Several Fountain House staff and members attended the first ever United States Clubhouse Conference in November in Silver Spring, Maryland. Historically, during the years between International Seminars, regional conferences were held. In total, 285 members, staff, board members and other interested people from around the country attended this conference. The theme of the conference was “YES WE C-A-N Collaborate! Advocate! Network!”
Together, our whole team from Fountain House which included Iris Diaz, Amy Ferrara, Mike Hamlin, Vincent Sarro, Andrew Schonebaum and Beth Stubenbord led a workshop on relationships. Some also presented plenaries on supported education and the use of social media to raise visibility. Our group also attended other workshops and plenaries on a variety of different topics important to Clubhouses. We had the opportunity to learn, share our knowledge and connect with old Clubhouse friends and make new ones.
Below, Amy and Iris share their stories from the conference.
Sharing the Fountain House Model by Amy Ferrara
The National Conference was a great experience for me overall. We left Fountain House on a Wednesday morning and hit the road to Maryland - and boy what a beautiful day for a long drive. Beth and Andrew had already left before us, so it was just Michael, Vinny, Iris and myself in the van. It's always nice to take trips with people from different units, those whom I usually don't get to spend a lot of time with.
Michael Hamlin sat shot-gun, so I got to learn a lot about him. I had no idea he was so dedicated to the clubhouse movement and spreading it around the world. Turns out, we have a lot in common in that respect, and I hope I get to do some more colleague training work with him in the future. He has great ideas about clubhouse accreditation and I look forward to seeing how he impacts the international community with his involvement on the facility. Iris and Vinny also made for some great road companions as we made our way to Silver Spring, MD and vibed out to some Fleetwood Mac along the way. In other good news, I successfully made it driving there and back without even scratching Kenn's van - so that's always a success! There was a check engine light at the end of the trip, but I'm pretty sure that had nothing to do with me.
We made it to the conference and were greeted by some folks from Clubhouse International. The welcome reception was delightful. We also ran into some old friends from Fountain House including Jason Woody whom I used to work with in the Culinary Unit. He's now the Director of the B'more Clubhouse in Baltimore, Maryland, and works with our buddy Natalie Etter who used to work in the Research Unit. Small world, huh? We also ran into Summer Berman who was part of the fellowship program here at Fountain House and is now the Director of Fresh Start Clubhouse in Michigan. It's pretty great to see people who started out at Fountain House, or received their training here, go off to other parts of either the country or world, and put that training into practice.
I also spent some time talking with James Wineinger at the conference. He started working at Fountain House in the early 90s and worked here for 15 years. In that time, he worked in the Employment Unit, went on to work in the Research Unit, became the Unit Leader of the Clerical Unit, and then went back to the Employment Unit to take over for Ralph Bilby as Director of Employment. He told me that on the day of his interview, when he showed up at Fountain House as a twenty-something-year-old from Kansas right out of college, Esther Montanez escorted him to the patio and sat with him, smoking and talking for over 3 hours. She put him to work right after that, and at that point he knew that he was here to stay! Now he is the Director of Crossroads Clubhouse in Tulsa, OK, and thankfully for us, still keeps in touch with a lot of people from Fountain House.
When asked to go to this conference, I was also asked to present during a workshop about relationships in the clubhouse. I was a little concerned, because I couldn't really think of a way to give a presentation about relationships. I couldn't do a PowerPoint presentation, or something of that nature, because it seemed artificial and that is something that I wanted to stay away from, since the relationships we have here in the clubhouse are so authentic. I wanted to keep it real, so the first thing I did was ask all of the folks representing Fountain House to join me on the panel. We ended up facilitating a discussion about relationships, which was very similar to the way we run the "Best Practices" group for new staff here. We asked a lot of open-ended questions related to the nature of the relationships in the clubhouse and let everyone contribute. After everyone gave their responses, we explained how we do things here at Fountain House, and why we believe our way is the best practice. It went really well, and at the end of the workshop, a lot of people came up to tell us how helpful our panel was.
Lessons Learned from Genesis Clubhouse by Iris Diaz
I thoroughly enjoyed the National Conference, and would like to share my experience attending a workshop led by Genesis Clubhouse in Massachusetts. This workshop focused primarily on the importance of persistence and how crucial work is to members of a clubhouse.
Two members, who are also board members of their clubhouse, shared their personal stories. One had unfortunately lost his Independent Employment, (IE) when he had a breakdown. He was hospitalized and said that he was “forgotten” in the hospital for about two years. When he was discharged, he went back to Genesis Clubhouse, and was lucky, obtaining a Transitional Employment (TE) placement within three months. He got an apartment and a car all within seven months. It should be mentioned that this member was actively engaged in the work-ordered day while he was getting his life back. The second member started a TE for the first time in her life. However, after three months, she had to be hospitalized. When she got discharged, she went back to Genesis Clubhouse and tried another TE. The second time around, she completed the nine month TE, and felt really good about her accomplishment.
Throughout the workshop, the people in the panel mentioned that staff should be the ones suggesting employment to the members. They also mentioned that the work-ordered day needs to be structured so the members get a feel for “routine,” which can help them later on to be successful in employment endeavors.
I remember when I started fill-ins at Publicis and then later tried for a TE. It took me a couple of tries before I got the hang of it. Now that my TE is almost over, I’m considering an IE. My confidence level is up and I feel that I want to try an IE.
The staff presenting mentioned that the job developer in your clubhouse should focus on acquiring TEs as opposed to Supportive Employment (SE) and Independent Employment (IE). They said this because they felt that ultimately the companies and organizations where the TEs are held will also be able to generate SE and IE opportunities for Clubhouse members. They feel this will happen organically as the relationships grow between the companies, organizations, members and staff.
It makes sense that once these organizations and companies see how the members work, they might be open to generating these opportunities. I was truly inspired by the two members who told their stories. Perseverance does work. I’m also glad that Fountain House recognizes that it may take time and a few tries before a member gets the hang of the TE system and is supportive in helping members be successful on their job placements.