Upward Bound celebrates

TEAMWORK — Joy Pollock, left, president of the board of directors of Upward Bound 5th Street Express, joins Lydia Potter and John Moeller in working on a jigsaw puzzle at the drop-in center.

FAIRMONT — When the Fairmont Knights of Columbus moved into their new building on 10th Street, their old building at 104 E. Fifth Street was transformed into Upward Bound 5th Street Express, a drop-in center for people with mental health conditions.

“We are a well-kept secret. Twenty years in existence and most of the general public has never heard of us,” said Joy Pollock, president of the board of directors for Upward Bound.

She is glad the original organizers included participation for those who do not have a serious, persistent mental illness.

“Otherwise, I could not be a member. I wouldn’t have all the friends that have helped me with my own struggles with depression. I wouldn’t have been there to help them with their struggles. I think the support we receive from each other is the greatest benefit we receive from belonging to the group,” she said.

One in five adults in this country will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, and the impact extends to friends and family. Robin Williams disguised his mental illness behind his crazy comedic style. Before her recent death, actress Carrie Fisher spoke frankly about her struggles. Other notables who coped with mental illness include newswoman Jane Pauley, musician and singer Billy Joel, inventors of the airplane Orville and Wilbur Wright, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Church and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Developed with a grant through the Department of Human Services, Upward Bound 5th Street Express is not a counseling or therapy service. It is a drop-in center clubhouse for mental health consumers run by mental health consumers. The eight-member board of directors sets general policies, and plans and organizes a variety of activities every month.

“One of the missions for the clubhouse is to provide a safe comfortable place for people to come to,” said Deb Adams, site coordinator. “They need a place they could go whether they’re having a good day or a bad day.”

Adams is in her 10th year as coordinator.

“I’m actually employed by Human Services, and this is my work station,” she said.

Adams usually opens the drop-in center about 8:30 a.m. weekdays. She stays until noon, then grabs a quick lunch before she heads out to pick up Upward Bound members.

“We provide transportation whether they have a car or not,” she said.

A grant from the Rosen Foundation provided a “chunk of money” toward the recent purchase of a brand new bright red van, replacing a 10-year-old vehicle that was subject to numerous breakdowns. The van, with Adams at the wheel, takes members on various outings including Twins games, shopping trips to thrift and craft stores in Mankato and craft shows.

“This summer we’re going to take trips to a number of the state parks, and we always take our folks to the state fair every year,” Adams said. “There are lots of things our members would like to do that our budget doesn’t cover.”

The $20,000 annual budget is stretched to cover trips and operate the drop-in center.

The center resembles a home’s family room, filled with over-stuffed chairs, comfortable couches, a craft table and television. Members can tackle a jigsaw puzzle, watch a movie or enjoy a scheduled meal prepared in the kitchen. Or they can just chat.

“One of the really fun things we have is a Wii bowling league all through the winter,” Adams said. “We keep averages. We give handicaps. It’s the most popular activity we have.”

On Thursday, the center hosted an open house celebrating its 20 years and observing May as Mental Health Month. In addition to community members, members of similar sites in the 10-county South Central Community Based Initiative attended, and invitations to visit their summer events were extended.

Adams encourages people to visit the drop-in center and learn what Upward Bound 5th Street Express has to offer.

“The members who come here, they appreciate the place. They respect the space and what it represents to them,” she said. “Stop down. If the door’s open, come on in.”

For more information, call (507) 238-9021 or visit the website www.sccbi.info