Making lives merry and bright

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Friendship Place

Contributor: Stephanie Wheeler, Program Coordinator at Friendship Place

Friendship Place, a United Way Fox Cities Partner Agency, is a social, educational, and recreational drop-in center for adults with chronic mental illness. Program participants are provided with informal counseling and regular face-to-face contact with staff to assist in problem-solving activities. They are also encouraged to participate in activities at the drop-in center as well as in the greater community.

The first aspect to Friendship Place’s programming is a social component. Socialization directly addresses one of Friendship Place’s main goals to decrease isolation. When the days get shorter and colder, it can be appealing to just stay at home in your pajamas for a few days. Unfortunately, after those few days, it can get increasingly harder to leave the house at all. Being alone with one’s thoughts for an extended period of time is not often a healthy experience for anyone! The network of support that our members build by attending activities at Friendship Place gives them accountability and motivation not to spend too many days alone.

A large component of our social programming involves building communication skills. In the fast-paced, tech-savvy world in which we live, these social skills are quickly disappearing. Social cues and graces are tools that make everyday tasks more pleasant (such as banking or going to doctor appointments) and by practicing these skills with our members, we feel that we’re setting them up for success outside of Friendship Place.

Two of the favorite social programs of 2017 have been “IF” Conversation Group and Book Club. “IF” Conversation Group takes a bunch of open ended questions and turns them into a group discussion. For example, “IF you had to choose one of your senses to lose, which would you choose and why?” Both thought-provoking and fun, members ask for this activity month after month! Book Club gives our members a chance to relax and connect through the different characters and social situations portrayed in the text. Some of the books read have included “The Great Gatsby,” “Still Alice,” and “The Outsiders.” We are currently reading “Wonder”- a story of compassion and acceptance surrounding a boy born with severe facial deformities. The group will have the opportunity to view the movie upon completion of reading the book.

While it’s important to be engaged with peers and staff members, it’s equally as important for our members to be engaged with the greater community. At Friendship Place, we address this through another part of our social programming - volunteering. Our members are quite talented and have many skills to contribute to the community; however, the anxiety of organizing these things and going alone often prevents them from doing so. At Friendship Place, members are able to volunteer as a group with their peers and are accompanied by a staff member. This provides a safe, familiar environment while alleviating some of the pressure of individual, ongoing commitments. Friendship Place members volunteer at St. Thomas Episcopal Church of Menasha once a month, helping to serve their community table lunch. Many of our members have benefitted by partaking in this lunch and have really enjoyed being able to give back. Friendship Place has also established a relationship with Valley VNA Senior Care in Neenah. Our members have had the opportunity to visit with residents and deliver greeting cards to them as well as assist in calling Bingo and marking cards with residents.

If you would like to learn more about Friendship Place, visit