By John Burton
LONG BRANCH — Shore House has a home.
The organization, established to give a helping hand to the mentally ill, has found a permanent location, settling in an approximately 3,000 square-foot space at 270 Broadway.
Shore House moved after having operated at the Woman’s Club of Red Bank, 164 Broad St., since its founding in November 2011.
“We outgrew the space” after seeing the need and membership increase, requiring additional space, said Executive Director Heather Brown. Brown showed off the fourth floor office suite – decorated with members’ artwork – that now houses the organization and its programs.
While at the Red Bank location the organization operated one day a week. Now available four days a week since the move in December, Brown hopes funding will eventually be available to increase the days and hours.
“As our membership grew, our days increased,” Brown said.
The organization will be holding a fundraiser, called the Annual Beacon of Hope Gathering, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 22, at the home of Mrs. Thomas G. Labrecque at 45 Haddon Park, Fair Haven. Reservations are available by RSVPing by Tuesday, June 17, to email@example.com or calling 732-784-7178.
Shore House was founded by Rumson resident Susan Sandlass, who serves as president of the organization’s board of trustees. The facility provides a transitional program for the mentally ill. Though it does not offer a treatment program, it provides a place where members can come, work, share and establish friendships, Brown said.
Shore House was modeled on Fountain House, a like-minded organization, which has been replicated about 400 times in approximately 34 countries, 200 of them in the U.S., said Sharone Rogers, a member who regularly participates in Shore House work and activities.
What separates Shore House from other groups offering assistance is that “instead of top down we’re bottom up,” Brown said. “The members do it all. They really do run the house.”
Members, approximately 50 to 60 at present, conduct and participate in regular classes in computer skills; learn how to dress and interview for employment; and take part in wellness programs, learning about nutrition. They get daily exercise with walks on Long Branch’s boardwalk in the nice weather.
In addition, there is a food preparation area where members make lunch each day – for some it may be the only healthy, well-rounded meal of their day, Rogers said. There is also a library with chairs and a small – but growing – selection of books and other reading material.
Another recent addition is Shore Shop, a little thrift shop featuring used clothing and some household items.
The members have begun holding holiday celebrations together. They have had Christmas dinner and an Easter and Passover meal and celebration there.
“It’s an important part of the community culture,” Rogers said. “Many have nowhere else to go.”
While the location is different, the mission remains constant, that “people with mental illness can lead normal lives,” Brown stressed.
Such programs can be not only more productive, but also more cost effective than traditional hospitalization. The cost of the Shore House program is about $44 a day on average per member, she said.
Lucille DeNucci, who has been a member for two years, said she believes her life has improved since joining Shore House two years ago. DeNucci said she had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and suffered from delusions for many years until the appropriate medication got her condition under control and started her getting her life back on track.
That’s not an uncommon story, Brown said. It can take as much as 10 years for patients to get their conditions under control and their lives back in some order.
Now, seven years without delusions, DeNucci said she’s tackling the tough self-esteem issues that have plagued her for much of her life.
“I was always afraid to try new things,” but now embraces the challenges and work offered by Shore House. “I’m here every day,” she said.
“There is no failure here,” Brown reminded DeNucci.
DeNucci said she hopes to eventually be able to find employment and move forward.
Shore House operates with Brown and a full- and part-time social worker on an annual budget of approximately $270,000, all of which comes from grants and private contributions, Brown said.