Note from the Executive Director
It’s interesting, when people find out that I work for a nonprofit serving adults with serious mental illness, they invariably say things like “that must be very challenging work”, or “it takes a special person to do what you do.”
While those are nice things to say, the truth is that the work of the Clubhouse is not challenging, and I am no more or less special than anyone else. What can be challenging has nothing to do with our members, our programs, or our staff – it is finding the resources necessary to keep us going and growing. But I’ve learned over the years that if we stick to our mission and take care of the resources we’re given, we’ll be just fine.
Our staff and our members are exceptional people, and they make the Clubhouse the special community that it is. The members who I see every day give my life purpose, and together, we all help each other find purpose. It’s a wonderful cycle to be a part of. As Victor Frankl says in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning (paraphrased): we find meaning in our lives by helping others to find meaning in theirs. What a beautiful thing.
Our members teach me, and each other, about acceptance, and about living life on life’s terms. Think of it: our members are living with a sometimes devastating illness. They take medications, sometimes many, that while helping to make their mental illness manageable, take a toll on their physical health. Many live in poverty, live in unsafe housing, and live amongst a general population that does not understand them, that is afraid of them, that many times shuns them, simply because they have an illness. Many of our members live alone and have few friends outside of their Clubhouse community.
In spite of enormous challenges, our members come faithfully to the Clubhouse each day. They greet me and each other with an enthusiasm not often seen in the outside world. They are living life fully in spite of sometimes very difficult circumstances. That is why our members are such an inspiration to me. They teach me about humility, and about living each day as the gift that it is.
The Clubhouse is such a special place. This is a community that cares for one another, and we all care about our Clubhouse. That is why our visitors are always surprised when they first walk in the door. Most people who think about serious mental illness think that when they visit they will be walking into a depressing and unsettling environment. Forget your images of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. The opposite is true. Because our members care so deeply for their Clubhouse community, they practice incredible hospitality, welcoming strangers as friends.
It is such a blessing to see our members regaining what was taken from them by their illness – their dignity and their sense of self-worth. Our members are re-connecting with family and friends, are returning to the world of work and school, and are living more independent and fulfilling lives. Isn’t that what all of us want – a chance to live a full and meaningful life? This is what the Clubhouse offers – not because of our staff, not because of our beautiful building, but because we have this special community wherein we offer each other unconditional love and support. That is how the magic of Clubhouse happens, and it’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.
Mark Stoeltje, Executive Director