RACINE — Racine Friendship Clubhouse members, volunteers and staff are breathing a sigh of relief ahead of this week’s county budget vote, after receiving assurances they’ll have funding in 2014.
County Executive Jim Ladwig said the Clubhouse, which serves those with severe and persistent mental illness, will receive full county funding next year thanks to a projected surplus in the current county budget.
That funding came into question because the county’s proposed 2014 budget cut $15,000 in support to the Clubhouse, which provides vocational training and support for members. County officials considered cutting that funding because they said some of the Clubhouse’s services duplicated those offered by the county.
The county found that $15,000 in a projected surplus from the county’s 2013 Health and Human Services Department budget, Ladwig said.
“However, longer term, we are going to be meeting with (the Clubhouse) to work on a sustainability plan that’s less reliant on our funding, as well as looking at ways to better collaborate,” he said.
Ladwig said that the $15,000 won’t be part of the Clubhouse’s funding in the 2014 budget, which the county will vote on Tuesday. The county board will need to approve that use of surplus funding down the road, which Ladwig is confident will happen.
“We appreciate, kind of, the gift there, and it’s with a pretty clear understanding that it’s not going to happen again,” Clubhouse
Executive Director Lynelle Saunders said of the 2014 funding.
Saunders said that going forward she wants to work with the county, but also maintain the Clubhouse’s unique identity.
“What I’m hoping to see is us to be less dependent on them, more reliant on our own financial standing, because we don’t want to lose who we are,” she said.
Saunders said that going forward, she sees the potential for a monthly advocacy meeting to examine the issues facing the Clubhouse “and what we can do to help, on a small scale.”
Hearing that the Clubhouse is funded for now, one Clubhouse member, Tiffany Masias, is “absolutely thrilled.”
Masias came to the Clubhouse after a stroke led her into a deep depression, she said. Unable to continue doing the work she loved and that had defined her, Masias said she nearly went through with a plan to kill herself, but was stopped by her son.
He convinced her to seek assistance, Masias, 43, said. After going through the hospital system and going to therapy she knew she needed to live and wanted to live, but didn’t know how.
She said the Clubhouse helped answer that question.
Before, “I wasn’t giving anything back to society,” she said. “Today I am in a healthier place and I volunteer, I reach out to others.”
Hearing that the Clubhouse will be funded shows local officials are listening, and see the importance of the Clubhouse to her and others, Masias said.
The Clubhouse “helped ... give me confidence to be able to advocate for myself again, to be able to advocate for others,” she said. “Life is precious, and being able to live a good life with mental illness is priceless.”
What is the Racine Friendship Clubhouse?
The Racine Friendship Clubhouse, 2000 17th St., provides vocational training and support services to those with severe and persistent mental illness. Executive Director Lynelle Saunders said the Clubhouse receives half its annual funding from Racine County, totaling $80,000. Eight percent of its funding comes from United Way of Racine and the rest is from grants, fundraisers, and a partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Vocational Services, she said.