Point After Club hosted their annual community event to honor Mental Health Awareness Month on May 3 at Lawrence Heritage State Park in Lawrence, MA. The celebration included speeches from people Vinfen serves, Vinfen staff, and community members, as well as a phenomenal music performance by Point After Club’s All-Star Jug Band, and remarks from Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera. The event also celebrated the official opening of Point After Club’s art exhibition on display in the building.
The event commenced at noon and welcomed attendees with sandwiches and treats from Borrelli’s Italian Deli. After lunch, the program began with music from the All-Star Jug Band. The Jug Band is comprised of both Clubhouse members and staff who work together to preform songs. The Band concluded with a song titled Will the Circle be Unbroken as Vinfen’s Point After Club Program Director Tom Coppinger joined in on guitar.
Welcoming remarks soon followed. “Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being,” a member said. The importance of paying attention to both your physical and mental health to achieve overall wellness was also discussed.
Tom then took to the podium. “My hats off to the members of our Clubhouse for their courage and resiliency that they have each and every day in dealing with their mental health,” He encouraged. He then asked all Clubhouse members to stand up as everyone applauded them. Tom also talked about the importance of meaningful relationships, especially with members and staff working side by side. Staff members then stood for a round of cheer by attendees. Tom added, “We are going to turn over every stone for what our members deserve and it’s just an incredible community we have!” Tom thanked Vinfen for all that they have done to support the Clubhouse and explained just how vital Clubhouses are to the community. “All over the world there is a crisis of loneliness and isolation and people need places they can go where they are welcomed, they are not judged, and they can find themselves. That is what Clubhouses are all about.”
Next to speak was Tom Scurfield, former president of National Alliance on Mental Illness Massachusetts (NAMI Mass) who encouraged people to come to NAMIWalks Massachusetts 2019. He then added, “This kind of Clubhouse leads the way, and I can’t compliment you enough!”
Barbara, Vice President of the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition and a person Vinfen serves, then shared how animal companionship has drastically improved her life. She strongly advocated for the increased awareness of how an animal can benefit someone’s life. Mini, a black and white shih tzu, accompanied her and has been in her life for over 9 years. “She’s always been there for me and always keeps me busy. When I come home I have to take care of her. I feed her and take her for walks, which is also good for me,” Barbara explained. Barbara then shared about an experience she had with her health. Mini knew something was wrong and would not leave her side, which prompted Barbara to wonder about her health and to seek medical attention. “If it wasn’t for this service animal, I wouldn’t be here,” Barbara concluded.
The event also included remarks from Vinfen Clubhouse Counselor Dave D’Olimpio who talked about the importance of finding purpose and meaning in life. Mike Mitchell, Forest and Park Supervisor for Lawrence Heritage State Park, then spoke on how vital social connections and recreations are in one’s life, and others from Point After Club talked about work-life balance and humor. A huge thank you to Mike and Jim Beauschene for being such gracious hosts for the event!
The event concluded with artist statements and an official ribbon cutting of the gallery, which is now open throughout the month of May. A sincere sense of support, collaboration, celebration, and acceptance was apparent throughout the entirety of the event.