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Naomi Fernandez-Rodriguez, Case Manager & Chair of Vail’s Diversity Council Naomi moved to Minnesota from Puerto Rico in 2015 and immediately enrolled in the social work school at the University of Minnesota.  She came to Vail Place as an intern in that same year and was then hired as a case manager in 2016.  In a recent conversation with Development Director, Stefano LoVerso, she shared aspects of her background and experiences that influence her work and her views on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and her leadership position in the Diversity Council at Vail Place. Stefano:   Would you talk a little bit about your work at Vail Place?  What it's been like adapting during this time – in working with your clients? Naomi: I think it’s been harder because one of the main benefits of case management is establishing that relationship, that trust relationship and reciprocal relationship, and that gets obviously affected when you cannot see people face to face.  The interaction is not the same. The needs are the same and you have to do the same job, with some barriers in the way….  I have actually been providing more than I would do on a regular basis just because I understand that many people don't have other supports and many people are in more distress just because they have less access to social interactions and other services.  So I have been calling and checking a little bit more with people. Stefano:   Tell me about the diversity council. Where it's been, where it is now, where it's going? Your feelings about the work?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has stated that “the lack of safe and affordable housing is one of the most powerful barriers to recovery.” In southeast Minneapolis, Vail House offers a solution. This 23-bed group residential housing (GRH) provides transitional housing and support...

A journey from isolation and unhappiness to social fulfillment Teal G. was in a dark place before coming to the Clubhouse. She was very isolated and lonely. And when she would spend time with others, she chose people who, as she describes them, were not good for her. She was also disowned by her family. She recalls, “I had difficulties going into the hospital multiple times, engaging in self-injury, everything. It was no good.”

Veteran finds support system at Vail Place When you take a tour of Vail Place, you might just be guided by a man named Richard. Richard is a veteran who served in the Army for four years in the early 1980s. He was a support person with the Special Forces and was a paratrooper with 25 jumps as well. For the last 15 months of his service, he was stationed in Germany, and after leaving the Army, he spent some time touring Europe. A few decades later, however, Richard found himself struggling with homelessness, mental illness and financial problems. After a very difficult time in his life, Richard reunited with his family in Minnesota, and they helped get him started in a treatment program at the V.A. hospital there, which was the beginning of his recovery. He commented, “I was still kind of messed up. I wasn’t thinking right.” While in treatment at the hospital, he remembers watching a video that included an image of Vail Place’s Minneapolis Clubhouse. He knew he needed a place to go after daytime treatment, and he thought the Clubhouse could be a good fit. Richard’s father and stepmother arranged a tour for him, and he became a member of the Uptown Club in December of 2006. Though he didn’t realize it then, Vail Place would become a huge part of his life.

 By Katie Leverentz
We're very pleased to announce that our Ragnar Relay Race event was a massive success! A group of 12 runners, event volunteers, driver volunteers, and countless donors have been preparing since January to pull this off and raised about $8500 for Vail Place. We ran for 38 hours, one by one, and finished 371st out of 373 teams. That may sound bad, but guess what? We had 3 members run and they each finished their leg of the race and were so proud and happy for what they accomplished- and that’s all that matters to us. And we finished the darn race!

On Tuesday evening, February 19, Vail Place members took the stage at the History Theatre in St. Paul. They performed pieces based on their lived experiences with mental illness. They were applauded with a standing ovation and responses including: “The stories of the actors and their bravery to share them with us. Awe-inspiring.” “The honesty of emotions and the courage to tell these stories is deeply moving.” “Helped open my eyes, thoughts, caring. I’ve never experienced the causes/effects/ feelings of mental illnesses and understanding the impact on trying to be comfortable with oneself.” “It was deeply moving and inspiring.” “Helps me gain insight into the roads they traveled. Very thankful for all.” These are typical responses every year to members’ performances since the Vail Place Theater Arts program launched five years ago in close partnership with the History Theatre.

Did you happen to catch the recent video promoting the Services for Services Auction? If not  check it out here. This award-worthy video – engaging, goofy, and just a hoot – was a production of the Hopkins Clubhouse Audio/Visual Team. It’s a testament to Clubhouse community, creativity, and commitment! Two years ago members and staff at a Clubhouse Training in Greenville, South Carolina were inspired by that Clubhouse’s focus on video production in their work day. They decided to bring some of that creative energy back to our Clubhouse community … with amazing results! The A/V Team has produced videos covering just about everything touching our Clubhouse community and all of Vail Place- • An overview of our programs for new members • Tobacco Independence videos to cover the transition to our new Tobacco Free policy • Week-at-a-glance (WAAG) videos to cover … well, what’s happening during the week … at a glance • Thank-you videos to donors (like the personal thank you videos that went to every person who donated to GiveMN last November – a real hit!) • Agency training events • A member mental health recovery story • Promotions for upcoming events Where does this creativity come from?