Originally posted to Seacoastonline.com
PORTSMOUTH – RE/MAX Shoreline celebrated its new location at 100 Market St. Thursday night during an open house that highlighted Seacoast Pathways, a nonprofit program for adults living with mental illness.
Guests toured RE/MAX’s new offices on the second floor and attended a reception at the 100 Club. Managing broker Derrick Buckspan and his business partner Rachel Reed own RE/MAX Shoreline in Portsmouth and RE/MAX Shoreline in Portland, Maine. Buckspan gave a history of RE/MAX’s presence on the Seacoast that moved to its current location in June from Islington Street.
“We have 25 agents and have been on the Seacoast for more than 25 years,” Buckspan said. “Our practice is based on helping people in transition.”
He recognized the community partners who sponsored the RE/MAX event. They were Piscataqua Bank, Cornerstone Title and Fred C. Church.
Sara Treacy, an associate at RE/MAX, is also on the board of Seacoast Pathways. During the evening a 50/50 raffle was held to benefit Seacoast Pathways, as well as individual donations. Jane James an associate broker with RE/MAX Shoreline, led off the individual donations by pledging $500.
Ann Strachan, executive director of Seacoast Pathways, gave an update of the program that began two years ago. “We are actually celebrating our second anniversary today,” she said. “Imagine having a family member with a mental illness and how isolated they can feel. Imagine the boredom of their day and lowered self-esteem.”
After researching various models for a year and a half, a group of six who had a family member or friend with mental illness, formed Seacoast Pathways. It is a community-based nonprofit program that meets three times a week at the North Church Parish House. It opened in October 2014. It was based on the “clubhouse model” of Granite Pathways in Manchester. The clubhouse concept began in 1948 in New York City when recently discharged psychiatric patients banded together to be each other’s support as they tried to find housing and jobs. This has expanded to 330 clubhouses worldwide serving 100,000 people.
The clubhouse model is based on a work-ordered day that reproduces, in a safe setting, workplace expectations and schedules. An important part of recovery from mental illness is returning to everyday life, which usually involves work.
“We’ve raised $100,000 from local businesses, faith-based organizations, grants from foundations, the Portsmouth Rotary and individuals,” Strachan said. “Our next goal is to raise $7,500 to send two staff members and a Seacoast Pathways member to a formal clubhouse training at Genesis Clubhouse. It’s one of the steps we are taking to be accredited.”
Seacoast Pathways has 80 members with 12 to 20 visits during each of the three weekdays the program is open. Board members are hoping to expand it to five days a week and find a permanent home. Two members spoke at the event to tell guests how belonging to the program has changed their outlook on life.
Debbie Golt came to Seacoast Pathways in December 2014. She was homeless and without work. She talked about how the program has a business side that helps members look for housing, jobs and learn computer skills on computers donated by the community. There is also a hospitality side, where members shop for the day’s lunch and prepare it.
“It’s wonderful to see people blossom and thrive and come out of their sheltered individualities,” Golt said.
She was chosen by Strachan to attend the UNH Institute on Disability’s eight-month program that is dedicated to leadership in disability advocacy and education.
Jim O’Callaghan spoke about how Seacoast Pathways “saved his life.” “I joined 18 months ago,” he said. “Before that I was a mess, killing myself with alcohol and other drugs. While I was in the hospital, someone told me about Seacoast Pathways.” Today, O’Callaghan is active with the program and contributes to its newsletter.
John Broderick, former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court was a guest speaker at the RE/MAX event. Broderick launched a campaign called Change Direction New Hampshire on May 23 to help reduce the stigma of mental illness.
The campaign highlights a simple pledge that anyone can do. That is to learn the five signs of emotional suffering so someone can recognize them in his or her self or help a loved one who may be in emotional pain. They are a change in personality, agitation, withdrawal, decline in personal care and hopelessness.
“People are so uncomfortable talking about mental illness,” Broderick said. “This campaign is the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, also spoke, and said mental illness can lead to people self-medicating and drug addiction. “I’m very proud of those who created Seacoast Pathways,” Fuller Clark said. “I’m very moved by their methodology in teaching and helping individuals to build coping skills.”
For more about Seacoast Pathways, visit www.seacoastpathways.org.