Clients selling their art work in Parksville
In an effort to move forward, Forward House is raising money to reconfigure their garage into a studio — to maximize its use for clients.
At their annual open house last month, Forward House clients sold pieces of their own artwork to help raise money for the project.
Jane Parham, a client at Forward House, sold copies of her book: a collection of personal poetry called Love, Jane. Parham said she was happy to contribute to the project especially as she's "always loved writing" and uses the facility often.
Forward House executive director Sharon Welch explains the non-profit, registered charitable organization is like "a drop-in centre" for high-functioning adults with mental health and/or addiction issues who have a referral from Vancouver Island Health Association.
Welch said Forward House is the only organization of its kind in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area.
"So often we see stigmas around mental health," said Welch. "We want to normalize the situation for our clients."
Forward House is located in a quaint house along Hirst Street which reflects a family-like home — an intentional decision, according to Welch.
"We don't want it to feel clinical at all in here," she said. "In society it is difficult for people seen as different to have normal interactions with others — this space is an opportunity for our clients to feel loved and cared for."
Welch said Forward House focuses on the strengths of their clients — some clients even teach courses to others in fields they excel in such as computer programming, yoga or art.
"People with mental health issues are often incredibly intelligent," she said. "The trick is finding their strengths and encouraging them."
Forward House services up to 50 clients at a time with eight staff members and various volunteers. It is open six days per week. Clients may sign up for artistic, intellectual or recreational programs all free of charge.
Welch said it will cost approximately $10,000 to renovate the unfinished garage which needs drywall, insulation, paint, new flooring and lighting. She is hoping the room can be used to host year-round activities. For more information about Forward House, to volunteer or donate, contact Sharon Welch or Pat Trozzo at 250-954-0785.