It’s been a hard road for Ashley Ferguson.
Ferguson lives with schizophrenia.
“I’ve been in and out of, actually a lot of, mental health facilities,” Ferguson said. “So, a lot of Baker Acts but I’m glad I’m not doing those things anymore or having to worry about those things.”
Her life changed when she began volunteering at the Hope Clubhouse of Southwest Florida. A non-profit organization, Hope Clubhouse is a voluntary rehabilitation program that helps people with mental illness in Southwest Florida.
The program is free. To become a member, a participant needs to be referred by someone who can diagnose mental health illnesses.
When Ferguson is at the Clubhouse, she is safe. She is there at least four times a week serving up meals made with fruits and vegetables grown by Hope Clubhouse members.
“If I have a day where I feel anxious … I can kind of count on them to help me out, sit with me and go through it,” Ferguson said.
Hope Clubhouse has kept many people living with mental illness off the streets and out of in-patient and out-patient facilities for 10 years now. The nonprofit does it by helping people like Ferguson get through therapy and through work. Participants can volunteer in their business unit, their garden or the kitchen.
“Everybody has something to give,” said Erin Broussard, CEO of Hope Clubhouse of Southwest Florida.
“It has been their support center,” Broussard said. “It helps and builds social relationships in places where they’ve probably been ostracized many times and it’s a welcoming environment.”
Hope Clubhouse makes people like Ferguson realize she belongs.
“My head says I’m a failure. But I’m not listening to those voices because I’m not a failure,” Ferguson said. “I know for a fact.”