Monday, May 21, 2018

It All Starts with Community

As part of our continuing series, today we turn the spotlight on the Vincent House Community Relations Team.

The Community Relations Team on a typical Friday afternoon.

By Rena Massey

Alex and Amiee working side-by-side
The Community Relations Team  facilitates the work of the Clubhouse. We take care our members and promote advocacy. We are the link between the Culinary Arts Team and the Arts & Communications Team and keep records of all Clubhouse business. We are in charge of the front desk and the phone center. We are the first members that visitors see and our graciousness helps to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness.  We even create birthday cards and congratulatory cards when our members get employment. We reach out to members who have been absent to lift their spirits and prevent isolation. We run Hidden Treasures, our thrift store. We also manage the Vincent House Leisure Bank an actual working bank that allows members to have savings accounts or meal tickets. We keep travel logs accounts, attendance records, and staff schedules. We do a thousand little things that keep the Clubhouse up and running, in short, we are indispensable!  

Friday, April 27, 2018

Vincent House Team Spotlight: Arts & Communications

Just a few of the Arts & Communications Team who work together
to produce newsletters, video productions, social media and other
creative content supporting the Vincent House mission.

Vincent House’s operation relies on the work of members in several different teams to run smoothly. This week, we’ll take a look at the Arts and Communications Team, and the work they contribute to Vincent House.

Members and staff working together in
the Arts & Communications team.
The Arts and Communications Team focuses on three different areas of publication for Vincent House: Print Design, Video Production, and Marketing. Hot off the press, the ARTS team produces a daily printed newsletter called The Daily Sunflower. It features articles written by members, today’s menu, important upcoming events, the clubhouse standards, and more! In addition to the Daily Sunflower, the ARTS team also creates members’ ID cards, flyers, and additional graphic design work, all in house. “It’s really cool to work on the different design projects offered by the ARTS team,” says member Anthony.

In addition to print design, the ARTS team produces its own video publications as well. The Weekly Vincent House News Broadcast is a big hit every week, where members get a chance to practice their directing, reporting, and video editing skills. Members enjoy making fun skits as well to brighten our work day. Whether it’s in front of or behind the camera, there is always something exciting happening at Vincent House.

Finally, the ARTS team manages the community image of Vincent House through marketing. “I enjoy the challenge of marketing,” says member Athena. “It’s fun to represent Vincent House, and it’s always a learning experience.” Via social media, website development, and weekly blogs, the ARTS team maintains the vision of Vincent House across the World Wide Web. These valuable skills in marketing help members to spread awareness of the Vincent House mission of #RecoveryThroughWork and #ClubhouseInternational!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Clubhouse Colleague Training at Gateway House

Vincent House and VAAC team (from left to right:
Asaf, Justin, Ben, True, Sierra, and Corydon) 
Vincent House is a part of the international Clubhouse model. We operate under the same standards and values as any clubhouse across the globe. As such, we collaborate together at several training events around the world. For the past two weeks, two Vincent House members and two staff, along with two representatives from Vincent Academy Adventure Coast, traveled to Gateway House in Greenville, South Carolina for the Gateway House Colleague Training. 

The training began on Monday, February 26th, 2018. Our Vincent House team arrived in South Carolina and were happy to start off the event with a great group of fellow clubhouse members. “Everyone seemed to know each of us by name midway through the first day,” exclaims Vincent House staff member, Corydon Martin. Throughout the training their days were filled with discussions on clubhouse operations and how to engage members with meaningful work. 

The Training Team visits a local member at their job
One special field trip during the training was a drive over to TJ Maxx to see Gateway House member, Spencer, in action at his new position there. It was a great opportunity to admire how the clubhouse model really does transform lives and help members get back to work. 

From featuring Vincent House staff member, Asaf Baruh, as an anchor on the Gateway House newscast, to inviting everyone to the local Marvel Comic art exhibit in Greenville, the training has been an exceptional opportunity for new growth and friendship between our clubhouses. Vincent House will be happy to have all of our members back next week, and we look forward to implementing a new action plan to better help members here in Pinellas Park.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Vincent House Team Spotlight: Career and Learning Center

Did you know that Vincent House has a Career and Learning Center in addition to our Recovery Through Work Program? In 2011, Vincent House’s Career and Learning Center (CLC) was established in partnership with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), a government program under the Department of Education to help individuals with disabilities secure the resources they need to return to work. The CLC serves our members who are clients of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in securing permanent employment.  It is separate from Vincent House's Recovery Through Work (RTW) program.

