"Friendship, employment, self reliance and a sense of responsibility and purpose are only a dream for most people with mental illness."
These are words from the Facebook page of the Shelby Adventure House, a non-profit organization that provides a place for adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
"The members and staff at Adventure House are the families that many of us have lost," says a clubhouse member. "There is a sense of togetherness where members are treated with respect and dignity as individuals. Adventure House is a place where members leave to go out into the world with confidence and know they can always return."
Adventure House had its beginnings in the basement of Shiloh Baptist Church in Shelby in 1985. There, clients and staff from the Mental Health Center met to form The Adventurer's Club. Persons attending the program were no longer called "patients" or "clients" but were referred to as members. In March of 1986, a small mill house was located for a more permanent location.
In December of that same year, Adventure House became a "clubhouse model," based on the principles of New York's Fountain House, to help people with mental illnesses ranging from depression to schizophrenia.
Today, Adventure House is an active and vibrant place that is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. The Transportation Authority of Cleveland County (TACC) provides transportation to and from the facility. Members, who are referred to the program by a physician, have the opportunity to work either inside the house or in the house's transitional employment unit. Inside the house, members can choose to work in the kitchen, the snack bar or in the administrative unit. Those who decide to pursue transitional employment are trained and then given a job with a local business or organization. All are provided with meaningful work that can aid them in eventually finding permanent positions.
Adventure House also provides plenty of social opportunities for its members.
"Our Halloween party is coming up, and it is the favorite event of the year for a lot of our members," says Ginia Robinson, rehabilitation specialist. "We get a DJ, we'll have a haunted house area and there will be games and prizes. Everyone dresses up, and we just have a really good time."
Robinson says Adventure House has parties for most major holidays and provides social outings during the rest of the year.
"Sometimes we go shopping or to the movies or bowling - anything to get out in the community," she says. "It's just great for the members to get to experience unstructured socialization in situations like these."
And no matter what happens, members know they can always come back to Adventure House. "Once members join Adventure House, they are members for life," says Robinson. "Members can return to the clubhouse after any length of absence."
For more information about Adventure House, search for "Adventure House of Shelby" on Facebook or call the clubhouse at 704-482-3370 during operating hours.
By April Hoyle Shauf, Special to Community First Media