Community Papers

A place of belonging

Mental Health Worker and artist Lana Hart tends to a client in an art session at the DAWN Society’s Clubhouse in North Delta. - Boaz Joseph
Mental Health Worker and artist Lana Hart tends to a client in an art session at the DAWN Society’s Clubhouse in North Delta.
— image credit: Boaz Joseph

It’s the nature of a clubhouse to give members a sense of belonging, and Stephen feels it daily.

For more than two decades, the 43-year-old Ladner man has been coming to the Delta Alliance for Wellness and Networking (DAWN) Society’s clubhouse for activities and support.

“There’s always something to do,” he says.

Stephen, who has been diagnosed with a mental illness and lives semi-independently, participates in clubhouse clean-ups, art programs, lunch preparation, health classes and volunteer training programs, and has met all of his friends there – he joins them weekly for all-you-can-eat sushi.

For six years now, Stephen has worked three shifts each week as a janitor at a Ladner Restaurant.

“It’s invigorating,” he says. “It keeps you busy and the extra cash helps.”

DAWN Society’s clients run the gamut from schizophrenia to depression to mood disorders.

However, executive director Jennifer Childs explains that “people with a mental illness are doing well and living on their own in the community.

“Some people have misconceptions about what their life is like, and our programs ensure they have a full life.”

The non-profit society was founded in 1990 by a group of parents of adults who needed help.

“At that time, 22 years ago, there were very few if any services for people with a mental illness,” explains Childs.

Early on, they rented a house and started running a small number of services. Once Fraser Health came on board with funding, the society expanded and evolved, not only offering more programs but buying the present clubhouse in North Delta.

The mandate became official: Offering programs designed for people living in Delta who are 19 years and older, living with a primary diagnosis of a mental illness.

DAWN Society’s 15 mental health workers and support staff serve about 350 clients who live in North and South Delta – though only about 20 come to the clubhouse each day for activities.

The Clubhouse Program – drop-in, though only by referral – gives clients support through social recreation, education (including about their illness) and work-related activities.

An activity calendar is printed a month in advance, giving clients choices of programs such as You Gotta Have Art (Mondays), the Healthy Body, Healthy Minds Walking Group (often in Watershed Park), Get Familiar With Your Community (such as a visit to the George Mackie Library) and Project Giveback: Community Volunteering at Delta Church Soup Kitchen.

“Three hours of our day at the clubhouse are devoted to work,” says Childs. “It used to be more of a social-rec component, but now we’re trying to get people back into looking at work.

“All of it is to increase their stills to gain their independence and hopefully look at some kind of work, be it volunteer, part-time, or even full-time work if they’re able.”

The Clubhouse Program, with it’s on-site social, educational and work components, is just one of several of DAWN Society’s programs. Others are:

• Community Living Support and Supported Independent Living services, which include, but are not limited to, menu planning, cooking, budgeting, securing an apartment and moving. A rent subsidy is also available;

• The Therapeutic Volunteer Program, which helps clients find and maintain volunteer work at non-profit agencies and businesses;

• The Training Apartment Program, which helps individuals in determining their readiness for independent living; and

• The Supported Work Program, which provides them with an opportunity to engage in paid employment in a community setting.

Lana Hart, a mental health worker and artist who leads the clubhouse’s You Gotta Have Art and other projects, says the clients she works with have a lot to offer.

“What we’re trying to do is dispel the myth that people with a mental illness can’t function in society. These are wonderful, talented people who really do well in society. Just because they are living with a mental illness of some sort… it could be like anything, with diabetes or… shingles. It’s something you deal with, but you go on.”

DAWN Society’s clients register through referrals to one of the two Delta Mental Health offices. The phone numbers are 604-592-3700 (South) and 604-948-7010 (North).

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