Glenda Carlson

Glenda Carlson

Clubhouse a safe place to socialize, build confidence

Most days Glenda Carlson can be found slicing and dicing vegetables in the kitchen.

Most days Glenda Carlson can be found slicing and dicing vegetables in the kitchen.

Ray’mon Cole greets members as they enter the clubhouse while keeping a sharp eye on the concession stand for customers.

Over in the common areas, Jay Johnson put together a jigsaw puzzle between working on his latest art project.

The three friends are regulars at A Gathering Place in Red Deer, a safe place for people living with mental illness ranging from mild anxiety to schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.

It is where Carlson, 50, has added new meaning to her day.

Four years ago, Carlson had a breakdown while working as a trader in the markets.

She lost her mother, two sisters and father all within a short time frame. She moved to Red Deer from Sundre after losing her mother, with whom she lived on an acreage in 2013.

Carlson said she doesn’t feel as depressed or as isolated as she did before becoming a member in November 2013.

“I found a very safe place,” she said. “It has given more, so much more direction and self-confidence. I don’t feel lonely. I don’t feel depressed. I have made so many friends here. My anxiety levels are right down.”

The clubhouse is based on models that operate internationally to ease people back into social opportunities and employment.

Mary Roy, a mental health worker, said Carlson is a wonderful asset to the clubhouse. She is one of the members who delivers presentations about the clubhouse at Unit 34 and Unit 36 the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and other places.

“That’s really a sign of how far Glenda has come because she is perfectly comfortable sharing about her life and the things that she has experienced,” said Roy. “Because of the stigma with mental health, individuals are really reluctant to come forward or to speak up about their lives.”

Cole is one of the longest members of the clubhouse. He joined in 2007 when the club was run by the Canada Mental Health Association. Employment Placement Support Services has been running the centre for the last four years. The clubhouse is funded by Alberta Health Services.

Cole, 59, said his job is to keep the premises clean, run the concession stand and ensure the membership are respectful of one another and use appropriate language.

Part of the function of the clubhouse is to give members a place to learn new skills for their resumés and update their workplace skills. Through a “work-ordered day” members can volunteer in reception, clerical, cleaning and maintenance duties. There’s even a couple of fish, Bob and Doug, who are cared for by the members.

Emmanuel Anigbogu, clubhouse manager, said the members find it difficult to secure employment because of their mental illnesses. Some members have gone on to work at places like McDonald’s or Superstore after learning skills at A Gathering Place.

“It gives me something to do,” said Cole. “It’s a reason to get out of bed in the morning. If you don’t have a job, you don’t have anything to get up for in the morning.”

Cole said the clubhouse adds structure to his day, something that was missing. In the past, Cole had difficulty keeping regular jobs because he could not handle the pressure.

“Many people come and go here,” said Cole. “It’s like a second family. It gives me something to do, and for anybody it’s good for their overall health.”

Jay Johnson, 30, has been a member for more than a year but he has already felt the positive impacts of the clubhouse.

When the clubhouse is closed, members sometimes meet for coffee, play cards or go to a movie.

“Coming here I made lots of new friends,” said Johnson, who has paid employment with the Clean Team. “It’s a really friendly place because a lot of the members like to sit down and have a lot of friendly conversations. They treat me with a lot of respect as I for them.”

But the main goal of the clubhouse is not to help the members find a job.

Anigbogu said the main goal is to provide a safe place for them to socialize and give them some confidence. He said the members take the lead on running the clubhouse while the two staffers support them.

The clubhouse encourages “active participation in clubhouse programs, community inclusion, sustainable employment for members, self advocacy, personal growth and empowerment,” according to its website.

He said they encourage the members to socialize outside club hours to develop and strengthen friendships.

There are an estimated 46 active members out of the registered 147 members. About 70 per cent of the membership is male. The members are between the ages of 18 and 65.

Anigbogu said some statistics suggest one in five Canadians are living with a mental illness.

“It’s difficult to measure the money value that we are doing here,” said Anigbogu. “Listening to the members and creating a structure in a life is what they may need right now. That keeps them out of the hospital … Without this program, I think there would be lots of members who would end up in the hospital or worse.”

The clubhouse has faced some challenges spreading the word about its work in the community and removing its perceived reputation since moving to the 5012 Ross St., from 48th Street in 2009. The clubhouse is located down the street from the Buffalo Hotel.

Anigbogu said some people think the house is full of “druggies or drunks.”

“That’s why we want to keep our doors open,” he said. “Come down and talk to our members. They are just like us. Because of that, we don’t get that many members given the population of Red Deer that this clubhouse should get. We want people to know who we are.”

Looking to the future, the clubhouse has considered moving to a new location. Recently it applied to the Bell Let’s Talk program but did not receive any grant funding. Anigbogu said relocating the clubhouse is not a priority right now.

To find out more about A Gathering Place head to Facebook or www.epssreddeer.com/services/gathering-place

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The UCP government has turned down a request from the opposition to discuss a bill intended to protect the Rocky Mountains in the legislature. (CP file photo).
Consultations on coal mining don’t go far enough: NDP

Coal mining in the Rockies has not sat well with many Albertans… Continue reading

The future of Westerner Park continues to be plagued by many unknowns, including when city council will make a decision about financing its operations. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Red Deer city council delays making decision on Westerner Park financing

It will mean missing the next opportunity to apply for a provincial loan

Nineteen-year-old Amanda enjoys a ride during a visit to Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. photo submitted
Busy days at Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler

The ranch, which launched operations last summer, provides support through animal interaction

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer at the announcement that the city will be getting a drug treatment court Thursday. Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, looks on.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Veer concerned about rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

The City of Red Deer is reminding citizens to protect themselves against… Continue reading

Rode
Volunteering played major role in RDC awards

Under normal circumstances, the RDC Red Deer Bottling Athlete of the Year… Continue reading

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

LtE bug
Letter: Questions around city funding for Westerner

The Advocate article on April 21 on page 3 “Council to discuss… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs' Nick Foligno (71) and Mitchell Marner (16) celebrate Marner's goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, April 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Taylor Pendrith from Richmond Hill, Ont. salutes the crowd after sinking a birdie on the 18th hole to come in at five under par during first round of play at the Canadian Open golf championship Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Toronto Blue Jays center fielder George Springer (4) walks on the field during a team workout, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Blue Jays face the New York Yankees on opening day Thursday in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Toronto Raptors' Khem Birch (24) defends against Brooklyn Nets' Blake Griffin during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Team Canada's Jocelyne Larocque celebrates her goal past the U.S.A. with goaltender Embrace Maschmeyer during first period of Women's Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Health Minister Patty Hajdu is shown at a COVID-19 press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Kawai
Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Most Read