Vinfen’s Point After Club held their 5th annual Mental Health Awareness Month Event and Art Gallery Reception on May 4 at Lawrence Heritage State Park in Lawrence, MA. The event kicked off with a performance by the Point After Club All Star Jug Band and a rendition of the Club’s theme song, “May the Circle Be Unbroken.” Member Anna Harris then welcomed Clubhouse members, friends, family, employers, staff, and community supporters to the event and brought guest speaker Vinfen PACT Team Leader Joann Poremba to the podium.
Joann is a Vinfen staff member who is also in recovery. Victim of a traumatic upbringing in a household with two alcoholic parents, she made her first suicide plans at age six. Homeless and unemployed in adulthood, Joann became determined to take control of her health. “After I made the decision to get help, the responsibility became mine to break the cycle of unhealthy living that had plagued my family,” Joann said. Today, she has earned her Master’s degree and utilizes her story and experiences to support others in recovery. Joann was diagnosed with leukemia in October of 2011, but with the support a holistic health couch, she has now been symptom-free for over seven years. Her moving story brought many attendees to tears.
Clubhouse members Priscilla Corkell and Mary Ortiz then gave a presentation on this year’s event theme, “4 Mind 4 Body,” speaking to the importance of physical health in relation to mental health. Other members discussed current research on the connection between gut health and mental health. Program Director Tom Coppinger pointed to how partnerships with the University of Massachusetts Nutrition Department, YMCA passes, and fitness-focused classes at the Clubhouse have provided members with the resources to achieve a healthy body.
Tom was followed at the podium by Clubhouse member Olga Aponte, who shared her story of recovery and resiliency. After 22 years of drug use and 28 detoxes, Olga took a lengthy leave from Point After Club. When she returned, Olga found that Director Tom Coppinger had believed her dead. Her name was listed on a plaque for past members who had passed away. Today, she as an active Clubhouse member and has been sober for two years.
The event closed with the recitation of a written address by Mayor of Lawrence Daniel Rivera and statements from the Clubhouse artists whose work was featured in the adjacent gallery.
Special thanks to the City of Lawrence for donating the event space.
For more information on Point After Club, visit www.pointafterclub.org.