Community Papers

Pathways Clubhouse lauded for its work

Pathways Clubhouse executive director Dave MacDonald (left), member Andy Birch, and resource development co-ordinator Georgina Patko.  - Don Fennell
Pathways Clubhouse executive director Dave MacDonald (left), member Andy Birch, and resource development co-ordinator Georgina Patko.
— image credit: Don Fennell

Hope resides at Pathways Clubhouse, an unassuming Elmbridge Way address where encouragement and opportunity come together to help repair lives shattered by mental illness.

The clubhouse model helps members reclaim their lives through a supportive environment that focuses on an individual’s strengths and talents rather than their illness.

But while centring on service, the Pathways Clubhouse remains relatively obscure to the greater community. That’s likely to change given the rare four-star rating the mental health advocacy group has just received from a charity watchdog.

“I think in the past we haven’t really been out there a lot, telling the community of the work we do,” says executive director Dave MacDonald.

Pathways Clubhouse is the only Richmond organization to earn the four-star distinction—the highest distinction possible—from Charity Intelligence Canada, which ranks how charities spend their money and the work they do. Only 15 per cent of the charities across Canada have made the grade.

“It’s pretty exciting,” adds Georgina Patko, resource development director at Pathways Clubhouse.

“This study evaluates charities on behalf of philanthropists, looking for transparency in all their dealings. Only five charities in B.C. have received this recognition.”

The concept of membership underpins every aspect of the community. Fountain House/Clubhouse International, a pioneering organization that has created a successful model to help those suffering from mental illness to reclaim their lives and realize their potential through work and the support of a caring community, has also just been selected to receive the 2014 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million. Pathways Clubhouse is one of 340 clubhouses in 32 countries.

While an average of 75 members pass through its doors each day, Pathways has an average yearly membership of 375. Many of its members are also supported in a variety of community initiatives and a housing program.

The organization also boasts an enviable record of using its donations wisely and still meet its service objectives. MacDonald proudly notes that it manages to garner the equivalent of $14 for every dollar it receives, whereas a good return in such a non-profit venture is considered to be between $2 and $5.

Strongly advocating that members should have the opportunity to return to paid employment, Pathways Clubhouse offers a transitional employment program for members while providing optimum support.

Pathways staff and members secure entry-level positions in various Richmond and Vancouver businesses after which staff screen and learn the positions and train members in that job. If members are unable to work for whatever reason, Pathways will fill in. These placements are six to nine months and pay regular wages.

Adopting a belief that a work environment provides focus for all parts of a person’s life, members working at the clubhouse also follow a typical work day. Their work is also real and meaningful because it arises from the actual needs of the members and the clubhouse functioning.

Besides its retail component and dealing with the public, employees at Costs, an acronym for Clerical Orientation Social Thrift Store Unit, are responsible for many office duties that help them gain valuable clerical skills. Additional responsibilities focus on accounting, bill paying, budgets, hiring and training. Members in this unit are also responsible for tours of the clubhouse, assisting new members to settle in, planning social programs in-house and in the community, and overseeing three weekly internal papers covering clubhouse-related matters.

A food services unit ensures members have access to nutritious and affordable food. In addition to preparing daily meals, food services workers also plan the menus, shop for the groceries, serve the meals and set up the dining area.

Open every day of the year, Pathways also recognizes that mental illness usually first occurs between the ages of 18 and 25 but that young adults seldom seek community-based treatment at this time because they don’t understand what’s happening. A youth adult program has been established to help them though this difficult period.

The clubhouse also has an extensive public education program that promotes understanding and awareness of mental illness and services available.

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