slaght where I do things like cleaning and stocking snacks and beverages. Everybody at the firm is so friendly, it really helps me have a more positive outlook on things. Having the support from this TE has also helped me with skills like time management and building my own confidence. There were a few days where I was not able to work due to personal reasons, and my TE manager from Progress Place filled in for me. This really reduced my anxiety knowing that my job was not only covered but that it was still there for me when I returned! Working this job has opened my mind to new things and opportunities, and I look forward to continuing to work in the future.”
Story #17: A Transitional Employment for the Records, by Academy at Glengary
A hallmark of our Transitional Employment (TE) program is the care we take in courting the best possible employment partners. The qualities we look for include a strong culture of inclusion, integrity, and kindness. We also seek out well-established and respected businesses in our community; those that will stand out on a resume.
We could not have done better than our newest employment partnership with the State Attorneys Office of the 12th Judicial Circuit!
We were warmly welcomed by Ed Brodsky, State Attorney and Jennifer Strawn, Executive Director. Academy staff Ben Burnside, Cathy Dexter and William McKeever spent the morning with Tabitha Newman, Director of Human Resources, and completed the required paperwork and background checks to work as job coaches in the Sarasota County Courthouse.
Academy job coaches will join the records department in June as they begin learning the job duties, with hopes of placing an Academy.
Shown in picture (left to right): William McKeever; Cathy Dexter; Ben Burnside; and Ed Brodsky Esq.
Story #16: Transitional Employment, by Anthony from Clubhouse Gibraltar
Thanks to my Transitional Employment Placement, I feel I am part of society.
I am keeping a healthy routine.
I also enjoy my time in Clubhouse and in the Young Adults Group.
Story #15: An Employment Tale, by Hermione from Grand Avenue Club
In 2015, Hermione became a Grand Avenue Club Member. She was having some knee problems, while simultaneously dealing with depression, and working as a waitress was becoming a problem. She heard of GAC from a few friends and decided to check it out. After a couple of weeks of getting to know her colleagues, two staff members heard she was looking for a change. They recommended she come to one of our employment meetings we hold every week.
One of the levels of our employment programs, Transitional Employment (or TE), works with local employers for 6 – 9 month paid positions to take that first step towards long term, sustained, employment. One of our fantastic supporters and employers, BILTRITE Furniture – Leather – Mattresses, had an opening and our staff thought Hermione might be a great fit.
She had never done cleaning work but the work culture seemed like a good fit and she decided to give it a go. She thought it would be good because her mind was busy and her body would be moving. At the very least it’d be a fresh start and a paycheck.
At first she says she was intimidated by “what a very big job this is and I can only do my best“. Over time, with help from her co-workers at BILTRITE and GAC staff support, the job just became doable. She enjoyed how many people she was meeting, something she says is her passion. She found kinship and support from the Komisar Family (who own BILTRITE). She felt rejuvenated.
BILTRITE has always been a great supporter and wonderful employment collaborator but we’d like to take a second to both thank and congratulate them. This year, BILTRITE Furniture – Leather – Mattresses won the prestigious Retailer of the Year award!
And what’s one of the first things they did? Donate $5,000 to our employment program, the very one that supported Hermione on her journey.
But there’s more to this employment tale than just a 6 months adventure for Hermione!
Hermione was such a fantastic addition to BILTRITE that after her TE finished they offered her permanent employment. She continues to work there to this day, meeting new people and making them smile.
When asked what her plans were moving forward, she said; “I think I will stay here! My passion is meeting people. Thank you to the Komisar Family for this opportunity to stay at BILTRITE!”
We want to thank BILTRITE Furniture – Leather – Mattresses for all the support they’ve given us over the years. Randi was first connected to us in 2005. She says she was friends with someone who worked there and the mission of what we do has always stuck in her mind.
She says her family motto is “It’s better to give than receive” so opportunities like this really mean something. They’ve had multiple GAC members try Transitional Employment opportunities at BILTRITE (pushing 15 years now!) and have supported us in countless ways over the years.
We want to congratulate Hermione on finding her new chapter, BILTRITE on their well-deserved Retailer of the Year award, and both of them together for finding such a good partnership! Thank you to BILTRITE and all of the employers who make our mission a reality!
Story #14: Working Makes Me Feel Accomplished, by Theresa Miller from Crossroads Clubhouse
Teresa Miller, a member of Crossroads Clubhouse in Warren, Michigan, works a TE position at American House in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
American House is an Assisted Living Facility where Teresa is a dining room server.
Teresa states “Working makes me feel accomplished, improves my self-confidence again, allows me to meet new people and make a little money is not a bad thing either. The dining room manager and myself have a great relationship, and I really look forward to working my scheduled shifts at American House. American House treats me with respect, they are caring and I feel like I am an equal with my other co-workers.”
