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November 1, 2017
Dear GAC Friend,
The scariest time in my life was when I was 14 years old and a high school freshman. Voices in my brain were tormenting me. Then I had a complete breakdown and I was hospitalized at Sinai Samaritan Hospital. There were even more scary times throughout high school, but I managed to graduate. I then enrolled at UW-Oshkosh to study engineering. A week after I got there, my mind shut down and I couldn’t do the work. At the end of the semester, I went home.
I held a variety of jobs—at Taco Bell, BSI Office Interiors, National Utilities/Napa Distribution Center. And then another breakdown. And another. Eventually I would endure 12 hospitalizations and much pain.
Someone suggested that I go to Grand Avenue Club (GAC). I did the tour, but was not comfortable and did not join. I endured yet another hospitalization. And then, in February 2008, I tried GAC again. I joined the Colleague and Community Services Unit. There I kept GAC’s attendance records and worked closely with the Business Manager.
Just 4 months later I was recruited for a job in GAC’s Paid Employment Program. During the summer of 2008 I worked at the United Way Group Placement. Bolstered by a satisfying employment experience and with the support of the GAC community, I went on to do several Transitional Employment (TE) positions: a custodial position at Children & Family Community Partnership (CFCP); a Kit Packer position at Derco Aerospace; and an In-House Messenger/Clerk position at Foley & Lardner. The CFCP job was a short commute from GAC and the job at Foley is walking distance from the Clubhouse, but Derco Aerospace was a full two hour commute in each direction from my home in St. Francis. I am proud that I never missed a day of work! I was there even during severe snow storms.
Then I was offered a custodial TE at the U.S. Federal Court House, which eventually became an Independent Employment position for me. I worked at the Court House from 2011 through 2015, but gave it up because it became much too physically demanding. I then did a food service TE at Renaissance Child Day Care Center.
All this time, from 2008 through 2017, I had the benefit of GAC’s placement managers for TE, the work support groups and, frankly, the appreciative vibes from my GAC colleagues. Because I had a strong preference for clerical work, I also did check reconciliation in the Education/Employment Unit. I really wanted to go back to work.
I could not have been more pleased when I was offered a brand new TE as an Office Clerk at the Clinical Trials Office of the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Care Center (MCW). I work from 9 am to 1 p.m. on Monday through Friday. My tasks vary: I take apart specimen kits, archive files, help with the symposia that the office organizes, do the daily mail run, and tidy up the conference room. MCW is a very nice place to work and my co-workers are appreciative of my efforts.
Now, at 43 I think of my life as having two distinct phases: “Before GAC” and “After GAC.” Before I joined GAC I was on my own out in the world and I was drifting. Since I joined GAC I have had the support I’ve needed to succeed. I’m confident that GAC will always support my goals, see me through my ups and downs, and never insist that I have to be perfect.
November 2017 finds me both working at MCW and going to GAC regularly. There I find familiar faces and lots to do. I’m very close to my family, but GAC is my primary support for the things I want to do with my life. I can count on my Clubhouse colleagues for stability and continuity. I can’t imagine not having GAC in my life.
And I want to tell you—with a great sense of pride and relief—that I have not been hospitalized since I joined GAC in February 2008!
I want to share to share my story with you for the purpose of enlisting strong support for GAC. My hope is that GAC to be available to all Milwaukeeans who can benefit from it as much as I have.
Please contribute generously to GAC’s Winter Appeal. GAC is a lifeline for Milwaukeeans who have experienced mental illness.
We look forward to hearing from you, and I look forward to personally thanking you for your support.