Juliana Fuerbringer hopes 2014 brings her son a house — a clubhouse, actually.
And actually not just for her son but for all people living with mental illness.
“The sooner he can go and be a member and feel valued, the better,” Fuerbringer said.
Spurred by the personal experience with her son who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 21 four years ago, Fuerbringer is among a group of similar minded people working to open Clubhouse in San Mateo County.
The Clubhouse will be a place where those with severe diagnoses can find support, friendship, guidance to other services and, key to Fuerbringer, hope.
“It really is a source of hope and gives them a choice. Right now, there is no choice out there for them,” said Fuerbringer who serves as board chair of California Clubhouse.
Unlike existing programs and services, Clubhouse will be a long-term option for a lifelong challenge. Current efforts often focus on acute care and getting patients stable but Fuerbringers asks, “what happens when they leave the hospital? Some can get on their feet but others can’t without a network.”
Participants, known as members, can go five days a week during regular business hours and on weekends. Part social hub, part workplace, the Clubhouse gives these individuals a place to go during the day rather than sitting at home. Through jobs and training, it also helps them stabilize, transition back into school if possible and overall feel worthy.
Participants choose jobs — ranging from emptying trash to establishing daily lunch menus — from a white board every day. Some clubhouses, like the nearest one in Concord, hold Friday night events. Computers will be used for the Clubhouse newsletter and teaching skills and members will also have the chance to participate in other social enterprises like the snack bar and thrift shop. A primary goal is to make participants comfortable and help build their self confidence.
“It’s very positive thing that fills this gap we have,” Fuerbringer said. “Really, the Clubhouse focuses on those people who don’t fully recover but through its programs can go on to lead productive, positive lives.”
Clubhouse is a proven model dating from 1948 with the first one in New York and with more than 300 versions in 33 countries — but surprisingly none on the Peninsula. Fuerbringer learned of the Clubhouse Model after her own son fell ill and contacted the international organization which ultimately planted the seeds in her mind for a local location. She and others traveled to other clubhouses in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and St. Louis for a firsthand look which motivated them to move quickly toward making their vision a reality.
The group just received its nonprofit status, formalized a working board and began its outreach. What it wants now are community members with open hearts and open wallets.
The group’s budget for next year is $350,000 of which $50,000 they hope to garner from the community with the rest coming from grants and foundations. It has surpassed the $30,000 mark and even has some possible sites in mind although it’s not quite ready to put down a deposit. A key factor is a centralized location in the county and proximity to public transportation although Fuerbringer said the Clubhouse will have vans with which to transport members.
The existing clubhouse network provides an already established support system and gives the San Mateo County group some templates to emulate. The Clubhouse will also be a place and program to complement and link to rather than replace those already in place like vocational training, Fuerbringer said.
For more information and to donate visit www.californiaclubhouse.org.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102