Summit County Clubhouse, a mental wellness nonprofit, celebrates first anniversary
Happy birthday to the Summit County Clubhouse.
Within the past year, the mental wellness nonprofit — which helps individuals who are living with mental illness gain access to employment, friendships and education — has boosted its membership and has added some new programs, said Executive Director Amber Mackay.
Just opening Clubhouse, one of 330 worldwide organizations that follow the Clubhouse International model of psycho-social rehabilitation, in Summit County was a huge success, she said.
“I come from a Clubhouse in Salt Lake where I was for 13 and a half years, and while I was there, we’ve had many people from Park City visit multiple times to tell us they would like to start one in Park City,” she said. “I was disappointed to see it not launch over and over again, because I am a firm believer that we need more Clubhouses around the world. So, to be able to finally see the one in Summit County finally launch was great for us and the community.”
The first Summit County Clubhouse opened in a small conference room at the Christian Center of Park City.
“It was tiny, maybe 200 square feet, and we could fit maybe eight people in the room before it reached its max capacity,” Mackay said.
Within the first five months of opening, Summit County Clubhouse moved into an office at Quarry Village.
“Space is a big thing for Clubhouse, and to move to where we are now was important because it allowed us to expand our kitchen,” Mackay said. “One of the big pieces of the Clubhouse model is for members to make lunch every day, because that not only allows us to socialize with one another, but it also helps build vocational skills for restaurant work.”
In addition to making lunch and socializing, members also take on other duties that will help them throughout their lives, according to Mackay.
Members perform tasks each day that range from general housekeeping to bookkeeping and information technology support, she said.
“We identify our members’ strengths, talents and abilities, and then match them with jobs,” Mackay said.
Tech support is the specialty of Austin Stanger, who has been a Summit County Clubhouse member since September.
“Right now, I’m the one who usually does all the Facebook posting and the actual website updates,” Stanger said. “And I’m there every day we’re open, which is Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
“A lot of reasons why I rely on Austin for a lot of the technology aspects of Clubhouse is because he is so good at it,” Mackay added. “When we opened he set up a lot of our technological infrastructure.”
All Clubhouse duties are performed on a volunteer basis, according to Stanger.
“We have each day planned out, and we meet every morning and right after lunch to schedule who wants to do what,” he said. “The nice thing is you’re not required to do something if you don’t feel comfortable doing it.”
While the Clubhouse leans on Stanger’s know-how, he, in turn, relies on the support the Clubhouse gives him.
When Stanger found himself struggling with burnout during his full-time job at a Salt Lake City department store, Mackay joined in a conference call with his supervisor.
“One of our goals is to have our members find and maintain employment,” Mackay said. “So I was able to join the call in as his friend and his job coach and give the supervisor a different perspective.”
The call gave the supervisor insight into Stanger’s challenges, he said.
“Amber explained to my supervisor what I was going through, and was very supportive,” Stanger said. “And that helped my supervisor as well as myself.”
This type of support comes with Clubhouse membership, Mackay said.
“We are focused on giving our members a sense of purpose, structure and self-worth, which is important for people with mental illness to find their place in society,” she said. “We have a sense of community for the members.”
Another program Summit County Clubhouse has initiated is called Wellness Wednesdays, Mackay said.
“We try to go for a walk, do meditation and other fitness programs,” she said. “We recently received a donation of yoga mats, so we’re going to start up some yoga.”
Members are also going to try some Tai Chi, taught by Stanger.
“A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned I practiced Tai Chi a for nearly 10 years, and I have practiced martial arts for almost 25 years,” he said. “Amber asked if I wanted to show the group some Tai Chi, and I was like sure, because it’s relaxing, meditative and healthy, and good to keep your body in shape and flexible.”
Fridays are set aside for social recreation, complete with aligning to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, Mackay said.
“We try to take some time to hang out together outside the work of the Clubhouse,” she said. “We’ve gone bowling, and we had a campfire on the Fourth of July.”
The Clubhouse is open every holiday, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, to accommodate members who have no place to go, according to Mackay.
“This way our members can spend time together and support each other,” she said.
Looking forward to the next year, Mackay said Clubhouse is cooking up some new programs that will help the nonprofit not only increase membership, but increase support.
“Our goal is to be more visible in the community,” she said. “While there are some people who know about us, we want more people to know.”
One way to do that is to beef up its transitional employment program, which has been challenging during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The program allows us to build relationships with businesses in the community, which has been difficult during COVID,” Mackay said. “When we do meet with business owners, we introduce them to our members, like Austin, who have amazing skills and are so eager to work.”
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