A man sits at a computer.
A Fellowship Club member uses a laptop to connect with local resources. (Mental Wellness Center photo)
Mental Wellness Center logo.

The Mental Wellness Center’s Fellowship Club has provided a safe space and access to resources and activities for adults living with a mental health diagnosis for nearly 60 years.

Personal challenges and social isolation caused by the pandemic have increased the need for a reliable, safe environment that allows individuals to continue social connections with family, friends, medical professionals, and other community resources.

The Fellowship Club works to meet their personal needs by providing a free lunch, engaging programming that includes art and music, access to computers, and a Care Closet with gently used clothing and hygiene products.

The Fellowship Club has over 300 members ranging in age from late 20s to 90s, with one third of these individuals living in homelessness.

A pair of masked men sit at computers.

Members safely connect with loved ones on phones and computers at the Fellowship Club.  (Mental Wellness Center photo)

Having a safe place to go where one is accepted for who they are has become even more paramount as other community spaces have had to close for the past eight months.

“My family and friends turned their backs on me when I became homeless, unemployed, and mentally ill. The Fellowship Club IS my family and friends now. I love them dearly!” said John, a member of the Fellowship Club.

The Fellowship Club has a Guidance Council made up of members who help to plan events, make suggestions, and advise the staff on how to best serve and meet the needs of club members. The “peer staff” have lived experience, which contributes to the loving, accepting atmosphere that is unique to the Fellowship Club.

During the pandemic, the Fellowship Club has transitioned to using their outdoor patio space with lunches available to-go. They’ve also provided safe social and emotional check-ins with members, and have partnered with Doctors Without Walls to provide health check-ups and flu shots to members a few times a month.

When Ian Filippini, Mental Wellness Center board member, learned that members of the Fellowship Club were struggling to connect with family, friends, and community resources during the pandemic, he immediately felt inspired to help.

His donation of laptops and headsets has allowed an outdoor set up for Fellowship Club members to access the internet in a safe, socially-distanced manner.

“I am proud to be a board member and supporter of the Mental Wellness Center because they go above and beyond with the services they provide. And as a finance guy, I know that I couldn’t make a better investment in our community than by supporting the Mental Wellness Center,” shared Filippini.

Members have reported that access to laptops has helped them reunite with family, work on their resumes, and apply for unemployment benefits.

Micki, a member of the Fellowship Club, said, “My life is healthier and happier since I have been coming to the Fellowship Club.”

To Fellowship Club members, having a safe space to spend the day and feel accepted for who they are is invaluable. When asked what the Fellowship Club  means to them, they answered “the world” and an “opportunity for advancement.”

The Fellowship Club provides members a place to belong and a year-round support system that many depend on.

This holiday season, the Mental Wellness Center is seeking donations of $20 gift cards to support their holiday program and continue the tradition of giving each member a holiday gift. Some ideas for gift cards include grocery and food retailers, pharmacies, and coffee shops.

To make a gift card donation, please contact Fellowship Club Manager Carrie Faulkner at 805.884.8440 ext. 3351, cfaulkner@mentalwellnesscenter.org.

Gift cards may also be mailed directly to the Mental Wellness Center at 617 Garden St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101.

To learn more about the Mental Wellness Center, please visit mentalwellnesscenter.org.