Today we are getting a tour of San Antonio Clubhouse. It’s a place where people with mental illness are provided opportunities to work, learn, and socialize. They have a gym and will soon have a brand new kitchen.
“The members that are actively involved in helping to run the Clubhouse are learning those culinary skills,” explained executive director Mark Stoeltje during the tour.
The San Antonio Clubhouse has come a long way since it’s humble beginnings back in the 80’s. Ursula Sanderson is the woman behind it all. When she first learned about the program, which actually started back in the 40’s in New York City, she knew it was something San Antonio needed, but it was a hard sell. To many, it just didn’t make sense.
“All my colleagues thought I had lost my mind,” said Ursula. “No treatment? People just hanging out? No, this was before pychosocial rehab became cool.”
But as a clinical phycologist working at the VA at the time, Ursula knew she could not stop until people understood the importance of the program.
“The social support that is provided here is so unlike any other setting. It’s an opportunity to regain one’s identity. Think of someone, be it a carpenter or an attorney or maybe a medical student. They’re on their way of building a career and all of a sudden they’re diagnosed with a serious mental illness,” explained Ursula.
At the Clubhouse members receive the support they need to regain confidence and pave a way back into society. Thanks to Ursula’s hard work over 20 years, San Antonio Clubhouse became official in 2003 with the hiring of an executive director. At that point Ursula stepped away, feeling confident her work was done.
After running a private practice, Ursula recently retired.
“The other day I just decided it was time to come visit,” said Ursula.
When she saw everything that had been accomplished over the years, she was filled with joy.
“It just made me so happy because this is what I visualized,” she said.
At 82-years-old, Ursula says there is still much she wants to do with her life.
“I’m writing a history of my childhood in WWII Germany and history of the family,” she explained.
She also hopes to do some more work with the Clubhouse.