Learning from Practice: An Executive Fellow in Action

Posted on December 15, 2011

Alicia and Shore Clubhouse's current homeAlicia and Shore Clubhouse's current homeI’ve completed the first thirteen weeks of the Executive Fellowship Program at Fountain House, an immersive training program preparing me for Directorship of Shore Clubhouse in New Jersey.  The Fellowship has been teaching me how to integrate principles of Fountain House and contemporary non-profit management techniques.  I’ve been focusing on creating a vision, transmitting knowledge about the clubhouse model, and developing systems to put in place at Shore Clubhouse, which is in its infancy. Currently, we have a dynamic Board of Trustees and a growing working group that meets once a week at a local Woman’s Club.

On Friday, December 9, 2011, after the working party of Shore Clubhouse met for the fourth time, I was able to recognize just how effective the Fellowship Program has been in preparing me to begin to create opportunities for people living with mental illness.

Friday was a very busy day.  We began our morning meeting at 10:30 am with introductions, announcements, and discussion of our many projects.  We divided up our supplies and decided who was going to participate in each necessary endeavor.  That day, a major highlight was that we managed to recruit a new member through word of mouth.  She was very much intrigued by our meeting and admitted that our working community was exactly what she was looking for, a place where she could volunteer and meet new people.

We were all excited to plan our first annual Shore Clubhouse Holiday Party, but we had some important projects that needed to be attended to first.  We took attendance, updated our bank ledger, collected additional important contact information, and created our first Shore Clubhouse spreadsheet.  We also created a document that outlined the beginnings of our policies and procedures, and we watered our lucky bamboo.  Our first plant is the beginning of our horticulture unit and symbolic of the hope and prosperity that will carry us through our initial development.

Working side by side has provided us with the genuine opportunity to discuss what’s most important for us to focus on at this time.  Our first objective is the holiday party.  We agreed to invite family, friends, and community members to celebrate our newly founded Shore Clubhouse.  Secondly, we agreed to continue to create awareness by talking about Shore Clubhouse in hopes of expanding the number of members in our working party.  We decided to begin our monthly progress notes.  We unanimously concluded that it is important for each of us to write down something we would like to work on personally and promised to offer each other support.  We’re looking forward to spending time next month to reflect on what has transpired and where to go from there. 

As usual, we reviewed and discussed two standards.  This has been a wonderful way for us to create a better understanding of our roles and purpose at Shore Clubhouse.  Admittedly, we are eagerly anticipating a field trip to Fountain House, as the majority of members in our working party have not had the opportunity to visit a clubhouse.  We also agree that it’s important for us to become comfortable and familiar with the operations of the clubhouse so that we can teach new members of our working party, our Board of Trustees, and volunteers how to gain the most from their experiences with Shore Clubhouse.  This practice should prove helpful when we decide to hire and train new staff.

We finished up our day with a lot of tidying up, more discussion, and brainstorming new ideas that we hope will manifest over time.   One member shared a heartfelt sentiment.  With a smile on her face, she reported that she feels more self-confident after only four weeks.  We’re all very excited for our first large celebration.  We sincerely thank the Board of Trustees of Shore Clubhouse for helping us host our first annual Shore Clubhouse Holiday Party. 

Wishing you the happiest of holidays!

Alicia Zielinski

Executive Director, Shore Clubhouse




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