From our Fall 2018 Newsletter. See the full newsletter (PDF) here.

“I never liked my first name,” says Bear whose birth name was Charlene. “I was named after someone who treated me very badly,” she says. “Charlene died a long time ago. Bear chooses to live positively.” 

Living with a positive outlook is not always easy for Bear. She has mental health issues that can be tough. But she and 14 other folks are living happier, more productive lives thanks to their experience at the Iris Clubhouse in Casper.  

The Iris Clubhouse gives people living with mental illness a safe place to be involved, make friends and get their lives back.  

Because of you, the Wyoming Community Foundation was able to grant funds to help open the Clubhouse.  

Need Presented Painfully 

In 2015 Dan Odell had an eye-opening experience. He was working as chaplain at a funeral home in Casper. 

“We had seven or eight suicides in a row,” Dan says. “Something had to be done and at that point, I got involved with the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI).” 

Another colleague attended a national NAMI meeting and came back with the idea of a Clubhouse.  

Dan, who is now the director of the Iris Clubhouse, says it gives people a place to be themselves, check up on each other, but also understand.  

“Mental health issues still have a stigma attached,” says Dan. “People are often ostracized from friends and family because of something they’ve said or done. People here understand. It’s a community.” 

Making a Difference 

Because of you, the Clubhouse is a making a difference.  

It provides people the opportunity to find a community. And to find purpose. They hold planning meetings at 10am each day they are open – deciding who will water the garden, set the table, make lunch, serve as waitstaff and clean up.  

They write a daily report summarizing who was there, what they had for lunch and what activities they took part in.  

There is a sense of purpose. There is accountability. Most importantly, there is a sense of belonging. 

“We had a volunteer at NAMI named Pam who I had known for five years,” says Dan. “I had never seen her smile. Not once. Until last November. In just her second week at the Clubhouse she was smiling and even told a joke!”  

It’s clear the Clubhouse is a special, welcoming place.  

“I have a hard time making friends,” says Bear. “People here all understand. No one judges. We’re here to work and get things done. To learn cooperation, work with people and cut people some slack.  

It’s awesome!”  

Stats and Facts 

There are 2,400 people in Natrona County living with significant mental illness. 

The Iris Clubhouse has a goal of moving to a location that will support 25 daily members and 125 regular members. 

One member reported that he had been in the emergency room or psychiatric hospital 11 times in 2017. In 2018, he has visited the ER just once.