During this unprecedented time, with the community taking unusual steps to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, many are going above and beyond to help their friends and neighbors. In a series called "Heroes Unmasked," The Pioneer will be featuring local people, nominated by their peers, who are making a difference in their community. MECOSTA, OSCEOLA -- Sue Stewart, director of New Journey Clubhouse, and her staff of three -- Ann Counts, John Bennie and Mickayla Martinson -- are working hard to ensure their members' needs are continuing to be met during the extended "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Since the shutdown began in mid-March and the organization had to close its doors to the community, she and her staff have continued to reach out to members to provide "unique opportunities to reduce the isolation and help people stay connected" during this crisis, Stewart said. "We have tried to find ways to keep the components of our program going virtually," Stewart said. "What we would normally do in person, we are now doing via telephone, conference calls and virtually." Each week, Stewart and her staff, along with two of their members, deliver more than 110 meals throughout Mecosta and Osceola counties for people who are part of the New Journey Clubhouse program for community mental health. The meals are delivered daily, on a rotating schedule. Some members receive their meals on a Monday\/Wednesday\/Friday rotation, while others are on a Tuesday\/Thursday rotation. The meals consist of a dinner entree, with a vegetable and a side salad. "The side salads are packed with fresh vegetables and fruits, things people on a limited budget may hesitate to spend money on," Stewart said. "We are trying to get our members to eat healthy, so we include that with every meal." With each meal delivery, the staff also completes a well check up with the member. "We do face-to face connectivity, at a safe distance, to see if there are other needs the member may have," Stewart said. "We do a screening for COVID-19 using the CDC screening questionnaire, to see if they are having any symptoms, and we do a physical well being check, as well, asking them how they are feeling, what they are doing to stay healthy, things like that. "Giving a face-to-face well check up is rare in this environment, but it is instrumental in helping members manage during this shutdown," she added. In addition to meals, the staff delivers weekly care packages that include incidentals, such as toilet paper and alcohol swabs for wiping down phones, informational packets on ways to identify and manage stress, phone numbers of colleagues they can call and other resources they may need. It will also include activities that can keep members busy, like coloring pages, word searches, sudoku puzzles and craft packets, to give them constructive ways to spend their time. They also pick up and deliver medications for the members. "Isolation is not a friend in any case, but when someone suffers from mental health issues, it becomes even more of a challenge," Stewart said. "We try to provide ways to continue the connectivity of the members by providing phone numbers for them to call each other, and face-to-face meetings at a safe distance, and links to virtual services like a meditation app." "And we make sure they are keeping their medication up to date, because that is essential," she added. The staff maintains connectivity with their members in other ways, as well. Since the shutdown began, the regular morning meetings that would have been conducted in person are now being done virtually. "Every morning we have a conference call for members to call in, where we talk about standards, give the quote of the day, share announcements and discuss how they can get the support they need, whether it be unemployment, access to other resources in the community, or other needs," Stewart said. In addition, they have a virtual club night every Thursday. Any supplies they need for Club Night and instructions on how the members can participate are included with the care packages. "Last week we had Bingo and provided a popcorn snack," Stewart said. "This week we are doing trivia night. The members look forward to club night and are very engaged in it. We are also asking members to take pictures of their pets to post to Facebook and share with others." EVERYWHERE THERE IS A GAP Along with the meal deliveries and face-to-face connections with the members, the staff at New Journey Clubhouse continue to reach out to individual members through daily phone calls, where they are able to connect members with whatever resources they may need. "Everywhere there is a gap, we try to fill it; everywhere there is a need, we try to meet it," Stewart said. "We even helped one member get a kitten, so she wouldn't be alone. We are very motivated and enthusiastic about what we are doing." "We value the clubhouse model and the evidence-based approach to recovery. We know how important it is as a mental health intervention," she added. "We have tried to plug as many tenants of the program as possible into the virtual framework," she continued. "We have always had mobile outreach for those members that were unable to get to the facility, so it has been a fairly seamless transition into the virtual framework. We have had a lot of support from Community Mental Health for Central Michigan and the Clubhouse coalition of Michigan." Stewart said she has been involved with mental health services for 30 years, and has been the director of New Journey Club in Big Rapids since 2017, and she is a strong supporter of the New Journey methodology. One of the tenants of the program, she said, is that staff and members work side by side. All the members participate in working at the clubhouse, such as cooking and cleaning, doing billing and attendance, selling donated items in the boutique, and any other "jobs" that need done, she said. "Clubhouse is built on collaboration with members and staff, and we are really missing them," Stewart said. "We are pleased that we are able to work together to provide alternatives for people, and our enjoyment comes from knowing that we are able to maintain the services we know are so critical to our members. "Our doors are closed, but our community is open," she said. New Journey Clubhouse is a Community Mental Health for Central Michigan program, which provides support for residents in Mecosta and Osceola counties living with the effects of mental illness. The support includes social and recreational opportunities, employment support, transportation assistance and more. Anyone in need of support may contact Community Mental Health for Central Michigan at cmhcm.org, or at (231) 796-5825, or (989) 772-5938. The national crisis hotline is also available 24 hours a day at (800) 317-0708.