Current Vincent House members who are ready to pursue work after participating in RTW can meet with a DVR counselor to identify the needs and resources individuals may need in order to be work ready, and then link them to these resources. Often one of these resources is a job coach. Staff of the Career Learning Center are job coaches and work in partnership with DVR counselors to help folks meet their vocational goals so that they can be successfully employed.

While many different nonprofits in the Tampa Bay area provide services similar to our Career and Learning Center, what makes the CLC at Vincent House unique is that the staff in both the CLC and Recovery Through Work teams work in partnership on behalf of the members to ensure that the member is working on their vocational goals and skill development while participating in the RTW. The Career and Learning Center works with individuals of all disabilities, not just mental illnesses however if an individual referred by Vocational Rehab also has a diagnosed mental illness, our job coaches can refer them for membership in the Recovery Through Work program. Many of our current members initially came to Vincent House as clients of the Career and Learning Center.

Staff in the CLC provide a full range of job development services. They help members in creating resumes, applying for jobs, and preparing for interviews. In addition, staff are able to assist members in fine-tuning professional appearances, advocating to employers, and attending interviews with the members. The CLC goes above and beyond by helping members in completing new hire paperwork, supporting them through orientations and first days of training, as well as monitoring each individual for six months after they secure the job. 

Vincent House CLC staff liaise between community employers to develop partnerships for employment opportunities for our members.  If you are a current DVR client and are looking for a provider for job development or an employer looking to partner with Vincent House to secure skilled, reliable employees, please contact Lindsay Taylor, Program Director of Vincent House’s Career and Learning Center to discuss the next steps to meeting your goals!   

Friday, February 2, 2018

Welcoming Kerstin to Vincent House

Vincent House recently hired a new staff member in the Arts and Communications team, Kerstin Cook. Kerstin brings a unique skillset and kindhearted personality to the Vincent House team. Get to know a little more about our newest community member below in this featured interview.

Kerstin Cook
Kerstin first came across Vincent House when she was looking for a career which either focused on art and marketing, or one in a non-profit organization that helped people for a worthy cause. “Ideally, I wanted a job that served both purposes, but that seemed like a far reaching goal. That was until I came across Vincent House, and the Arts Rehabilitation Specialist position listed just that,” she exclaimed. Upon her first visit to Vincent House, meeting our wonderful members and seeing the unique Recovery through Work approach, Kerstin felt an immediate connection to the community. “I feel lucky and happy to have been offered the position, and now look forward to coming to work alongside members every day.”

Everyone in the Vincent House community brings a unique perspective and skillset to the team, and Kerstin is no exception. She began her career in digital marketing and graphic design as a Social Media Content Producer for Stetson University Marketing. There she developed skills in brand voice, journalism, and photography. After graduation, she started working at Riviera Dunes Marina as an Office Assistant, where she learned valuable customer service and sales skills. “I’m grateful for what I have learned and accomplished in my career so far. However, I knew I would be happiest in a position where I could really help people that needed it. I believe my diverse set of strengths and collaboration with members will help our community grow in new ways,” Kerstin stated.

Kerstin with members in the Arts & Communications team
We are excited to welcome Kerstin to the community and see how she will benefit our members in our Recovery through Work approach. Every member and staff works together to build up Vincent House, and strive for the best. “I can personally see value in the Recovery through Work platform,” Kerstin stated. “When I was without work for a few months after my graduation, I felt unmotivated and weary about searching for a job. Now, I take great pride in my career and helping members to achieve their own career goals.” To accomplish this, Kerstin brings some creative ideas to the team. From her background with social media and design, she believes we can further develop Vincent House’s social presence, in order to spread the word and help even more potential members in the area. “Ultimately, I believe that we can grow stronger together, creatively and in new ways that members want to go.”