Story #13: Ongoing Employment Reduces Economic Isolation, by Rhys Fenn from Stepping Stone
Anyone who meets Rhys Fenn always leaves with a positive comment about his work ethic and his engaging way with people. Rhys, Team Leader in Porterage (Furniture and Gas) at PA Hospital, was offered employment through a partnership with Stepping Stone, a membership-based community of people with mental illness dedicated to rebuilding their lives. Through hard work, diligence, and a supportive environment Rhys has not just stepped, but jumped into the opportunity and changed his life.
“From where I have been to where I am now, I have aspired to and achieved so many goals. I’m so proud of myself for every single one of them,” Rhys said.
The Stepping Stone partnership is a part of PAH’s commitment to workplace diversity, recognising the talents and value that people with a disability can bring to the workforce and the importance of meaningful work for those on the road to recovery. The Transitional Employment (TE) program provides structure and routine, and creates a safe space for Stepping Stone members to interact with people, but also achieve daily successes.
PAH is privileged to be able to offer the opportunity for those on who have completed the TE program the possibility of ongoing employment to reduce the economic isolation those with mental illness regularly face.
The feeling of empowerment that comes with stable employment in a supportive environment that is tailored to his needs is key part of the recovery journey for Rhys. He says that this partnership created a space that allowed him to grow mentally and physically.
“Being able to step into higher positions and have the opportunity to learn new things helps me provide support to those around me. This means I can also make a better person of myself. I love waking up every morning and coming to work. It’s the best thing I do.”
Characteristic of his selflessness, Rhys encourages those struggling with mental illness to seek support. “Anyone out there who is going through mental health struggles can reach out through work or through another support organisation. I decided to reach out when I needed help, instead of keeping silent and look how far I’ve come.”
Story #12: Feeling Great about Supporting Yourself, by Consuelo from TOP Clubhouse
I feel great now that I’m working. I’m doing something for myself, and I can support myself.
Maybe I will also go back to school at night, maybe for social work or therapy.
It’s great because you start the job little by little and then they increase the hours.
Right now, I have morning shifts but soon I will have afternoon shifts too. The first day was hard but now I got the routine and I have adjusted to the job.
It’s a really good environment and the people there are friendly and respectful.
Story #11: Finding Fulfillment, by Frank from Vail Uptown Clubhouse
Frank knows Vail Place has been the lifeline and support he has needed for the past 13 years. “The ﬁrst time I was hospitalized I was still in high school. Overall, I’ve been in and out of the hospital 15 times 13 times I was in the hospital for a month. One time I was there for three months and once for 5 months after my dad passed away.” Since joining the Vail Place Community, Frank has only been in the hospital once and that was just for an afternoon.
After making his way from his hometown of Arlington Heights, Illinois to Minneapolis, Minnesota with his brother 13 years ago, the ﬁrst thing Frank did was ﬁnd Vail Place. The second? He found his local recreation center with an ice hockey rink. Ice hockey is still one of Frank’s favorite hobbies and he never missed watching his favorite NHL team, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Today, you will ﬁnd Frank at the Uptown Clubhouse participating in-person or virtually. When he ﬁrst came to the Clubhouse, he started out doing maintenance and cleaning around the Clubhouse, then transitioned to working the front desk, checking guests in and out. Frank is also a current member of the Advisory Council for the Uptown Clubhouse and an active participant in our History Theatre Performance each year.
Frank is now working part-time at Edina Morningside Community Church, where he has held a Transitional Employment (TE) position through the Clubhouse since last year, doing maintenance and custodial work for the Church. TE is a structured employment program where the Clubhouse develops a relationship with an employer in the community ﬁlling open positions with interested members.
Thanks to the support of our community, Vail Place is able to provide the help and support Frank needs. For far too many, wellness and a full life seem out of reach, for those folks Vail Place can be the lifeline they need. “Vail Place is a safe place for persons with mental illness. As much as that scared me to share this at first, you become more comfortable with it.”
Story #10: When Therapeutic Works Better Than Therapy, by Bill from Thunderbird Clubhouse
I stood there – listening about two ruined turkeys. I had thawed them too soon. They would have made members sick.
My love language, acts of service, had become mumbles. My irrational fear of hurting others was coming true. I could feel myself slipping over the edge to a dangerous place.
Drowning in a raging river of shame and self-doubt; blueprints on how to build myself a boat of self-awareness, esteem, and love wasn’t going to save me. I needed a judgment free life ring and friends giving nonchalant encouragement as we walk together to land. I was at Clubhouse, so with relaxed caring, members and staff went over the basics.
It was not a big deal. Clubhouse procedures worked as designed to keep everyone safe. There was an easy fix. They were grateful for my participation and effort. They were glad I was there.
