For most Americans, the Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. We should not forget that it is also a holiday that honors laboring men and women in every field.

Here at Grand Avenue Club, and at Clubhouses like ours throughout the world, WORK--both voluntary work at the Clubhouse and paid employment out in the community--is experienced by most of our members as important and restorative. For many members, working has become absolutely critical to their well-being.

Members come to GAC with a variety of experiences around work. Some have always worked, while others have worked intermittently, and yet others have experienced long periods of unemployment.

As Labor Day 2021 approached, we decided to turn to our colleagues--GAC members and staff--to ask: "Since the Monday to Friday Work-Ordered Day is so central to our community, please tell us what work means to you. If work is important to you, can you tell us why?" Here are their answers;
"Work gives me fulfillment in life. I became a member in 2006 on a recommendation from Benedict Center. I was told that this was a place I could come to start to work. I didn't even know that I wanted to work at first. However, when I started to participate in the work ordered day, I realized what it did for me as a person. Work gives me structure, it helps me to develop relationships, and it has made me a happier person. I come to GAC as often as possible, but it still doesn't seem often enough."

-Amer Aris

"One of my favorite Standards is #15; The work-ordered day engages members and staff together, side by side, in the running of the Clubhouse. The Clubhouse focuses on strengths, talents and abilities.

The focus on work in the Clubhouse helps build relationships, people’s confidence and makes a person feel that they are more than their illness. It leads to a more fulfilling life. There’s a reason to get out of bed every day. Breakfast and lunch need to get made, someone needs to run Water Street Boutique, money needs to get counted. There are people who are interested in becoming members who need tours… None of this can get done without members. Members' work in the Clubhouse benefits the entire community.  

Working in the Clubhouse is often a steppingstone to paid employment in the community. Working in the community provides valuable income to members, creates an opportunity for new friendships, teaches members new skills and builds on the fact that a person is more than an illness. Members do a variety of things: one is a receptionist at Milwaukee Rep, another is a clerk at the Medical College of Wisconsin, yet another works in Office Services at Foley & Lardner."

-Joe Schultz 
"My friend asked me why I come to GAC. She said, "you work so hard and you are not getting paid." She asked, "what is it about that place and the work that you do there that you love so much?" It’s the camaraderie and the friendships. Besides the people, what we accomplish together keeps me coming back. I’m learning new things and meeting new people all the time. This is good for me, it keeps my mind open; it makes me think more clearly. If I didn’t have GAC to come to and to keep my mind busy, I would be sitting at home watching TV. To be honest, I would be crying all the time, having that lonely feeling that I used to have all the time."
-Barbara Davis

"I fell in love with GAC the first day I walked through the door. The lifelong friendships I have built here in the few short months I have been employed is out of this world. Working with Barbara everyday gives me a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Working together to come up with things that need to be done and then executing them together gives us both a great feeling. Seeing the finished outcome of what we worked so hard on, whether it be dressing the mannequins, doing barcodes, or organizing the stock room is something I will never get tired of."

-Kayla Bockhop
"I used to go to a drop in center where I didn't do much but sit around and eat snacks. Then I heard about Grand Avenue Club and that they had an amazing lunch for just one dollar. After I completed my orientation, I really didn't participate much for a long time. Once GAC moved to Water and Michigan, I started to come in more. I began working in the Culinary Unit. I started out slowly, washing dishes. Colleagues kept encouraging me and engaging me in the work that needed to be done. Eventually, I saw what needed to be done and then I just did it. Work keeps me active and I feel productive. I feel constructive. Now, I am in a better place than I have ever been in before. I am even working a TE position at 600 EAST Cafe. I am excited to see what is next for me. Work gives me a reason to get up in the morning."

-Michael Anderson
"Sometimes waking up in the morning can be daunting, but knowing that I am going to work at GAC motivates me to start my day. I have seen how work can be a positive influence on peoples' lives and completely change the direction of their lives. People like to feel needed and purposeful. GAC is a place that gives that to members. Some people don't come to GAC with employment goals, but that often changes once their day consists of gratifying, meaningful work. Even if people don't decide to move towards paid employment, being part of a community that works is just as fulfilling."

-Jenna Houillon
"Working gives me a sense of self-worth and purpose to get out of bed in the morning. When I was in high school my science teacher told me, I would never amount to anything. I felt like I was worthless. I later learned about GAC from my psychiatrist. Once I was here, I was offered a job at the Wisconsin Athletic Club where I worked for two years. Since then, I have worked at U.S Navy Yard in a job that I also got through GAC for five years straight and now I have employment at UPS. I love my job and I am the "go to guy" for everything. I am appreciated and it feels great!."

-Dave Hanson

The Colleagues of Grand Avenue Club