Staff or Member? Colleagues All.

Posted on May 29, 2012
My first week of my new job as Director of Development for the San Antonio Clubhouse was spent at the first clubhouse, Fountain House, in New York City. The timing was a brilliant move by my Executive Director. I had, of course, visited my clubhouse and read all there was to read about the model, but nothing can compare to living it. It felt like being thrown into a pond, not knowing how to swim, and having every hand in the water calmly reach over, not only to hold my head above water, but also, seemingly effortlessly, teaching me how to swim.

My perspective was a rather unusual one – first day in the clubhouse, first day as staff, first day in training in a place in which I would not be working—but one that I felt important to mention. The characteristic that struck me first and most dramatically was the ‘colleague equality.' This aspect of our culture is so internalized by those living within it that, after a while, it’s not amazing. It just ‘is.’

When I remarked on the fact that, after spending the day in the reception unit, I wasn’t entirely sure who were staff and who were members, my fellow trainees - who were already immersed in their clubhouses - smiled indulgently and said, something to the effect of “yes, and…?” Another colleague had to remind them I was new to the model. After only two weeks in the clubhouse, I can understand their perspective; it is now becoming mine. 

Still, no matter our years (or weeks in my case) living the clubhouse model, we can benefit from reminders of how well we are fulfilling the mission. Be ready and revel in them. On the third day of FH training, a colleague, who is a member of Sky Light Center, thanked the tour guide of our employment site visit and asked how long she had been a member. Samene has been staff for four years. The member was embarrassed, but I told her it was a moment to be celebrated, another moment of “mission accomplished.” Samene just smiled. 

Linda Zimmerhanzel
Director of Development, San Antonio Clubhouse


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