Then we found another act of service for me. Peeling potatoes. I am particularly good at that actually.
That’s the positive benefit of meaningful work In that kitchen, in that moment, I was happy. I was with my peers, peeling potatoes, giving those potatoes and my peers, my best work, recovering as I did.
Story #9: A Young Adult’s Perspective: Hayley’s Story, from Genesis Club in Worcester MA, USA
“I heard about Genesis Club when I was in the hospital. I get really anxious about going to new places so it took awhile to get up the courage to actually come here. On my first day I took a tour and then went straight into the Young Adult Committee meeting. Everyone introduced themselves and said how long they had been a member. When it was my turn, I said, “Hi, I’m Hayley and I’ve been a member for thirty minutes.” That broke the ice and I spent the rest of the day at the Clubhouse. Everyone was so welcoming, I didn’t want to leave.
I was at a point in my life where I didn’t feel like I had a purpose or any direction. I wasn’t doing much of anything. I love that there’s so much to do at the Clubhouse and that people will help you to learn things you don’t know how to do. There are so many people at the Clubhouse who were willing to help not just me but all the younger members, figure out ‘adulting’ things.
Last fall, the young adults I knew were really depressed. It was super frustrating to see things slowly open up, and then shut down again so fast. We were afraid to start new jobs or go to school. I got a job offer but turned it down because I thought with the pandemic the company would just shut down anyway.
As for school, I was adamant when I graduated from high school that I would never go back to school. Ever! Then, I started coming here and people would ask how I felt about education. Eventually, I joined a small group on a visit to Quinsigamond Community College and I really liked it. Now, I’m enrolled in classes there and have a part-time job helping a child with his schoolwork from home.
It’s hard to describe how supportive this community is. It doesn’t matter if I am away from the Clubhouse because of school or work, or whatever. When I come in, I feel at home. And for me, that means a lot.”
Story #8: Meet Mary, Shore House Member, Long Branch, NJ USA
Hello, my name is Mary Husowech and I have a mental illness.
I wanted to start with something humorous because my mental illness can be funny sometimes.
I have conversations with myself. Hey, if I can’t laugh at myself, who can I laugh at?
I was misdiagnosed for 13 years. I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating it was to be around people that don’t understand you.
So my passion is to educate people about mental illness to take the fear out of it.
In the summer of 1986 I was hospitalized for the first time.
When I returned home I was stable but because of my illness I became isolated and was very alone.
I didn’t have friends and I began to wish I wasn’t alive.
Shortly after my parents moved to Lancaster, PA, my mother died and in 1991 I moved there to be with my dad.
It was Amish farm country, mental health services were really lacking and again I had no friends. I felt so isolated and alone and my illness got progressively worse.
Finally, I found a doctor that correctly diagnosed me.
In 1999, my sister who lives in this area helped me to get on a waiting list for housing in Wall Township even though I was still living in PA.
Housing took 5 years to become available and in 2004 I moved here to live near my sister, her husband, niece and nephew.
It’s really synchronistic the way I found Community Connections and then Shore House.
When I got here, my caseworker referred me to Community Connections because her husband worked there.
Community Connections is a partial care mental health program through Monmouth Medical Center. I was at Community Connections for 8 years, graduating in 2012.
My psychiatrist and I had been talking about what I would do when I graduated from Community Connections. He suggested I might like Shore House.
He knew that I was ready to fly on my own and leave partial care. He also knew that it wouldn’t be a good idea to be alone – on my own. Just like the synchronicity of finding Community Connections, the same thing happened in finding Shore House. It felt like it was meant to be.
At Shore House my favorite part of the day is mealtime. Whether I’m one of the members preparing the meal or just gathering at a big table eating it – everyone together. We talk and share like a big happy family. For me that’s when my worries disappear. It’s my home away from home.
Shore House brings me to a very spiritual place in my life – it gives me empowerment, confidence, something to feel passionate about. I have dreams and I know now, I can move toward them.
With the support of Shore House to back me up, I want to realize my dreams. One day, I will be an artist. Shore House is my Community and everyone should know what a Clubhouse can do for a person.
It’s a positive environment and a place to grow to find your own purpose.
That’s what Shore House has done for me.
Thank you for letting me share my story with you.
Story #7: Finding Hope at Magnolia Clubhouse, Cleveland, OH, USA
Members Talk About Their Experiences at Magnolia Clubhouse.
Story #6: Member Stories from Elevation House, Rome, GA, USA
Members tell their stories of triumph and the hope they found at Elevation House.
Story #5: Member Stories, from Club Nova, Carrboro, NC, USA
Club Nova members talk about the value of the Clubhouse in their lives and how they have replaced “hopelessness with hope and isolation with belonging.”
