Consumer Success Stories

Carl Booker has spent more than half of his 68 years participating in SVRC Industries and donating his time to Meals on Wheels. Carl truly gives with his whole heart, improving the lives of people who can’t leave home in his community by greeting them with warmth, understanding, and genuine friendship while he makes sure they receive hot meals for dinner.

Carl’s kind and generous spirit was first noted in 1983, when a psychological examiner observed that Carl was “…friendly and chatty, and greeted me in a friendly and familiar manner, despite the fact that it was our first contact.” Everyone who knows Carl will tell you this description fits him perfectly. Even if he doesn’t know you yet, he’ll treat you as if you were a lifelong friend, and he’ll be happy to sit with you and hold a conversation all day.

Carl approaches his volunteer work with the same purpose, warmth and enthusiasm. Despite his age and his health issues, Carl strives to do every task to the best of his ability. His accomplishments may not be well-known or even noticed by the world at large, but for the individuals that have been receiving meals from him for years, he is a hero. He truly enjoys helping, and treats everyone with dignity and respect.

Carl has said many times: “I love my life and I am very blessed.” But it’s we who are blessed to know and love Carl. If more people took the time to slow down, make the time to listen and truly care about how the other person’s day was going—in short, if more people were like Carl Booker—the world would be a better place.

When Sparkles Dickson began working with Supported Employment Services, she had some challenges facing her. She’d been incarcerated in the past and had experienced negative contact with the court system. She did not have a high school diploma or GED. But she did have a fierce desire to improve her life—and the drive to work hard and make thing happen.

When she heard about a possible job opportunity at the Temple Theatre in Saginaw, Sparkles applied without hesitation. She was invited to interview and, in October, received a job as a part-time usher. Since then, she has been an exemplary employee who is well-liked by her employer. (She’s also known for being a sharp dresser.)

“Having a job like this makes me feel great about myself,” says Sparkles. Her favorite part of the job, besides greeting and seeing a variety of different people, is being able to take her two children to performances.

“We get the chance to see shows I didn’t even know about,” she says.

Sparkles has seen other successes in her life. After living in an Adult Foster Care (AFC) home for a year, she proved she was ready for Semi-Independent Living (SIP). Six months later, she moved into her own apartment where she is independent of assistance. Sparkles is also going through the Mental Health Court program, and will be graduating within the next few months.

“Things are going so well,” says Sparkles. She is thankful for all the opportunities SCCMHA has helped her find. “They’ve helped me accomplish great things.”

For Sparkles, every day is a chance to better herself. She’s actively looking for additional employment to supplement her income, and one day wants to become a licensed beautician and own her own salon. In her spare time, she enjoys doing hair and spending time with her two-year-old daughter and twelve-year-old son.

We thank Sparkles for her strong spirit, her incredible determination and her positive attitude. She truly “Sparkles” inside and out.

Fourteen-year-old Nick Fowler loves the Smurfs, monster trucks and his collection of Matchbox cars. He wants to be a movie director when he grows up, and is always excited to go on an adventure. He is caring, thoughtful, and, according to his mother, Sharon Fowler, a “big teddy bear” and “the biggest blessing in my life.”

Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Nick began receiving services through SCCMHA in 2010. Prior to that, he’d had violent behavior towards his family and those around him, and had spent time receiving psychiatric services at the Hawthorne Center. Nick had a long road ahead of him, but his mother knew he had the potential to succeed — as did the staff of SCCMHA.

Nick was assigned a wraparound team, which is a group comprised of a child, his or her family and team members determined by the family, often representing multiple agencies and informal supports. Nick’s team was able to research and find coordinated services to help him and his mother get the support they needed in order for Nick to live his very best life.

Since being involved with the wraparound team and the approach/support they provide, Nick has not had any extended hospitalizations.

“I appreciate his staff so much,” Sharon says. “They’re training Nick in daily living skills and giving him the tools he needs so he can be as independent as possible. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them.”

Through hard work and his team’s dedication, Nick has made great strides. He’s active in the community, he has positive days at school and enjoys family outings. He has a bright and shining future ahead of him.

“I’m so proud of him,” says Sharon.

We salute Nick, for believing in himself and for his hard work. Like his mom, we are  proud of all he has accomplished and all that he will accomplish in the future. In the movie of Nick’s life, he is definitely the star.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. That expression has never been truer than when describing the path of Yvette Gonzales.

