The Journal Gazette
Monday, April 27, 2020 1:00 am

Bringing out the best

In trying times, Carriage House is reminded how much its work is appreciated

Andy Wilson

The Carriage House is unique.

Since 1997, we have been providing the very best rehabilitation for women and men with the most serious mental illnesses – conditions such as schizophrenia and major depression.

We use the internationally replicated and evidence-based “Clubhouse Model.” Our work centers on our beautiful building on Lake Avenue.

Together, at the Carriage House, we work. Side by side. We meet together, eat together and work together. We help people go back to work and school; we help people move into better places and deal with poverty. We provide meaning, purpose, community and, above all, hope.

Then came the coronavirus.

We were immediately challenged. One of the hardest parts of managing a serious mental illness is isolation. Even in the best of times, when people start to feel the symptoms of their illness, they stay at home.

Isolation can be pretty dangerous, and can have some terrible consequences for folks with serious mental illness. And this is far from the best of times.

So, what do we do? We build a virtual community. We create “outreach families” and ask that every member of each family keep tabs on the others. We give away cellphones to those who don't have one and have conference calls twice a day – seven days a week. We do Zoom meetings, make videos, deliver lunches and care packages, help people with food insecurity, and call everyone. Every day.

And on Easter Sunday, we delivered 200 Easter baskets and fresh flowers all over northeast Indiana. It was one of our best Easters.

Over the years, we have helped other Clubhouse programs get started. There are now nine accredited Clubhouses serving more than 1,000 active members throughout the state. The only renewable funding for these programs relies on people actually attending the Clubhouse. So this time poses existential threats for both the members of the Clubhouse and for the Clubhouses themselves.

Fortunately, we live in a remarkable time. A time when heroes rise. Despite the gravest challenge of a generation – or perhaps because of it – we see the very best in people. The AWS Foundation, The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, The Elkhart Community Foundation, The St. Joseph County Community Foundation, the state of Indiana, and hundreds of individuals and businesses came to help.

And, like the heroes they are, have marched in, filled the breach, and saved the day.

With the help of the Fort Wayne community, the Carriage House family has learned that physical distance is no barrier to community – and viruses are no match for love.

Andy Wilson is executive director of the Carriage House.

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