Pathway to Hope opens clubhouse in Shawnee for people living with mental illness

Emilee Ortiz, a member of the Reclamation Clubhouse in Shawnee, spent one day sewing outreach bags for the organization.

Pathway to Hope, an Olathe-based mental health service organization, has opened a clubhouse in Shawnee for people who live with serious mental illnesses.

The Reclamation Clubhouse, which is temporarily housed in the basement of Emmanuel Family Church at 7101 Quivira Road, is the first clubhouse of its kind in Johnson County. It first opened Nov. 4 and serves people across the Kansas City metro area.

Kiersten Adkins, executive director of Pathway to Hope, said the clubhouse is designed to create a community and shared space of belonging, wellness and purpose for these residents who may frequently feel isolated or shut in their homes.

Adkins said conversations to start a clubhouse in Johnson County began three years ago, when staff began looking at what’s missing in terms of peer support services. After visiting with staff at the Johnson County Mental Health Center, Pathway staff found there was a need to open a clubhouse and offer this type of service for the community.

“We really would like to be the force in Johnson County that’s not the mental health center, that when people get a diagnosis or are ready to come back into community, that they think of clubhouse first and they come and feel the support that they need and reduce the stigma around living with mental illness,” Adkins said.

The clubhouse in Shawnee is one of about 300 around the world, Adkins said, adding that only one other clubhouse of its kind is in the Kansas City metro area, the Bel-Ray Clubhouse in Belton.

Shannon Swanson (left) and Josh Lyman are staff at the Reclamation Clubhouse.

“Persons living with mental illness are oftentimes without confidence, and they find themselves spending too much time at home, not wanting to get out in public as much, fearful that they won’t be accepted by others,” said Josh Lyman, program director for the clubhouse. “And so the clubhouse is here to build relationships to gain that confidence and for them to be able to work on personal goals — that could be education or wellness or housing or employment.”

So far, the clubhouse has about a dozen members. Emilee Ortiz, an Olathe resident, who spent one day sewing outreach bags for the organization, said she has already benefited from being a member of the clubhouse.

“We don’t quite have the numbers I want to see here, but for me, it’s a relief,” Ortiz said, adding that focusing on workday needs at the clubhouse is helping her prepare for the demands of a work day. “I just want people to know that there’s no judgment here. There’s a lot of interaction and it helps us develop not only relationships but skills: Interpersonal skills, art skills, craft skills, and then of course the more labor-intensive things like cooking.”

Ortiz said eating lunch together is also huge for them; in her case, she doesn’t have food at home because she’s on a fixed income.

Anna Steen, Ortiz’s roommate, said she hopes the clubhouse can help her sell her artwork. She made T-shirts with her poetry printed on it; her artwork focuses on helping youth overcome issues like anxiety and low self esteem.

“I have much to offer the world before I die,” Steen said. “And I’m trying to find ways to shine.”

Anna Steen said she is gaining skills to market her business selling T-shirts with her poetry printed on them.

Pathway to Hope is in the process of acquiring accreditation for the Reclamation Clubhouse.

The clubhouse staff and members work side by side to accomplish the members’ goals, especially in helping them further their education or careers.

“The clubhouse is really a nice way to build a bridge back into the community and get people back into education or to work,” Adkins said.

But running a clubhouse isn’t cheap; it costs about $40 per day per person, Adkins said, adding that this proactive approach is still more affordable than if someone in this community ends up in jail or in the emergency room. Nonetheless, startup funds from an amended lottery bill have helped to kickstart the clubhouse, Adkins added.

The clubhouse is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Adkins said they’re planning to develop social activities in the evenings and on weekends. Eventually, they hope to find a new and permanent spot in Shawnee.

The Shawnee Chamber of Commerce is hosting a ribbon cutting for the clubhouse at 4 p.m. Tuesday.