Story #4: Lauren’s Story, from Austin Clubhouse, Austin, TX, USA
Before I went to Austin Clubhouse, I was bored and just not feeling motivated in life, I was in a funk I felt I couldn’t get out of. I didn’t know where I was going in life. Just mainly sitting at home day by day with no accomplishments. I had heard of the Clubhouse and thought I was not ready for something like that. A member that I was living with in a boarding home kept saying such good things about the Clubhouse that I asked him to take me with him.
Coming into the clubhouse I felt welcomed. Went on my tour and the Vitality Unit drew me in because of learning new recipes and how to cook them. The Operations Unit helped me with wanting to learn more things to do on a computer and what office work is all about. I felt wanted and needed through sweeping in the kitchen and helping with a flyer in the Operations Unit. I felt like there was always something to do here, never a dull moment. It would get me out of the house and I felt like I would accomplish something every day just coming a few times a week. It would keep me going and motivated in everyday life.
I have always been afraid of working. Coming here has given me stamina and patience with myself and has helped me to be brave. I have the opportunity to start working with the Transitional Employment position with Mae at the S. Lamar Goodwill location. I am nervous. Yet the clubhouse helps with that. I just want to say thanks to Austin Clubhouse for giving me power in myself I forgot and didn’t even know I had.
Story #3: Liz: Poem with Two Questions, from Fresh Start Clubhouse, Ann Arbor MI, USA
An Ode to my Heroes
What is a hero? How do they impact my life?
A hero helps me think positively, to live beyond just my strife
A hero hears me ramble, sometimes a lot, every single day
They listen to my questions, and always know what to say
A hero helps me calm down my (mostly) irrational fears
And on the bad days, helps me wipe away my crocodile tears
A hero rewrites the tape in my head with some encouraging words
And recognizes my brilliance without calling me a nerd
A hero loves me intently when I can’t even love myself
And makes sure there is always healthy food on my shelf
A hero helps me know that who I am is enough
And gives me a gentle shove on those days that are rough
A hero teaches me to take the option of suicide off the table
And stops keeping track of my weaknesses, focuses on ways I am able
After much deliberation, there’s a realization that’s true
There’s a hero in my life, and that hero is you!
Liz also shared some helpful coping skills:
What is your favorite coping skill? There are SO many, but the most helpful is to put on my favorite music and sing along. It interrupts the obsessive thoughts more than anything else I’ve tried.
What is one thing you want to tell others like you? Take suicide off the table. You are worth fighting for!
Story #2: Edward’s Experience with Hope Fort Bend Clubhouse in Richmond TX, USA
Story #1: Catherine’s Story from Genesis Club in Worcester MA, USA
Genesis Club Makes Mental Illness Survivable
“I lost my voice to mental illness and then found it again at Genesis Club.”
When I moved to New England, my whole self didn’t arrive. I wouldn’t leave the house except for emergencies. I became paranoid, believing people were whispering about me and judging me. I believed I was at risk all the time and anything could happen to me.
One thing I did to relax was plan my own suicide. The only thing that stopped me from following through was imagining the paramedics struggling to get my roly-poly body down the narrow staircase. I couldn’t bear to be the joke of their shift.
I didn’t speak for days at a time. Going to family events was unbearable, but I knew my mother-in-law had a limited number of family events left. After her passing, I knew my condition was worsening and that I needed help.
My therapist referred me to Genesis Club. I was desperate enough to give it a try. I had imagined a program where people would sit in a drab office space in front of a bank of computers, searching for work and then go home. Instead, I found a community.
I worked in the Kitchen Unit. It was safe, but also stimulating after being isolated for so long. The kitchen was full of strangers, but we all had something in common: we had a mental illness. I didn‘t have to hide behind a persona of wellness. I had come to a place where I could exist as myself. I could help. I could work. I had a purpose.
I began joining the lunchtime wellness walks. Later, I joined the Structured Exercise group, in which Genesis Club subsidizes membership at the YMCA to make the gym accessible. Going alone would have been too overwhelming for me. I realized that strangers at the gym were just people working out – “practice strangers.” I’ve lost fifty pounds. Taking control of my body helped me gain the confidence to take control of my life.
Through Genesis Club’s Transitional Employment program, I worked as a mail clerk at UMass Medical Center. For the first time in ages, I was earning a paycheck. Many days I had sweaty palms, my heart pounded in my ears, and my limbs froze. However, I knew I needed practice working, just like I needed the practice strangers at the gym. If I could just hang on, I knew I would get through, and every week was less terrifying and more liberating.
Today, I work two jobs. I’m a dietary aide and a pre-school gymnastics coach. I love working! I love going out with my friends and family. And instead of feeling like a burden to my family, I now feel like an asset.
Without the support and structure I found at Genesis Club, I would still be at home, terrified, and feeling useless. I no longer soothe myself by planning my own suicide. I have plans and a future, and the future is bright!