Finally, we all like to know what our Vincent House staff enjoy doing outside of work. As an artist, Kerstin loves to practice her artwork, both traditional and digital. She frequents museums and gardens to get inspired, and she hopes to have her own gallery show open within the next two years. Additionally, Kerstin likes to write creatively, and even founded the poetry slam club in her high school. “I have a lot of diverse interests, from art to television, and I even have the aspiration to write my own rap album someday!” Kerstin exclaims. “I think Vincent House would be a great place to collaborate with members to make our own unique projects.” So once again, please help us in welcoming Kerstin to our Vincent House community.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Celebrating 15 Years at Vincent House

As Vincent House approaches its 15th anniversary this week, we look back on how far we have come from our humble beginnings and aspirations. With a dream to rehabilitate adults with severe mental illnesses deemed “unemployable,” today Vincent House has over seven hundred members getting back to work in our community. Fifteen years later, we have three centers spanning the Florida Gulf Coast helping members to accomplish their personal goals.

On January 20, 2003, Vincent House opened its doors to adults diagnosed with mental illness who were seeking new skills and a sense of belonging with peers and staff. Our first location was in a store front in Buccaneer Plaza in Pinellas Park. Despite the fact that we were operating from a cooler and a giant slow cooker, the food was a remark
able taste experience. Our creative founders, Elliott and Dianne Steele, made our simple beginnings seem like a fun-filled challenge.

In 2005, we moved to our present location, originally a former doctors’ office which we remodeled. We were also blessed with contributions from builders in the community, and in 2009, we began an addition to the building.  We celebrated the Grand Opening of our newly remodeled and larger facility on January 20, 2010. The occasion was in the Vincent House back yard, complete with a ribbon cutting, an outdoor feast and musical entertainment.

Presently, our facility now has a “state of the art” kitchen, along with technology throughout our facility that is cutting edge.  It allows for our members to participate in a facility and develop skills that are commensurate with the economy. 

In 2016, we opened two new facilities, Vincent Academy in Sarasota and Vincent Academy Adventure Coast, which located in Hernando County that serves that county and four surrounding counties.

Over the past fifteen years, our program has grown exponentially and we are proud of our communities' many accomplishments.  As we set our sights on the next 15 years, we know that one thing that won’t be affected as we navigate the waters of change is our commitment to the Clubhouse model that is the cornerstone of our success. We are determined to share our mission with an ever growing circle of community support. Vincent House is a community success story and we will continue writing to the pages of our story with the generous support of the entire Gulf Coast community.

For an even more detailed history see this story...

Friday, December 15, 2017

Tis the season at Vincent House

Vincent House Holiday Party

 In the midst of fundraising, winter coming and our daily work, members and staff of Vincent House took time to produce a holiday party on Friday December 8, 2017. A soundtrack of Holiday tunes kept the atmosphere festive. The happy time was captured by many in the photo booth, and a guessing jar filled with bells provided the fun that comes with a friendly competition.

 The awesome Vincent House culinary unit prepared pork sliders, turkey meatballs, a cheese plate, fruit, cookies, and brownies with strawberry crème Santa Claus hats for all to enjoy. There was also a delicious punch and homemade eggnog. A slide show of gifs showcasing the holiday spirit brought a lot of smiles and laughter to the party. The excitement surrounding the holiday gathering was good for everyone’s overall morale.

Members said preparing for the party put them in a good mood. That was evident in the kitchen, a place where everyone seemed to find their way to at some point, while preparations were in full swing. Asked about that special excitement in the kitchen, Sonya H. said, “The kitchen is the heart and soul of a home. Chef Jeannine added, “And we put our heart and soul into our cooking!” Friends and family members along with Vincent House regulars chatted and socialized in the holiday atmosphere and wished each other a merry season. We think it’s fair to say the party was a hit!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

At Vincent House, our primary focus is supporting mental illness recovery through meaningful work. Through that process, we also build community. As a community, we come together on holidays, providing a place for members, staff and their guests to gather and enjoy the company of others for those special celebrations.

This year, the Vincent House Thanksgiving celebration was held from 10 am until 2 pm, on Thanksgiving Day, with founder Elliott Steele and Janine Santillo, a staff member, hosting. Here, Elliott and other attendees share their thoughts on the gathering:

It was like the old days. Over 40 members and family shared our Thanksgiving meal. Some families
brought sweets and all participated in preparing, serving and enjoying the meal. When it came time to clean up, all worked together, and we finished just after 2 pm. —Elliott 

For me, I love to celebrate Thanksgiving. I’m thankful to have a place that opens its doors to members. It’s a blessing to me to have the opportunity to be here with the people I know, and to meet members and family that are new to me. When someone opens their doors on the holidays, it shows you that they really care. —Sonya H.