Yvette first became a Bayside Lodge Clubhouse member when she was living in an Adult Foster Care (AFC) home. Her initial goals were to develop her independent living skills so she could move back home with her husband, and to be able to visit her mother and sister more often. However; at the time, Yvette did not have a strong sense of self-confidence. Because of this, she didn’t fully participate in Clubhouse activities and functions that would have helped her develop the skills she needed to achieve her goals. Within a year, she had become inactive at the Clubhouse.

Then, Yvette decided to try again. She re-activated her membership at Bayside and dug deep to find the confidence she needed to participate fully in Clubhouse activities. Yvette began working in the Kitchen Unit, learning how to cook, clean and do laundry. As she participated more and more, her self-confidence grew by leaps and bounds.

Then came her most difficult test to date: Yvette’s husband decided he wanted a divorce. Although this news was shocking, Yvette made a promise to herself: she would choose to not let her husband’s decision derail her personal progress and recovery.

So Yvette forged ahead and has seen success upon success. In the past year, Yvette has moved into a Semi-Independent Living (SIP) home, and has completed a full semester at Delta College with plans to return this fall. And she continues to be an active, participating member at Bayside. Today, she’s focusing on developing her employment skills so that she can soon find a job.

“I’m doing better and better every day,” says Yvette. “I’ve come a long way to get myself together, and I feel very good now.”

Yvette is exemplary of everything we can accomplish when we believe in ourselves.

The universe helps those who help themselves, and no one knows that better than Irene Gray.

At one point, Irene found herself very close to being evicted from her apartment. She was struggling with depression and found that life was completely overwhelming. But fortunately, Irene knew she needed help. And so she reached out. With the help of her Training & Treatment Innovations (TTI) case manager—and her own self-determination—Irene asked for and received community living supports in order to take more control over her future.

And take control she has! She’s an incredible self-advocate, and has completely embraced the philosophy of being the employer of her support staff. Thanks to the support she has received, Irene has maintained her housing (with A+ landlord inspections, we might add), and she’s become her own payee so she can manage her own money.

She’s also gone back to school, and once she finishes her GED, she plans on taking computer classes. She currently works at Goodwill, and is working towards getting a job at TTI in the janitorial department. In time, she hopes to become a peer support specialist for SCCMHA.

What makes Irene so successful is that she is incredibly driven and isn’t afraid to ask for help. For example, when Irene started going back to school, she asked for an increase in her CLS hours, because she knew she would need the additional support to help her be successful.

Her success has inspired her to help others succeed as well. Once a week, she leads an Emotions Anonymous group of about fifteen people at Friends for Recovery, where she was recently elected to the board.

“I’m grateful for the support I’ve received and I’m proud of the accomplishments I’ve made so far,” says Irene. “I can’t wait to see where things go in the future.”

We applaud Irene for always reaching for her potential, for inspiring others to be their best selves and for her courage in asking for the help she needs in order to soar high. She demands the best from herself—and she achieves it.

A stellar worker. A kind spirit. An amazing young woman. These are all phrases that come up time and time again when describing Monique Latimore. A deeper look at each of these phrases only serves to paint a clearer portrait of a remarkable Everyday Hero.

A stellar worker. Everyone who has ever worked with Monique has praised her work ethic, her professional demeanor and her beautiful, catching smile. She works two days a week at SVRC Industries, Inc., where she’s a dedicated employee who does quality work. Monique also works in the Administration Unit of the Bayside Lodge Clubhouse, learning the skills she needs to apply for a transitional employment position. It’s Monique’s dream to someday work in a hospital or healthcare setting.

A kind spirit. Monique has a big heart, and her daily life is filled with acts of caring and generosity. She lives with and assists her grandparents, Vera and Joe Jackson, by cleaning their home and helping her grandmother put away groceries. Monique’s assistance allows her grandparents to continue living in their own home. Monique is also an active and passionate member of Truvine Baptist Church, and she’s also taken on a role as mentor and role model to fellow consumers who are working to become their very best selves.

An amazing young woman. Monique’s dedication, hard work and belief in herself have enabled her to overcome depression and be an advocate for herself. Her confidence level has soared, and she is known to all as a strong, caring, funny individual whose laughter and sense of humor are infectious. Not only is Monique always willing to try something new in order to stretch herself and reach her full potential, she is there to show care and concern for other members who may be going through a rough time.

“I’m happy and excited,” Monique says. “I’m getting over my shyness and I talk more now. I’ve worked very hard to be where I am, and I will continue to work hard to be even more successful in the future.”

