The new Key Clubhouse is a big step in closing the gaps in the mental health system

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Peggy Gonzalez, Delvena Thomas, Ivy Ginsberg, Judge Jeri Cohen, Marilyn Lieberman, Amy McClellan, Eric Pino and Lalita Airan celebrate the opening of the Key Clubhouse of South Florida, a new space for people living with serious mental illness.

It’s been 14 years since a group of family members and a young woman with bipolar disorder established the Key Clubhouse to fill a significant gap in the mental health system.

The group has found ways to provide people with serious mental illness with opportunities for meaningful work, education, friendships and housing in a supportive, caring and dignified community setting.


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Key Clubhouse of South Florida recently opened its new 5,000 square foot facility at Northside Commons in Miami. The nonprofit organization offers a free, work-oriented program for adults living with severe bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression. It helps them recover and reintegrate into the community.

“We are proud to open this new Key Clubhouse at Northside Commons because it now allows us to serve more people in our community,” said Debra Webb, Executive Director. “Our main goal is to encourage members to learn new skills and rebuild old ones while helping them find jobs.”

Webb said about 45 members live in apartments at the Northside Commons Clubhouse.

Built through a partnership with Carrfour Supportive Housing, Key Clubhouse of South Florida is the only Clubhouse in Florida to offer supportive housing in the same building.

The group is an accredited member of Clubhouse International, the governing body of a global network of more than 330 Mental Health Clubhouses on six continents. The organization’s mission is to bring about positive change in the lives of people living with mental illness. It is funded by the Thriving Mind/Department of Children and Families, Miami-Dade County, several foundations and many generous contributors.

Companies offering jobs include Career Source of South Florida, Sonesta Hotel, Levy Restaurant Compass Group (FTX Arena & Marlins Park), Centerplate (Hard Rock Stadium), Books & Books, Publix Supermarket, Busy Bee Car Wash and Segal Trials.

“We thank the many companies that provide jobs for our members,” Webb said. “Placing them in a workplace instills a sense of pride and responsibility that helps them achieve their full potential. Their talents and abilities are recognized and encouraged.

Visit www.keyclubhouse.org for more. Companies interested in providing employment to Clubhouse members can call 305-693-3508.

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Third Wave Volunteers intern Adriana Olea comforts a resident of Dulac, Louisiana during COVID testing and emergency response following Hurricane Ida. Photo courtesy of Third Wave Volunteers JODI HILTON

A teenage volunteer continues her journey

Adriana Olea has boundless energy for volunteering. And while she couldn’t be part of the Third Wave Volunteers teaching triage in war-torn Ukraine, Adriana hasn’t missed a moment to help others over the past year.

As part of an intern group with Third Wave Volunteers, she helped create a safety video with essential information on what to do when someone overdoses on drugs.

“I personally think it’s crucial to raise awareness of how to react in difficult situations when you don’t have a medical background and that PSA is very effective in showing how to react and what to do,” said said Adriana, now 18. “Enable children our age to have a basic understanding of emergency response. It can really save a life.

The MAST Academy graduate heading to Northeastern University also spent time in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida, working in impoverished communities.

“In addition to learning the basics of crisis mitigation and emergency response, I’ve connected with people on a level I never thought possible,” she said. “The team of volunteers was quick to welcome me. Each of them told me stories about their past and their life journeys, opening their hearts to a 17-year-old girl who had never done anything like this before.

“In Dulac, I met four girls that I will never forget,” she said. “As the team’s official COVID tester, I walked into the community in my scrubs with an armful of PCR tests. However, upon my arrival, I quickly noticed an inflexible apprehension towards the tests.

“No one came near me or my cotton swabs. Until a seven-year-old girl, with her cat in hand, tiptoed beside me and dropped while I set up the rest of the supplies.” She was curious and full of questions.

“I spent the day explaining to him basic medical supplies and what our team was doing to rehabilitate his community. She was wide-eyed and excited, quickly becoming more passionate about the work being done to help her community. Soon, she persuaded her entire family to get tested, which set off a domino effect on the entire community.

Alison Thompson, founder of Third Wave Volunteers, said Adriana has blossomed over the past year. “She is exceptional. The trip to Louisiana was life changing,” Thompson said.

Adriana said the children followed her everywhere to help her and ‘when it was time to leave they each said goodbye. The eldest thanked me for making her family smile, and the youngest promised me that she was going to become a nurse and wear the nursing cap like me one day. To learn more about how to help with donations or volunteer, visit www.thirdwavevolunteers.com.

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Dragonfly Thrift Boutique, 3141 SW Eighth St. in Miami, offers second-hand luxury designer brands, and new pieces are added to the curated collection every Tuesday. dragonflythrift.org. Provided by LEAP

A thrift store helps formerly imprisoned women

Women who have experienced incarceration are one of the most marginalized groups. Most have stories of suffering, abuse and addiction. But thanks to LEAP, a 13-year-old Miami nonprofit that provides education, housing and employment, many also have stories of redemption and resilience.

In April, the group collaborated with Design and Architecture Senior High students to host a fundraising fashion show featuring LEAP graduates as models. The event was part of the “More Than Project,” LEAP Executive Director Mahlia Lindquist said.

“The More Than Project isn’t just about cool t-shirts, it’s about inspiring real change. We want society to see women coming out of prison as more than “criminals”, “delinquents” or “swindlers”. They are mothers, sisters, daughters… human beings deserving of compassion, empathy and opportunity,” Lindquist said.

You can help by visiting Dragonfly second hand shop. The shop stocks second-hand luxury designer brands, and new pieces are added to the curated collection every Tuesday at 11am. Dragonfly is also looking for home decor, furniture, and clothing donations. Visit www.LeapForLadies.org

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Write to ChristinaMMayo@gmail.com with news for this column.

This story was originally published July 22, 2022 10:41 a.m.

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