Above: (l-r) Avi Hellman, Yari Colby, and Kayla Bockhop, three of our newest GAC colleagues through MATC's Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, celebrating Kayla's first day as a full-time GAC staff member.
For many years now, Grand Avenue Club has had a productive and mutually satisfying partnership with the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC).

Over the years, students in the program have spent 8 weeks in our Work-Ordered Day Program, each working side-by-side with members in one of our 3 work units: Retail & Business Management, Culinary, and Membership, Education & Employment.

An OT student designed a permanent, colorful mural in our second floor dining room and engaged many members and staff in the creation of this bright, multi-colored permanent piece of art.

OT students were critical to the re-opening of The Water St. Boutique last summer. Along with members, they produced an instructional video about working in the store, organized our huge inventory, and received donations.

OT students have worked side-by-side with GAC colleagues in Culinary creating healthy breakfasts and lunches.

The students are supervised by an OT instructor who visits GAC weekly and consults with supervising staff at GAC.

Impressed by the effectiveness of the OT students in the Clubhouse, we have hired several of them.

As a GAC staffer, recent graduate Yari Colby is continuing the work that she did as a student with us. She is working in Membership, Education & Employment, side-by-side, with members and staff to recruit new members, to help them with paper work, and organize member-led tours and meaningful orientations. Yari has also become part of the team working on our daily newspaper, The Source.

As a student, Kayla worked in Culinary and completed a project on portion control that has been very helpful to all of us. As a staff person, she is now busy working with our vibrant crew in the boutique on bar coding, inventory, and processing merchandise. She is also working in the boutique as a sales associate alongside other staff and members.

When we discovered at our Wednesday afternoon Art Collective meeting that Avi is an art experimentalist who loves working with color, texture, and movement, we asked him to present a workshop to our community

"Colors in Motion: a kinetic art workshop" will take place on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 from 4:30 to 6:30 pm in Gallery Grand on the fourth floor.

Avi says, "My passion for art is rooted in my insistence that all people have the right to creativity as an outlet for self-expression and experimentation."

For many years, GAC has partnered with local colleges to help train social work, nursing, art therapy, psychology, and occupational students. This has benefited GAC and we hope to have impacted their effectiveness no matter where they go.

However, at this time, we are happy that some of them have continued to contribute to the quality of our lives at Grand Avenue Club.

Above: Barbara Davis and Avi working on Barbara's goal of learning how to navigate the computer in the Retail & Business Management Unit.

Avi says,"Grand Avenue Club is a safe place for people to define themselves without limitations or biases and set their own goals with the space, freedom, and support to learn, try new things, and make mistakes. As an occupational therapy assistant student, I see how much occupations are threaded into the structure and philosophies of the
Clubhouse Model. Occupations are meaningful, daily activities-- sometimes it's the tasks we take for granted like getting dressed in the morning, making breakfast, or driving to work-- it's spending holidays with family or people who really care about you. 

At Grand Avenue Club, occupations are the platform and the tools that members and staff use to express their most authentic selves through fulfilling and significant actions. Nobody is expected to fit like a puzzle piece into a predetermined picture. Occupations thrive on the individuality and diversity of needs and experiences with the genuine desire to collaborate and contribute to a beautiful community. I cannot imagine a place "more OT" than the Clubhouse." 

Above: Kate Klug and Alex Graber, a dedicated GAC volunteer for several years and a skilled, veteran Occupational Therapist, working in GAC's Water St. Boutique.

Alex says, "When people come to Grand Avenue Club, they are able to individually choose what project or task they work on every single day. The work units get to know one another and learn each others abilities and strengths. It is wonderful to watch people find their way and create their own niche.

Occupational Therapy is the idea of people regaining purpose and functioning in daily life and activities. This aligns with Grand Avenue Club and the Clubhouse Model program of the work-ordered-day. People come to Grand Avenue Club to be productive and live.

When I first walked into GAC, I walked up the stairs and automatically loved the environment. I know I don't need to be here everyday because the members and staff work so well together. I keep coming back, though, because I have built relationships with people and I love that everyone at GAC is there because they want to be."

Above: Peggy Caufield, one of GAC's first OTA students to be hired on as a full time staff member, working with members in front of the mural she designed for the Culinary Unit.

Peggy says, "My time at
Grand Avenue Club has allowed me to learn and thrive as an occupational therapy assistant. My experience with members has helped me grow in both my profession and as a person. The Clubhouse Model requires a genuine commitment from staff. Occupational therapy is all about helping people do what is important to them, and GAC provides many opportunities for a wide variety of people to have those experiences."

Above: Mollie Moesch and Megan Galaszewski, both of whom graduated from MATC's OTA program in the summer of 2020, were integral to the reopening of GAC after a shutdown attributable to the COVID19 pandemic.
Right: Avi, Kayla, and Barbara working on a recent Friday sale at GAC's Water St. Boutique.

Kayla says, "OTA's fit the Clubhouse Model because we work with individuals to help them gain the skills and resources to become independent at work and in the community. We achieve this through meaningful activities and client-centered practice. The focus is on what each individual member needs and then the necessary steps are taken to help them achieve their goals." 
Left: Wuanette Exum and Yari, another OTA graduate and now a GAC staff member who has taken a leadership role on GAC's Membership Team, asking GAC colleagues the Question of the Day for the daily newsletter, The Source.

Yari says, "The connection I saw between GAC and OT is that GAC engages the member in meaningful work (based on the work-ordered-day) and OT uses meaningful occupations to encourage individuals to rehabilitate through performance of activities.

What made me want to stay at GAC was my desire to help members achieve their goals. Many of them already have their goals set. However, they do not know how to reach them. Using OT skills, I can guide them step by step so they can achieve them and feel successful. My personal goal is to leave for the day knowing that a member learned something new and felt accomplished." 

The Colleagues of Grand Avenue Club