Monique deserves recognition for her good heart, her incredible work ethic and her belief in her potential as a worker and as a person.

“How can I help you today?”

If you’re lucky enough to be one of Michael McGovern’s co-workers, these are probably the first words you hear when he arrives to work each morning at Training and Treatment Innovations (TTI).

For the past three years, Michael has worked at TTI as a Certified Peer Support Specialist. He’s an invaluable — and incredibly busy — addition to the team. He co-facilitates TTI’s Family Psychoeducation and Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment groups, and he and a co-worker are in the process of implementing the Whole Health Action Management (WHAM) group at TTI. As thanks for everything he does and continues to do, Michael received the Peer Support Specialist of the Year Award from TTI in 2013.

As a consumer himself, Michael enjoys being able to use his own recovery story to inspire and support, and finds great joy in hearing the recovery stories of other consumers.

“I’m incredibly passionate about being a peer,” says Michael. “By sharing my own story, I hope to show others that there’s hope for recovery, any time and any way, if they’re willing to put their minds to it.”

Michael also helps consumers have more active lifestyles. He’ll work one-on-one with individuals to help meet their health goals, whether they want to lose weight or just get out in the community. One consumer’s desire was to just get out and see helicopters and planes, so Michael takes him to MBS International airport to watch the planes, or they drive to St. Mary’s Medical Center to watch technicians work on the FlightCare helicopter.

Outside of work, Michael and his wife are very active volunteers. During the football season, Michael is an usher at the football stadium at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. For the last nine years, he and his wife have been a host family to the Saginaw Spirit hockey team, enabling Michael to promote his recovery story to the young hockey players and inspire them to reach their own dreams.

We thank Michael for his drive, his passion, his energy, and his ability to gain the trust and respect of everyone he meets. He has an unquestionable commitment to helping consumers grow and thrive.

Today, thanks to the help she’s received from her advocates, supporters and — most importantly — herself, Annette Sian is living her very best life possible.

Annette has struggled for years with mental illness and a substance use disorder. Because of that, she has a long history with the mental health system and has had her share of troubles with the legal system. She’s spent time in correctional facilities and has been institutionalized.

But it’s in these hard times that Annette found the strength and help she needed. She completed her court-ordered community service, and in July of last year, graduated successfully from the mandated mental health court program.

These successes have been the building blocks that have enabled Annette to continue to make strides to improve her life. Today, she’s living in a Semi-Independent Placement (SIP) home near SCCMHA, and she plans to soon move into independent living.

It’s safe to say that Annette has turned her life around and is recovering from her dual diagnosis. Her case manager, Angela Lonsway, couldn’t be more proud of Annette’s recovery, and says that Annette is feeling great and is doing better than ever.

Annette is proud that she’s learned from her past and has gained valuable insight into her illness. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, is an active member at Bayside Lodge Clubhouse and is a core member of the Dual Recovery Anonymous meetings.

Annette continues to take her medications every day, and even recognizes when she needs a little extra help — like when she knew it was time to return to the Co-occurring Disorders Group in order to maintain her recovery. And every day, Annette works toward the goals she’s set for herself. She is truly an inspiration for her friends, family and others who are going through their own recoveries.

Annette has given herself the chance to fully experience life. She has belief in herself and courage to chase her dreams.

Brion Younk is, in a word, impressive. He’s a graduate of Michigan State University, where he played in the marching band (he even went to a bowl game in Hawaii). And he’s been a top sales representative at a large tech company.

Brion Younk is also, in another word, inspiring. When his father was diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness, Brion became his caretaker. And as an SCCMHA consumer himself, Brion uses his personal experience to encourage and show others that mental illness will not block you from living a successful and exciting life.

In his current job at the SCCMHA Housing Resource Center, Brion helps people who are homeless successfully find housing. His co-workers say that Brion is incredibly skilled at making everyone who meets with him feel important. He takes the time to be present and really listen to what consumers have to say. He also makes sure that they always have choices when it comes to living their best lives. Although he will always present a variety of housing options, he listens to the consumers’ opinions and ideas, which allows them to take an even more active role in their recovery.

Since he’s a consumer himself, Brion is able to use his personal experiences to motivate others.  As a peer support specialist, when asked, he shares his story with others to show them that recovery is possible.

The housing assistance that Brion gives as a service provider allows consumers the opportunity to succeed. But it’s his caring heart that gives them a reason to dream.

We appreciate Brion’s efforts to help others soar high. He encourages, inspires, and brings joy to the lives of everyone he meets.