Thanksgiving Day lunch with Vincent House… the food and fellowship was wonderful. Vincent House even accommodated my low-carb diet: more turkey, and less other! —Clark 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Luncheon of Dreams November 2017

On Tuesday, we held our Luncheon of Dreams fundraiser banquet. Delicious food was prepared and served by our awesome culinary team. Staff and members spoke about Vincent House and the impact it has had on the lives of members and on the community. Thank you to everyone who helped out and attended the event.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Deep Sea Fishing Trip

Last Saturday Vincent House members and staff, as well as family members went on a deep sea fishing trip out of Hubbard’s Marina on Treasure Island.  In total 45 people went, and just about everyone caught at least one fish.  The seas were calm and the weather was great.  We had a great Coast Guard certified captain, and a few very helpful crew members to work with. 
We stopped at 3 different locations all at least 7 miles out from Treasure Island.  The majority of the fish were keepers but we did have to throw some back.  Fish that were caught that day included Squirrel fish, puffer fish, grunts, mackerel and snapper. The biggest fish caught that day was a Spanish mackerel measuring in at about 14 inches long.  At the end of the day we got back to the dock and received the fish we caught. Most people got their fish cleaned and filleted for a 2 dollar charge.  All in all the trip was a successful, very fun and exciting Vincent House outing that I was proud to be a part of.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Vincent House Welcomes our New CEO

What a remarkable woman of empathy and experience! Our newest addition here at Van Gogh's Palette -Raine Johns hired and our CEO- is indeed inspirational and carries herself well. I believe she will represent us with great expertise. First and foremost she brings fortitude to the table. She has, “been there and done that” one might say, in the mental illness field. Not only does she have a personal side to her journey, in that her daughter has been with PTSD from the mere age of 6. She currently holding down a job and attending college in San Diego. Raine learned throughout the experience how to be a friend to her daughter and to the people living with mental illness.

Ms. Johns comes to us from the Pinellas/Pasco Public Defender’s office with a 13 year career in an advocacy role for people living with mental illness.  Additionally, she has witnessed countless Baker Acts implemented, many unjustly. She worked diligently to see the release of such individuals without a voice, or means of defense in an, often times, debilitating system of unfairness. She knows the ropes, she is well connected, and is extremely committed to maintaining the fidelity of Vincent House and the foundation laid by Dianne and Elliott Steele. I, for one, say a great big thank you not only to her, but to the Board of Directors for their selection.   

I know Ms. Johns has her work cut out for her with our three current locations. However, being from Pasco County I stand very excited that she also has a vision for a Vincent House model in Pasco County, as well. We know she is the perfect woman to help us transform more lives of those who have mental illness.

Friday, October 6, 2017

New Crops in our Garden for Fall/Winter Season

Vincent House members were recently asked to fill out a survey to determine what what we should plant in our garden. The survey asked which leafy greens and legumes do members prefer to see planted. Well, the results are in and these are the seeds that we will be growing in our garden for the upcoming season:

Leafy Greens
  • spinach
  • kale
  • romaine lettuce
  • cabbage 
  • snow peas
  • pole beans

We hope to plant a lot of these seeds before November. Members and staff are also hard at work transitioning the garden to prepare for the Fall/Winter season. We will be pulling out some out-of-season plants, putting in compost soil, and planting more basils. We can’t wait to see how beautifully these crops grow and flourish here at Vincent House!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Vincent House Members Attend NAMI Picnic

On Saturday, September 30th, Vincent House members attended a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) picnic at Lake Seminole Park. This occasion kicks off Mental Illness Awareness Week which is October 1st to October 7th. According to the NAMI Pinellas’ Facebook page:

We believe that mental health conditions are important to discuss year-round, but highlighting them during Mental Illness Awareness Week provides a dedicated time for mental health advocates across the country to come together as one unified voice. Since 1990, when Congress officially established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), advocates have worked together to sponsor activities, large or small, to educate the public about mental illness.

The Vincent House members who went participated in games and delighted in picnic foods such as chicken, pork, macaroni & cheese, various salads, cookies and lemonade. Moreover, The IRIS awards were given out to recipients with an outstanding contribution to mental health awareness.  Vincent House’s own Ligia Gomez and the Culinary Arts Team received the award last year. 

Before long, it was time to head back to Vincent House after a great outing. Thank you, NAMI for the wonderful time, and we’ll see you next year!