By Edith Morgan
It could happen to any of us, at any age. Rich or poor, or white, African-American, Hispanic, or Asian….And as a matter of fact, it DOES happen to more than 44 million Americans, or nearly one in five adults. And when it does, they suffer an 85% unemployment rate, and tend to live twenty-five years less than the average in America.
This vast number of people suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder and need our help. In the past too often mental illness has been shrouded in ignorance, fear, and avoidance. But I am glad to be able to write about a great, unusual, creative effort in our midst, helping persons recovering from mental illness – and providing a model for others to follow as they attempt to help people return to productive, healthy lives.
Twenty-five years ago, on September 15th, 1988, with its present director at the helm, Genesis Club opened in our neighborhood. From small beginnings, in one older building, the club has grown to its present size at 274 Lincoln Street, Worcester, where the facility now houses four floors dedicated to all the activities needed to run the club. I have enjoyed many a good lunch in the club cafeteria, and neighborhood groups have held meetings there, and enjoyed concerts also. The walls display paintings and other art work done by club members, and any time I have visited, there is always a great bustle of activities, in the many rooms and offices on all floors. Computers, meetings, conferences and all sorts of activities take place all day Monday through Friday, with club members and staff busily running programs and participating in all the activity.
Genesis has a wide outreach into the larger community: in 2013, 160 members were employed at 84 different places, and earned $1,287,661.00. Depending on the level at which members can work, there are various kinds of employment, from transitional, to supported, to independent – and there are educational opportunities also: in 2013, 92 students were enrolled in degree or vocational programs, , 77 at the college or university level; 15 were in GED or high school programs, and twenty-two received Sidney Baer scholarships.
In 2013, 762 individuals recovering from mental illness took part in the Genesis program. An average of 93 members participated on each work day, Monday through Friday. Of those, 161 were new members. One hundred sixty-four found employment with Genesis’ community partners performing a variety of jobs in area businesses.
All of these initiatives have not gone unnoticed, and Genesis serves s an international training center for teams of professionals who want to implement the club model in their own programs: most recently, trainees came from such varied places as Norway, Cape Breton,( Canada), Miami, (Florida).The training program was so successful that Genesis recently moved to a larger training facility home, “Chandler house” and sold its facility on Shaffner Street. I was sad to see them move, as they had been good neighbors (I live just around the block) and had maintained it well….
In the past year, Kevin Bradley, Genesis director, received two prestigious awards: the Renaissance Award from the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, and the Public Service Award from the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.
All the recognition has not slowed down the drive to innovate and improve the Genesis programs: there is an active “young adult” support group, with 101 active members; in keeping with trends around the country, Genesis has embarked on a wellness program, focusing on various aspects of good health: nutrition gets regular attention, and the cafeteria serves salads and other good foods. A new smoking cessation program is in effect, one which has been replicated throughout the U.S. And plans are being made to start a community garden, with the goal of raising many of their own vegetables – while learning valuable lessons and skills needed to be successful gardeners.
Needless to say, all this takes funding- and Genesis has an active Board of Directors who help to achieve its mission:…”to improve the lives of those in recovery from mental illness. This is accomplished by providing opportunities to attain education, employment, housing, wellness, and friendship.”
Of the Genesis operating funds, over $800.000 came from the Department of Mental Health, and over #300,000 from Housing funding ( I did not mention that another of the Genesis initiatives is to find proper housing for those club members needing it)) – but donations from sponsors and individuals account for many more funds. Genesis has two main large fund-raising events each year: a Gala event, in the fall, where its “Building Dreams” benefit receives many donations, large and small. And the second fund-raiser, coming up in August, is participation in the 42nd Falmouth Road Race, taking place on August 17, 2014. Last year’s participants raised $40,000. Hopefully, this year’s Team Genesis can top that!!
If our readers want to participate and help Genesis with this program, while raising awareness of the need for this program, here are the details: You can obtain more information, or get a registration form from Genesis Club, at 274 Lincoln Street, Worcester, MA 01605; or visit www.genesisclub.org, or by e-mailing Kevin Bradley, email@example.com. The phone number is 508-831-0100, ext.30.
Each team member must raise a minimum of $1,000 b September 1, 2014 (that is the required minimum for running with a non-profit) This is a wonderful opportunity to do something healthy and aid a very worthy cause….
I have lived in this neighborhood since 1967, and have watched Genesis grow and develop over the years, have met some of the club members and staff, and seen the good that has been done, year after year. Genesis staff and members have helped us with community projects, helped with past Earth Days, came to Brittan square block parties, and lived in various places in our neighborhood. I have seen numerous ones blossom out and take their places in the community. I have always been very impressed with the air of cooperation and helpfulness that pervades the place when one enters there. How far we have come from the old ways of dealing with mental illness, and how satisfying it must be for all those associated with this program to see it grow and succeed in supporting the efforts of those who come through the doors of Genesis and find a haven there where they can spread their wings, make friends, and go out into the world strengthened and hopefully, joyously.